For the first time in four years all three of my kids are in school full-time, yet it’s almost two months into the freedom I have been craving for four years, and I can’t find a rhythm. I am struggling to find a routine. I have plenty of appointments on the calendar, standing volunteer times at my oldest daughter’s school, and a part-time job outside of the house. But the rest of my time, the time my partner and I purposely carved into my week, is meant to be for me and my writing. I finally have time to work on my soul’s need, my heart’s passion and my dream full-time job, and I feel paralyzed.

For so long I have been the frazzled, exhausted, joyously grateful and mind-numbingly bored stay-at-home mom, and now that I am not, I am struggling. My oldest child was in full-time daycare when my twins were born, and to keep things normal for her and affordable to my family, I quit my job to stay home with the twins. My partner turned into our primary and only source of income and benefits and selflessly carried the weight of that responsibility. It made sense, but I resisted the change. I take a lot of pride in working. Being trusted with a job and being paid for it are things I never take for granted. I missed the sense of a completed task and affirmations from co-workers and clients.

Taking care of my children will always be my most challenging and trusted job, but there was a piece of me that was never fulfilled when I was home with them full-time. I rarely completed a task, and they were not very generous with approval ratings. We had a rhythm, though. We had playgroups, story times, the park, trips to Costco. We had a routine. And when I could sneak in an hour or two of writing I felt accomplished. But now, after waiting for so long to have exactly what I want, I feel like a failure.

I know I am not a failure, but it feels like I am failing. More specifically, I am afraid to fail.

Now that I have the time to achieve personal and professional goals, the only person I have to blame or place excuses on if I don’t succeed is me. This terrifies me. Because what if the hope I have been holding onto for four years of finally writing a book, of cranking out important stories, and sharing touching essays was only a figment of my imagination? What if the most fulfilling job I will ever have is raising my kids, and what if it’s never enough?

To avoid answering any and all of these questions, I have avoided writing all together. Instead, I have been doing one house project after another. I painted my bedroom. I pressure washed the house. I organized the art room/office. I cleaned the inside of the grill. I even bought an extra propane tank just in case the one connected to the grill should run empty in the middle of cooking dinner, because I have all the time in the world to not do what I should actually be doing, what I really want to be doing.

I can’t fail at something I am not doing. But I can’t succeed either.

With this new change and the beginning of a new routine, comes another realignment of my identity. It took longer than two months for me to find my groove as a SAHM, yet I found it. I got really good at it. I even enjoyed it most days. So I should probably show myself some compassion as I figure out this next phase of my life. I am trying to remind myself that it’s okay if it takes longer than I thought to fit comfortably into my new role. And it will be okay to fail.

As much as I didn’t know how to be the right kind of spouse, I got married. As much as I didn’t know how to be the best parent, I had kids. I have succeeded and failed in marriage and parenthood, but not without trying.

As much as I don’t know the right way to turn this new free time into something I can be proud of, I am claiming it. It’s mine to do things I am unsure of, to learn from mistakes, to do things I know how to do, to take time to find peace and joy in lessons and achievements I learned and earned by trying.

I don’t really know what I am supposed to do with this quiet house and blinking cursor, but here we go.

Amber Leventry

Amber Leventry is a writer and advocate. She lives in Vermont with her partner, the kids, and their attention deprived dog. Her writing appears on The Next Family, Scary Mommy, Sammiches & Psych Meds, Babble, Ravishly, Huffington Post, Longreads, and The Washington Post. She also runs Family Rhetoric by Amber Leventry, a Facebook page devoted to advocating for LGBTQ families one story at a time. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @amberleventry.