I always knew I didn’t want children. As a young woman in my twenties, I was focused on my career. My work at an international nonprofit in Washington, DC felt exciting and important. Riding the metro on weekend mornings, I noticed the mothers with young children who got off at the stop for the National Zoo. They ministered to their toddler’s tantrums in sing song voices. Their life felt utterly foreign to me. I yearned for purpose and adventure – not the small existence these women had chosen.
Almost a decade and a half later, I had traded my life of outer adventure working for humanitarian organizations for a life of inner adventure as a psychotherapist in training to become a Jungian analyst. I had also embarked on what was to be the greatest adventure of my life – motherhood. The birth of my daughter had brought me unparalleled joy. I loved everything about caring for her. When my second child was born two years later, however, I quickly felt depressed and overwhelmed as a result of caring for a toddler and a newborn in relative isolation. I was lonely, anxious, and unsure of myself.
One particularly cold December day when my son was about six months old, I bundled up both children, strapped them into the double stroller, and went for a walk around the neighborhood simply to get out of the house. The small stroller wheels got stuck frequently where the slate sidewalks had been thrown up by tree roots, and I had to push with my whole body to get up even a slight incline. These kids were freezing and unhappy and so was I. Everything about motherhood is just so hard, I thought to myself. Then another thought came: And I’m learning so much about myself as a result.
This idea gripped me immediately. Because I was in training to become a Jungian analyst, I quickly saw my trials as an opportunity for what Jung called individuation – the lifelong growth of the personality into whom we were meant to be. When I had a spare moment later that day, I rushed to the internet to search for a book on the topic of motherhood explored through a Jungian lens and found that there really wasn’t one. I knew then that I wanted to research and write about this topic.
Since that time, I completed my analytic training and began work as a certified Jungian analyst in private practice. I’ve written for the popular press and for scholarly journals. I lecture and teach on Jungian topics in the US and around the world and host a weekly podcast called This Jungian Life. And every day, being a mother is the most important thing I’ve done.
In the decade and a half since that December day, I’ve raised my own children. They’ve gone from babies, to toddlers, to kids, to teenagers, to young adults. I’ve lived through the days of boredom, dreariness, terror, despair, joy, hilarity, contentment, pride, and shame that are an inevitable part of parenting. I’ve also been privileged to companion many of my clients on their mothering journeys. I’ve worked with new mothers, mothers of teens, grandmothers – and everything in between.
All of my experience has strengthened that intuition that visited me that cold winter day – that motherhood is the adventure of a lifetime. It’s filled with meaning and purpose. If you let it, it will teach you more about yourself than you ever wanted to know. And it will help you grow into the person you were meant to be.