Though it seems like a bazillion years ago, it was just back in 2000 when I first became a mom. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I immersed myself in the slew of new baby/mommy websites that were popping up all over the web, and I subscribed to enough parenting magazines that I single-handedly took out a small forest. Advice was everywhere, and I was lapping it up like crazy.

Soon enough I became aware of the seemingly opposing camps of motherhood. You know the classics, right? Breastfeeding moms vs. bottle feeders. Working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. Baby-wearers vs. stroller pushers. Beyond the basics, I’m sure there were plenty more… perhaps the baby-voice-talkers vs. the anatomically-correct-terms-users, or the my-baby’s-outfit-is-always-coordinated mamas vs. the he’s-just-going-to-spit-up-on-it-in-thirty-seconds ones. Who knows? But as a first time mom, I felt like I had to figure out in which camps my loyalties lay. (Silly now, I know. But remember, I was a slave to those mama glossies!)

I tried breastfeeding. No, really. I did try. I cried so damn much for how hard I was trying. My baby wasn’t digging it, and after a period of twelve excruciatingly long weeks, we were now adding formula to our weekly shopping lists. Looking back, I’m guessing there were other avenues I could have taken, but for what I knew and what I had access to at the time, I did my very best. Six years later when we finally felt courageous enough to give the baby-making thing again, it was a different story. Many factors in our family’s life were different at that point, and I had an infant who was so shockingly different than her older brother in temperament. Lo and behold, I was able to plant my flag firmly in the breastfeeding mamas camp, where it happily waved for thirteen months, only to be taken down and temporarily stored because my (surprise!) new pregnancy was entering its second trimester and I was dreading the discomfort of each and every feeding.

Interestingly enough, throughout the course of my three kids lives so far (eleven years, five years and almost four years, if you’re keeping track), I’ve also been able to identify with the full-time working moms, the part-time working moms, and the stay-at-home moms. Just last month, I had to pack my stay-at-home bags and come full circle again, as I returned to teaching preschool full-time. Oh, how the times have changed. If my twenty-five year old self thought working full-time was challenging with one baby to care for, she would get laughed out of town by my thirty-five year old self now trying to juggle it with three kids, one of whom has homework and a modest amount of extra-curricular activities to keep track of. Exhaustion doesn’t seem a strong enough word some evenings.

Yet, even at the end of the longest day, I know that I really have no idea how long this stage in life will last. My heart longs for a future that doesn’t include employment that requires set hours, but instead somehow finds just enough money coming at me in exchange for my dabbling in my greatest passions- reading and writing, but who knows what the future will hold. I never thought I’d be able to call myself a stay-at-home mom, yet that was my official title for four years.

I’ve seen both sides of several coins, and they both have shine… and tarnish, but I’m confident that each experience has served my family well at the time.

Dawn really just hopes she can fit in anywhere. Beyond parenting and teaching, she reviews books at 5 Minutes for Books, writes for the Greenbelt Patch, and blogs at my thoughts exactly.