‘In truth, I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to be (just) me anymore. I have found such comfort and safety in being a mother.’

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“I felt her small lips press into my cheek and her small hand leave mine as I turned and walked out the door.

I played a mental game of tug-of-war as I stepped through the threshold of her colorful pre-k room and out into reality… do I watch her from the mirrored window and torture myself with her uncertainty and awkward newness, or do I put one foot in front of the other and continue onward?

Of course, I stopped to watch. I noticed her follow instruction. I also noticed her shift her gaze left to right with a slightly bowed head, searching for her first friend.

Little girl playing with toys in classroom whose mother had a hard time letting her go
Wendy Fiallo

As I dealt with the whirl of emotions beginning to surface I caught myself beginning to shift my gaze left to right looking to a friend as well. I felt relieved my little girl wasn’t the ball of snot and tears she’d been the first time I tried child care.

I felt terrified she’d experience a disconnect from the warm space I offer her even in her worst of behaviors. I felt lost and sad that perhaps this is the first day of the beginning of her independence, but I also felt joyous she was capable.

And oddly enough, even as I write this, the thing that fills my eyes with tears the most is actually the vulnerability I feel at becoming just ‘me’ again.

Mother who had a hard time leaving her child at school smiles behind her daughter while she sits on ball
Wendy Fiallo

One may chuckle or waive an eye-roll at my silliness. However, I assure you, its a real thing. I have found such comfort and safety in being a mother even despite my dreams, talents, and abilities. I have found purpose and also excuse in wearing that responsibility as a means to hide from living more purposefully and towards my optimal potential.

Ironic that of us both, it seems my independence from her makes me want to throw a tantrum worthy of her time-out chair. In truth, I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to be (just) me anymore – in this new phase, the essence of starting over.

I recently found myself in the interesting predicament of having to let my oldest venture into teen-hood which, too, has left me reeling in an isolated place I’m unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.

When people hear my children are 10 years apart, they often say two things in consecutive order: 1. ‘Wow, that’s a gap!’ (as if I chose that purposefully) and 2. ‘That must be nice though, your son can help.’ What they don’t know and what I failed to consider is that I have one entering preschool and one entering middle school at the same time, and in many ways, that is an identical situation. For my children, it’s new, exciting and calls on their strengths and independence. For me, suddenly and temporarily, I’ve been placed in very quiet lull from chaos. Sure, you’d think that sounds great – and it has its beauty. However, it’s new. Intimidating. Different. And its requiring of me that I reconcile some dusty dreams and goals that have been shelved for quite sometime.

With the reconciliation of self comes the questions that one has the ability to put-off when dealing with small children and family life, such as:
1. Who am I now?
2. What do I want?
3. Where am I going?
4. How can I do it all?
5. What if I’m not good enough?

I could actually keep going as those questions only seem to generate others. However, I’ll stop by saying it surely becomes a space of rebirth and introspection.

And that is where the war is born.

When faced with the brightness of life and what awaits vs. the safe-haven of home and controlled chaos, where do you go from there? What do you choose? Perseverance or retreat? Independence and self cultivation or the busy work or monotony? After all, for some, it’s a venture out into the world unlike any other.

I was married young. I was pregnant soon after. I followed my husband’s career and livelihood. I began raising my children. My circle of influence was whirling within the confines of the world I created for them. For the past decade and a half, it’s as if life domino-ed from one moment to the next and here I am (for what feels like the first time) on the precipice of personal decision. And all I keep hearing is: ‘Well, what are you going to make of this, Wendy?’
…Who’s voice is that anyway?!

Side by side of pregnant woman and same woman holding toddler daughter after losing weight
Wendy Fiallo

All I can do is assure myself that everything doesn’t need to be figured out in a day. That time has a sweet way of making things feel better and more manageable. I’ll get the hang of it. I’ll create my way and soon enough I’ll be smiling back on this time fondly as well, as the way in which it appeared so intimidating at first.

And of course I’ll ask myself who I was really speaking to anyway? That little hand I let go of in the morning sunlit-filled classroom, or the familiar hand I grasped as I walked out of the school and into that same sun?

It’s time for me to proudly say, I’m a makeup artist, coach, mother, wife, and sexual abuse survivor, and I’m finding my voice after having been in a quiet roll and playing small the past decade and a half of my life.”

Single mother who was scared to have her daughter go to school smiling
Wendy Fiallo

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Wendy Fiallo, 35, of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Subscribe to our free email newsletter, Living Better—your ultimate guide for actionable insights, evidence backed advice, and captivating personal stories, propelling you forward to living a more fulfilling life.

Read more of Wendy’s story here:

‘I recall sitting in the dark on the couch after the worst of it all. I knew I was being hurt. It was the day where from beneath him I screamed, ‘DAD! STOOOOOPPPPP!’’

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