I remember telling my mom recently that I was in a state of happy sadness. She naturally looked at me with confusion, and asked how that was possible. But I think many of us can relate to such conflicting emotions.
For me, this “happy sadness” stems from finding my best friend and creating with him a life of passion, laughter, safety and endlessly unconditional love. But all that has been mixed with moments of crushing grief over the massive changes that have occurred in the past year.
The most debilitating change is no longer having my kids full-time. But a deep-rooted unhappiness was preventing me from being a fully present mother, friend and human. I made a choice, and it came, inevitably, with consequences.
I can’t begin to describe the morning emptiness I feel when no kids come running down the stairs. But while listening to the aching quiet, I look over at my husband and can’t believe how lucky I am to have found my person. In these moments, I’m happily sad, and learning to understand it’s not just OK, but actually healthy to give weight to all my emotions.
I also remember making the happily sad decision to return to my job as a radio DJ after having both of my children. The thought of having someone else tend to the tiny beings I created was a heart-wrenching tug of war, and I knew that being their mom was the most important job of all.
But I also recognized that my paying job is one I’ve cherished passionately since starting my radio career at age 19. It’s also a type of therapy for me and is something I happen to love.
I realized that balance would be key to being the best parent I could. And pursuing my prior passions would provide a continuing sense of self while I navigated the most difficult job in the world, parenthood.
I don’t regret going back to work. And I don’t regret making the unbelievably difficult decision to end my marriage. But just because we don’t regret certain decisions, doesn’t mean they don’t weigh heavily on our hearts and minds.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I don’t think any of the biggest, toughest decisions can be made without mixed feelings.
What I do know is that taking care of ourselves is the most important thing we can do. And the choices we make in order to do that, coupled with our emotional responses to those decisions, need to be acknowledged, not suppressed.
That acknowledgment may, at times, lead to a good, old-fashioned cry. But more importantly, I’ve learned that moments of joy and laughter must far outweigh the tearful times. If those happy moments aren’t more plentiful than the sad ones, things are not OK.
If any of this resonates in your own life, as a parent or a person who simply feels torn, remember to check your emotional scale and do what you must to tip that scale toward the happy. It may not be easy, but the resulting smiles will be worth the effort.