Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

It’s a funny moment that happens for women. Almost like a whole new birth. This time around, a more mature person is being brought forth though, with some aspects of the newborn and some much more wisened pieces. It’s the birth of a woman with independent children, a woman with the ability to come into her own for the first time in a long time. It’s the moment of space. 

I had predicted many months prior to my youngest child leaving for school that the first day would be a challenge for me. I knew I’d be filled with tension during our first true separation, and I had planned ahead: a whole day out with my husband, quietly enjoying easy conversation while also saving me from the hours alone, waiting for my children to return to me. 

But what I hadn’t anticipated was that next day.

The challenges of getting everyone off to school for the second day were eventually managed, the household chores were executed, my husband went back to work after his day of babysitting my emotional self. Quiet. Space. 

RELATED: A Mother’s Mind Never Rests, Because We Carry The Mental Load

For the first time in 11 years, there was a span of time ahead of me with no urgent requirements. No one was immediately hungry or waiting for help. A list of responsibilities could be accomplished quickly with no little ones to maneuver. And not just on this day, either, not a stolen moment, but rather a long stretch of loosely tethered hours and days. I was stumped. I could do whatever I wanted, but . . . what did I want to do?

What kind of person was I without my children needing me? 

With enough wisdom from the years gone by, I could see too much time alone would not be healthy. Living away from family and friends meant no obvious house to stop by for coffee or friend to call to meet for a walk. Without a little one in tow, I had no direction. My daily rotation of playgrounds and libraries was useless in this new situation. 

RELATED: I Hardly Recognize Myself Sometimes

I looked around me and every part of my existence was wrapped up in someone else. No part of my home, clothing, or time had anything to do with who I was outside of being a wife and mother. Then my eyes landed on one lone bag on the hookmy daughter’s ballet bag. A never-ending smelly place where it’s hard to discern what is clean or dirty.

Long ago, I had a very similar bag. It smelled about the same and was stuffed full of just-in-case items, with only one or two real essentials and at least one rotting protein bar at all times.

I reached into that smelly cave and pulled out the one thing I knew I used to bea dancer. 

For nearly two decades, ballet was an anchor for my life. Whether it was by choice or persuasion, happily or not, varied day by day. Year after year, I took my place at the barre and exhaled at the opening strains of music. Working my body to its limit, I strove against myself and came away from those years knowing what I learned in the ballet studio was more valuable than any degree I could ever earn.

The discipline of ballet carves a piece of art out of a human being, chipping away the edges while preserving the beauty to be found within. Long ago, I walked away from my last class with confidence, knowing I’d worked hard and become someone to be proud of. So long ago, I’d almost forgotten. 

RELATED: As a Stay-at-Home-Mom With an Older Child, What’s Next For Me?

I grabbed my daughter’s ballet slippers, some old running clothes, and an old friend. While my babies were learning to read and write and change the world, I stepped back into a ballet studio like I’d never left. The women I found inside were unspeakably strong. Every age and walk of life, every level of talent and ability was represented. Open arms greeted me, and I walked in as a womannot someone’s wife or mother.

I walked in as myself.

No one asked my children’s names or my husband’s occupation. When I heard, “Ah, you must have a kindergartener . . . Welcome,” I nearly cried to be so understood. I tugged those smelly slippers on and silently prayed I’d remember the smallest fraction of what I’d once known.

The opening chords of music started and without thought, my arms breathed open and my breath exhaled. There it was. It’d been waiting for me all that timethe long, aching exhale of a job well done. The exhalation at the end of a journey that mirrors the deep breath at the start.

The settle that comes from deep inside when your mind stills to make way for your soul. 

I exhaled all through that class, and through many more after. Quietly grabbing a pair of ballet slippers that wouldn’t be missed, I slowly started collecting my own smelly bag all over again.

RELATED: Finding Myself After Getting Lost In Motherhood

Many days I struggle through each combination. Some days I conquer a few. But what I learn is that I’m still learning, still a student. I haven’t finished anything at all, but rather I’m just starting out on a new leg of life. A gracious teacher wisely greets me at the door and witnesses every mistake I make. She encourages me by saying, “Your body remembers who you are. You have to convince yourself you’re still her.” 

I’ve been focused on mothering for so long I’d forgotten how to be anything else. As it turns out, all I have to do is start with what I know. While I figure out the rest of what kind of woman I want to be next, I’ll keep dancing in my daughter’s shoes. 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Avanya Manasseh

I am an introverted writer, wife and mom, as well as the Founding Writer and Editor in Chief at Scripta Edits. I live with my husband and three young children in New England.

There’s Still Magic in These Tween Years

In: Motherhood, Tween
Tween girl walking into ocean waves

The water shimmers atop the electric-blue pool. The clock blinks 94 degrees. It is July 10th weather showing off. A friend asked me to watch her son. He is nine, like my son, and the two of them get along—swimmingly. They throw towels askew and fast-step-crash into the water, goggles on, challenging each other to do this and that. Nine-year-old boys, so alive. My 11-year-old daughter and I stand and squint, placing towels neatly on our beach chairs.  She looks from face to face, like assembly line quality control. A friend—her eyes ask . . . now plead—any friend.  I...

Keep Reading

Sharing Our Grief Frees Our Hearts

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two women holding hands over a hospital bed, color photo

Almost 18 years ago, we lost our first child. It was unexpected. It was public. It was traumatic. It was a moment in time that even to this day, burns with a scorching flame, running like a reel in my memory and igniting a pain deeper than anything I’ve ever known into the empty corners of my heart. And while time has marched on in beautiful ways—healthy children who I get to watch grow up, an incredible marriage with the love of my life, a gratitude for all the milestones each year brings—I still can’t help but hold space for the...

Keep Reading

God Had Different Plans

In: Faith, Motherhood
Silhouette of family swinging child between two parents

As I sip my twice-reheated coffee holding one baby and watching another run laps around the messy living room, I catch bits and pieces of the Good Morning America news broadcast. My mind drifts off for a second to the dreams I once had of being the one on the screen. Live from New York City with hair and makeup fixed before 6 a.m. I really believed that would be me. I just knew I’d be the one telling the mama with unwashed hair and tired eyes about the world events that happened overnight while she rocked babies and pumped milk....

Keep Reading

My Baby Had Laryngomalacia

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding baby on her shoulder

Life’s funny, isn’t it? Just when you think you’ve got the whole motherhood thing figured out, the universe throws a curveball. And, oh boy, did it throw me one with my second baby. There I was, feeling like a seasoned mom with my firstborn—a healthy, vivacious toddler who was 16 months old. Our breastfeeding journey had its hiccups, an early tongue-tie diagnosis that did little to deter our bond. Fourteen months of nurturing, nighttime cuddles, and feeling powerful, like my body was doing exactly what it was meant to do. Enter my second baby. A fresh chapter, a new story....

Keep Reading

Please Stop Comparing Kids

In: Motherhood
Mom and kids in sunlight

Let me begin with this important message: Please refrain from comparing children, especially when it pertains to their growth and development. If you happen to notice differences in a child’s height, weight, or appetite compared to another, that’s perfectly fine. Your observations are appreciated. However, I kindly request that you avoid openly discussing these comparisons as such conversations can inadvertently distress a parent who may already be grappling with concerns about their child’s growth trajectory. Trust me, I say this from personal experience. Recently, at a dinner gathering, a couple casually remarked that someone’s 1-year-old child appeared larger both in...

Keep Reading

This Will Not Last Forever

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman looking at sunset

“This will not last forever,” I wrote those words on the unfinished walls above my daughter’s changing table. For some reason, it got very tiring to change her diapers. Nearly three years later, the words are still there though the changing table no longer is under them. While my house is still unfinished so I occasionally see those words, that stage of changing diapers for her has moved on. She did grow up, and I got a break. Now I do it for her baby brother. I have been reminding myself of the seasons of life again. Everything comes and...

Keep Reading

You Made Me Love Christmas

In: Motherhood
Family in pajamas near Christmas tree, color photo

Hi kids, this is a thank you note of sorts . . . I’m about to tell you something strange. Something you may not “get” yet, but I hope you do eventually. I used to dread Christmas. I know, isn’t that weird? Most kids and a lot of adults have countdowns and decorations and music, but I had a countdown in my mind of when it would be over. To me, it wasn’t a happy time. From the age of about eight (right about where you all are now) Christmas, for me, became like a job of sorts. Long before...

Keep Reading

She is an Anonymom

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother standing at sink holding a baby on her hip

She stands alone in the church kitchen, frantically scrubbing pots and pans while the grieving huddle around the fellowship hall, and she slips out the back door before anyone comes in. She is an anonymom. She gets out of her car and picks up the trash thrown into the ditch alongside the country road. She is an anonymom. She sits on the park bench, watching her children play. In the meantime, she continually scans the whole playground, keeping track of everyone’s littles, because that is what moms do. She is an anonymom. RELATED: Can We Restore “the Village” Our Parents...

Keep Reading

I Come Alive at Christmas

In: Motherhood
Kitchen decorated for Christmas

It’s time again. Time for the lights and the trees and candy canes and tiny porcelain village homes. It’s time to shake off all that this year has thrown at me and come alive again. My favorite time of year is here and it’s time to make some magic. My mom started the magic of Christmas for me when I was little, and I was infatuated with the joy that it brought to so many people. Loved ones come together and everything sparkles and people who don’t normally come to church are willing to join us in the pews. Everything...

Keep Reading

Brothers Fight Hard and Love Harder

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two boys play outside, one lifting the other on his back

The last few years have been a whirlwind. My head has sometimes been left spinning; we have moved continents with three boys, three and under at the time. Set up home and remained sufficiently organized despite the complete chaos to ensure everyone was where they were meant to be on most days. Living in a primarily hockey town, the winters are filled with coffee catch-ups at the arena, so it was no surprise when my youngest declared his intention to play hockey like his school friends. Fully aware that he had never held a hockey stick or slapped a puck,...

Keep Reading