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I’m a SAHM with an older child—what’s next for me?

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Growing up I always knew I was “going to be somebody and make something of myself." An obsessive overachiever, I was confident that I was destined to do something amazing with life. I had big plans for myself, and I never deviated from a well thought out plan.

I loved college. Never before had I experienced the thoughtful, knowledgeable, and meaningful conversations I did during class. I was hooked; I couldn't get enough of it! I soon grew to feel a great sense of camaraderie with my classmates. I had found my place and soared, regularly earning a spot on The Dean's List (while continuing to work my nearly 35 hours per week “part-time" job). All was going according to plan.

And then it wasn't.

I had been casually dating a neighborhood boy for the entire summer preceding my freshman year. Soon after classes started and I moved onto campus, our relationship grew serious; very serious, very quickly. I began spending more and more time at my boyfriend's house and less and less time on campus. While I remained dedicated to my studies and earning superb grades, I completely forfeited any true “college experience" for the sake of my relationship.

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Despite my parent's greatest efforts to spare me from missing out on my chance at a college experience, I chose to honor my commitment to both my relationship and my boyfriend. It wasn't long before I moved off campus and into an apartment with my boyfriend. I was only 19. Amidst all the changes that had taken place in my personal life, my academic performance never suffered and my passion for learning remained as strong as ever.

I married my boyfriend during my junior year spring break. Nine short months later, while seven months pregnant, I proudly walked across the stage to receive my degree! I had already applied to and been accepted to my now alma mater's School of Graduate Studies and was scheduled to begin my graduate career the following September, after a five-month “break" to recover from and adjust to being a first-time mom.

A first-time mom who stayed home with my son and handled each and every single responsibility pertaining to the care and well-being of my child, and our household. By this point, my responsibilities also included “damage control and cleanup" for whatever mess my husband had created for himself, and I began growing more and more exhausted as the weeks passed.

When September inevitably rolled around I was excited to begin my graduate studies, though admittedly plagued with anxiety at the thought of leaving my infant son in the care of my ill-equipped husband for nearly five hours per week.

I attended three weeks worth of classes before realizing my son needed me full-time (his father simply couldn't be trusted) and withdrawing. I was devastated; for the first time in my life, I felt like a failure. I couldn't finish something that I both started and yearned so badly for.

Despite my disappointment, I became engulfed in my new role as a full-time-stay-at-home-mom. I was so very in love with my child, and never took for granted the privilege that I had been afforded. I heard my child's first spoken word, witnessed his first steps, taught him to count, read to him every single night before bed, and even saw him proudly use the potty for the first time! I was #blessed and I knew it, on most fronts.

My marriage was broken, shattered beyond repair, and I knew it. Instead of addressing and handling the problem, I instead chose to turn a blind eye to the catastrophe that had become my marriage. I immersed myself in my role as a full-time-stay-at-home-mom and even began internally identifying myself this way.

Occasionally I'd feel the sting of desire and regret over the goals that had essentially been abandoned. In those moments, I reminded myself just how badly I was needed at home and did my best to convince myself my circumstances were beyond my control; I had a small child and an immature, irresponsible, and unreliable husband. How could I ever balance graduate courses in addition to my daily responsibilities, I'd ask myself?

A devastating family death finally inspired me to file for divorce after a 10-year-long-relationship and four years of marriage. At the time I filed for divorce I had been out of the workforce for four years and had never once worked since graduating from college. To say I was scared would be the understatement of a lifetime, but I knew I was doing what was right for both my son and myself.

After a few too many wine-fueled late night pity parties, I knew what I had to do. I contacted my former advisor and re-enrolled in my graduate program. I found an apartment for my son and myself (complete with a white picket fence!), bought a new car, and landed a pretty desirable position at a well-known local law firm. It seemed as if my plan had managed to find its way back to me and I was back on track.

My divorce was terribly messy. I was awful, he was awful, it was all awful. What should have been an open and closed case was dragged out for nearly two years, courtesy of my ex-husband. I was struggling to balance single motherhood, a demanding, high paced job, and managing a household and all the expenses that come along with it (including pre-school).

I was juggling this far too fragile balancing act all while taking a full load of graduate courses and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. It wasn't long until my ex-husband decided he would no longer honor his moral obligation to provide for my child with child support payments. The fact that these child support payments were court ordered meant nothing to him. He ceased all means of support (and continues to).

As I grew into my role at work and began to excel I knew something had to give. I was simply spread too thin. I was unable to be the very best mom, employee, or graduate student I knew I had the potential to be while juggling so many major responsibilities. Because I wasn't receiving any financial assistance from my ex-husband, I once again made the decision to withdraw from my MA Program upon completion of the classes I was enrolled in. This time, I truly had no choice. I had a small child to support, obligations to honor, and I needed to work to fulfill these obligations. I withdrew with a 4.0 GPA and in good standing with my University.

Over the next few years, I largely worked in Education, with a short-lived stint in IP Law. I continued to struggle. Though it was gratifying to know that I was modeling strong, positive, and responsible behavior for Jack to see, I hated leaving him in someone else's care each day. Time and time again I was told, “it will get easier," and “it won't always be this hard," but it never got easier and it continued to grow increasingly harder.

When I met my now husband he encouraged me to leave my position with the IT Law Firm and follow my heart. As badly as I wanted to, I was afraid. What if I left my job and once again fell flat on my face? I couldn't bear the thought of starting all over again. Eventually, I did find a part-time position in my field and left the firm. I remember walking out of my office on my last day at the firm and feeling as though my soul had been set free from the prison it had been shackled in. I was liberated.

Much to our surprise, shortly after we became engaged, my then-fiancée (a fine dining chef), was recruited by and offered a position in Las Vegas at one of the country's top-grossing restaurants. The offer, experience, and education my fiancée stood to gain was far too good to turn down and so together we made the decision to accept the offer and move across the country to Nevada. Our move and the major change in lifestyle we experienced brought with it many new decisions to be made and questions to be answered.

During one particular conversation, my husband sat me down and told me he thought I should stay home with our son. He thought it best for me to be completely available to our little guy during his transition period. I agreed. He surprised me though when he told me that he knew I wasn't as happy as I could be. He continued, reporting it was his observation that I hadn't been truly happy since returning to the workforce and forfeiting my role as a full-time-stay-at-home-mom.

What could I say? He was absolutely right. In that moment, we decided I would resume my role as a full-time-stay-at-home-mom, with the unconditional support of my husband. I was so filled with relief, love, and gratitude that I couldn't speak. Instead, crying tears of joy while trying to thank him through my sobs.

The next few years were amazing. We blossomed into a whole, healthy, and happy family while in Nevada. My husband experienced great success and our son prospered. I was once again fortunate enough not to miss a single baseball practice or game, school performance or event, soccer game, or karate lesson. To our son's delight, I was even able to read to his class a few times that year. My “job" as a full-time-mom allowed me the freedom to ensure our little guy was able to accept almost all invitations to play dates and birthday parties, sleepovers and camp outs. I loved “having my old job back" and was deeply happy and content.

A few years ago my husband accepted yet another prestigious position, this time closer to our home state on the east coast. Though it was difficult to leave the friendships and life we had created during our time in Nevada, each of us was excited to be so close to family, friends, and home. We settled beautifully in our new beach side community. My husband continues to excel in his career and our son is well adjusted, popular, and a genuinely good-hearted little boy. We're all healthy, happy, well taken care of, and safe.

So, what could possibly be wrong?

Me.

As I approach my 34th birthday next week and my son rapidly approaches his 10th birthday in just a few short months, I find myself wondering and worrying about my future. Though he is still very young, requiring supervision, guidance, and love at all times, my son has begun to assert his independence. He will need me less and less as the years' pass. Then what? What happens to me?

It's not my son's job to fulfill me, make me happy, or give me an identity. That's my job; always has been and always will be. This I know without a shadow of a doubt.

My husband's career has taken off. He's experiencing well deserved critical acclaim and has even been featured in local media quite a few times. My heart swells with pride and admiration for my husband. He deserves every bit of the success and attention he's achieving and receiving. So, he's good. He doesn't “need" me for anything either.

But what about me? Where does that leave me?

The same fears, worries, questions, regrets, and anxieties continuously run through my mind. The relentless fears and regret torment me, racing through my mind leaving me to wonder:

Is it too late for me?

Did I waste my potential?

What is my purpose?

And finally:

Maybe, just maybe, now is the perfect time for me. Maybe now is the ideal time to revert back to my plan, get back on track, and to not only meet but crush both my MA and Ph. D. goals?

From the sidelines where I find myself sitting these days, it seems now is as good a time as ever.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's been more than a year since Khloé Kardashian welcomed her daughter True Thompson into the world, and like a lot of new moms, Khloé didn't just learn how to to be a mom this year, she also learned how to co-parent with someone who is no longer her partner. According to the Pew Research Center, co-parenting and the likelihood that a child will spend part of their childhood living with just one parent is on the rise.

There was a ton of media attention on Khloé's relationship with True's father Tristan Thompson in her early days of motherhood, and in a new interview on the podcast "Divorce Sucks!," Khloé explained that co-parenting with someone you have a complicated relationship with isn't always easy, but when she looks at True she knows it's worth it.

"For me, Tristan and I broke up not too long ago so it's really raw," Khloé tells divorce attorney Laura Wasser on the podcast. She explains that even though it does "suck" at times, she's committed to having a good relationship with her ex because she doesn't want True to pick up on any negative energy, even at her young age.

That's why she invited Tristan to True's recent first birthday bash, even though she knew True wouldn't remember that party. "I know she's going to want to look back at all of her childhood memories like we all do," Khloé explained. "I know her dad is a great person, and I know how much he loves her and cares about her, so I want him to be there."

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We totally get why being around Tristan is hard for Khloé, but it sounds like she's approaching co-parenting with a positive attitude that will benefit True in the long run. Studies have found that shared parenting is good for kids and that former couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Khloé says her relationship with Tristan right now is "civilized," and hopefully it can get even better with time. As Suzanne Hayes noted in her six guiding principles for a co-parenting relationship, there's no magic bullet for moving past the painful feelings that come when a relationship ends and into a healthy co-parenting relationship, but treating your ex with respect and (non-romantic) love is a good place to start. Hayes describes it as "human-to-human, parent-to-parent, we-share-amazing-children-and-always-will love."

It's a great place to start, and it sounds like Khloé has already figured that out.

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Kim Kardashian West welcomed her fourth child into the world. The expectancy and arrival of this boy (her second child from surrogacy) has garnered much attention.

In a surrogacy pregnancy, a woman carries a pregnancy for another family and then after giving birth she relinquishes her rights of the child.

On her website, Kim wrote that she had medical complications with her previous pregnancy leading her to this decision. “I have always been really honest about my struggles with pregnancy. Preeclampsia and placenta accreta are high-risk conditions, so when I wanted to have a third baby, doctors said that it wasn't safe for my—or the baby's—health to carry on my own."

While the experience was challenging for her, “The connection with our baby came instantly and it's as if she was with us the whole time. Having a gestational carrier was so special for us and she made our dreams of expanding our family come true. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl."

A Snapchat video hinted that Kim may have planned to breastfeed her third child. What she chooses to do is of course none of our business. But is has raised the very interesting question, “Wait, can you breastfeed when you use a surrogate?"

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The answer is yes, you sure can! (And you can when you adopt a baby, too!)

When a women is pregnant, she begins a process called lactogenesis in which her body prepares itself to start making milk. This usually starts around the twenty week mark of pregnancy (half way through). Then, when the baby is born, the second phase of lactogenesis occurs, and milk actually starts to fill the breasts.

All of this occurs in response to hormones. When women do not carry a pregnancy, but wish to breastfeed, they can induce lactation, where they replicate the same hormonal process that happens during pregnancy.

A woman who wants to induce lactation can work with a doctor or midwife, and start taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (which grow breast tissue)—often in the form of birth control pills—along with a medication called domperidone (which increases milk production).

Several weeks before the baby will be born, the woman stops taking the birth control pill but continues to take the domperidone to simulate the hormonal changes that would happen in a pregnancy. She'll also start pumping multiple times per day, and will likely add herbal supplements, like fenugreek and blessed thistle.

Women can also try to induce lactation without the hormones, by using pumping and herbs, it may be harder but some women feel more comfortable with that route.

Inducing lactation takes a lot of dedication—but then again, so does everything related to be a mama. It's a super personal decision, and not right for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that we need to support women and mothers through their entire journey, no matter what decisions they make about themselves and their families—whether Kardashian or the rest of us.

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