I Have It All, Just Not All At Once

02/06/2015 04:28 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015
Mary Katherine Backstrom

I left the best job I ever had to adopt the uniform of a SAHM. It was a tough decision. I hadn't finished my degree, so my journey up the corporate ladder looked an awful lot like a cat climbing a tree.

I stole one last glance from that penthouse window after packing up my desk. Ten years of claws-out determination, and I was headed home for the foreseeable future.

Goodbye, career.

That weekend, I scrubbed the sleep from my eyes and pulled on a poorly-fitting dress. I straightened my hair, caked on some eyeliner and wrote instructions for the babysitter. Then my husband and I headed out to dinner.

I was exhausted and so was he. We hardly talked. Conversation circled around our newborn, even though we were supposed to be "getting away for a while."

Finally, over a plate of congealed noodles, we quit trying for normal conversation and pulled out our phones. Scrolling through baby pictures, my husband took my hand. He looked deeply into my eyes in a way that caused my heart to flutter.

"We did something really amazing didn't we?"

A month or so later, I sat on the couch drinking coffee. Nugget bounced in his Einstein toy, and an episode of The Good Wife started up.

I felt regret creeping in. I was sick to death of soap operas, breast pumps and pajama pants. I longed for pearls and adult conversations and my window overlooking the lake.

But just then, my son stopped bouncing and lifted a pudgy finger.

"Ma-MA!" he declared, beaming with satisfaction and pointing at me.

My heart nearly burst.

You can't have it all, they say. But I have to disagree. You can have it all, just not all at once.

Happiness is not a cup that is empty or full; It is more like a puzzle. Everything you've ever wanted is right here in this world, scattered around you and waiting to be discovered.

I had a career-shaped hole in my life that has now been filled.

A love-shaped space that my spouse fit perfectly.

And there was a motherhood-shaped hole that I didn't even know existed until my son arrived to fill it.

With each and every day, the world offers new joys, buried beneath the mundane like shiny glass under the sand. Wonderful to discover, but sometimes hard to see.

There are days when I wonder if my career is behind me. If I'll ever have the satisfaction of a hard-earned paycheck and my business skills put to good use.

But I've had that wonderful career. I've felt appreciated and challenged.

There are times when my husband drives me crazy. When I feel unappreciated or angry, and his socks and snacks are scattered throughout our house.

But even on those days, I know I have a marriage worth fighting for.

There are days when I'm exhausted and the dishes are piling up. When my eyes burn and my head hurts from lack of sleep.

But even on those days...I have a beautiful son, whose soul is blooming before my eyes.

We cannot predict the whole picture of our lives. We are ants on a tapestry, wondering where a single thread leads.

Happiness, it seems, is a work in progress.

And though the big picture remains unclear, I'm confident that at the end of life, I'll look back on motherhood with a smile. I'll see the way that the puzzle came together and realize that I did, in fact, have it all.

A. Little. Bit. At. A. Time.