What I Knew One Day in July 1990

The moment I saw my baby’s face, I believed in love at first sight.

My eldest niece and one of my nephews are about to become parents for the first time. Thinking about how their lives are about to change, makes me revisit that time in my own life. Becoming a new mom was my most challenging transition. Here’s what was going on for me back then.

Who will make me a great-aunty first?

Who will make me a great-aunty first? (Background photo credit – Karla Mah)

In July 1990, I was the happily married young mother of a one-year old son. While pregnant I had a romanticized vision of myself balancing home and career – just like the superwomen who had carved the path before me. However, once my son was born, life was not looking at all as I’d imagined.

My plans to continue with my career were in place. Back at work for nine months, I’d been slogging my way through life. Up before 6:00 a.m., I readied myself for work and dragged my baby boy, Buddy, out of his crib in preparation for day-care. We hit the day running until 8 or 9 at night. By that point, all I felt capable of was a crash on the couch with some mindless television for background noise.

Even with The Consultant’s help, weekends were spent completing tasks from the previous week and preparing for the next. Each day flowed over the rim into another. But I trudged on.

At work, I was distracted and spent much of my day wondering what was happening in my baby’s world. I kept a candy jar full of Smarties on my desk and tucked into them every afternoon for a fix of pure sugar joy. Candy-coated chocolate was my energy and happiness.

I admit I felt ugly jealousy toward my baby’s caregiver that fuelled feelings of inadequacy as a mother. Someone I barely knew was getting the best hours with him each day. I began asking myself why anyone would have a child and allow others – almost strangers – to raise him.

At the end of each workday, I tossed the diaper bag inside our back door with only one thought looping around in my head, “I need some peace in my life.”

Many nights I woke with an ache in my chest that was real. Clutching a bunched up portion of my housecoat over my heart, I would sneak out to the living room and sit in the dark. I cried while I fought an overwhelming urge to take my son from his crib. I wanted to hug him so tightly that he’d feel how much his Momma loved him.

This – the middle of the night – was the only free time I could find to think. And it was in these moments I realized my life, from dawn to dusk, was about managing perceived expectations.


One day in July 1990, I returned to my desk after lunch just in time to catch my ringing phone. It was my son’s caregiver calling to give me the great news. Buddy had taken his first steps. I sat in silence attempting to hold back tears. The harder I tried the tighter my throat became. When I spoke, in an attempt to share in the good news, my voice was high-pitched and shaky. I had missed my child’s first steps.

You Don’t Get Those Precious Moments Back.

I realized I didn’t know myself as well as I thought. I felt like I was failing on both the professional and home fronts; not a good thing for a perfectionist like myself. In fact, I had lost my sense of self and wanted it back. Life had to change.

I Needed Peace in My Life.

A long process of soul searching began. I read everything I could get my hands on. Magazine articles on the subject of motherhood and the struggles of women who were attempting to juggle their work and home responsibilities jumped out at me. Books, such as one titled The Part-time Solution by Charlene Canape, started showing up on my bookshelf.

I wanted to know how other women managed and learn from them. I searched for a step-by-step plan to guide myself out of this rut into bliss. If I’m honest, what I really wanted was to have the perfect life formula fall in my lap.

There Are No Easy Answers to Life’s Biggest Decisions.

Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach was the book that changed my life. Through Sarah’s writings I discovered that regardless of social norms and expectations, I had to find life’s best fit for me – no apologies to anyone. Most importantly, Sarah led me back to a journal practice I had left in my late teens.

I started with the gratitude journal she suggests so persuasively in her book. I noticed patterns in my journal that spoke to my priorities. For me, life was not about “stuff” but rather relationships. The most important of those relationships were the ones closest to me, my immediate family.

Gratitude Leads to Clarity.

As my journal writing practice blossomed from a simple gratitude record into a true exploration of self, I started to deal with my feelings of failure. By not choosing a career, I was not failing. I was choosing my family and the bond that was so important to me.

Motherhood (Fatherhood) is Important Work.

In my search for peace, my priorities shifted. It was time to give full respect to the home I was creating. It was time I got to know myself as a mother. It was time to share the love by baking homemade cookies and birthday cakes.

I was finally able to discuss the possibility of quitting my full-time job with The Consultant. I convinced him that we would have a better quality of life even with less money and possessions. Life did not have to be so complicated.

Life is More Satisfying When True to Your Priorities.

My joy was in truly seeing my child and giving my time consciously to what mattered most to me, my family. I discovered my happiness lay in motherhood and raising my children. Life was about creating a nurturing environment for my home and the relationships within it.

Life Is About Relationships.

Ultimately, I found the “me” who had been lost somewhere along the way. Of course, it is easy to see in hindsight but I have no regrets for the choice I made 24 years ago – to align my life with my priorities. If I could do it all again, I would. Mmmmmm – peace.


So, my dear niece and nephew, I wish you both clarity and peace as you venture into this new phase of life. Maybe, twenty-six years from now you’ll be writing about what you knew one day in July 2015!


Now over to you.  my readers  –

What did you know one day in July 1990? July 2000? or 2010?


7 thoughts on “What I Knew One Day in July 1990

  1. Mine was 1993 – as I looked my son in the eyes for the first time I knew my life had changed forever. It knocked me off my feet for around 2 weeks. Acknowledging what it meant to become a mother. Life has never been the same since and caring for family has been my priority. Naturally as a parent and unnaturally as a child but all has given me a deep understanding of life and what is important to me. As I see my daughter for the last time today, for a few months I too look back, reflect and think ‘hey, motherhood has been one interesting journey!’

  2. In 1990, my son was 20 and in college. He had already “flown the coop” for the most part, except for the monthly check we gave him for school. He was in college full time and, we found out later, working full time. No wonder we rarely saw him. It was time, though. He lived with us his freshman year, and that wasn’t a pleasant year, so we were all happier when he moved to a dorm and then to an apartment. I’m not saying it was easy, but just better all the way around. He was still the son, just not the child anymore. I worked throughout his childhood and suffered guilt and regret. It made him self-sufficient but remote, as well. I didn’t know him well after he moved out, and I have lots of regret about that. Wonderful write, Kathi; it brought back many memories, both happy and sad.Thanks! Dottie

  3. I loved this! Becoming a mom has become my lifelong vocation and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The gratitude I have to be at home with my little ones is immeasurable. I’ve read this special piece once before Auntie and your writing has become even more powerful now that our twins are two and a half years old! I couldn’t imagine having had to miss out on their most important “firsts”. Reading this helps to further confirm that stepping back from teaching was the right decision for our family.

    • I am so proud of you, Carol. You are one of the best moms I know. And I know that you’ll never regret your decision to be home with your little ones. They are precious! xoxo

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