For the last three years I have shied away from a mother’s day post because I have a lot of wonderful things to say about my mom and stepmother and a couple of other really powerful women that have shaped my life, and I want to acknowledge the group of women that I mother our collective brood with, and I want to wax poetic about the experience, but I’m not sure that I know how to go about reconciling that I feel that the mothers in my life are so deserving of recognition while I myself am still shaking my head in disbelief that I’ve been entrusted with a child’s life.
This blog is largely dedicated to my experience as a parent. From that lens it seems that I’m pretty much all-in with the whole mama gig, and don’t get me wrong, I am, but there’s so much about being a mother that feels, for lack of a better term, like make-believe to me. I still have days or moments when I feel like an outsider looking in at the snow globe of our lives and it seems surreal and and foggy and oddly fragile. In part I think that this feeling is born out of the whole my-heart-is-now-walking-outside-my-body phenomenon that every parent is all too familiar with, and in part I think that having a child is the inevitable and somewhat clichéd crossroads moment that everyone can tell you over and over about, but you can’t really appreciate the magnitude of the choice until you actually make it.
Down one path you see a life that is blissfully and appropriately self-centered. All the shops lining its trail flash signs that invite you to do whatever the hell you want with your life, sleep till noon, go back to school, spend all your money on a glass tile backsplash, book a flight for tomorrow on a moment’s notice, stay out, stay up, stay in, write books, live in a glass castle, indulge, indulge, indulge. Down the other path, you see a life that is boisterous and self-centered in a completely different way. The signs are more subtle, inviting you to step in here to have your heart explode with joy when your child giggles for the first time, look at a tiny face and see your husband’s smile, see the sunrise 5 days a week, let a tiny person decorate your kitchen with flour, settle down, anchor yourself with roots, indulge, indulge, indulge.
I’ve been feeling these things for only a couple of years now, so I’m about as far off from being an expert on this as one can be, but I think the point that I’ve arrived at is that two women have taken permanent residence in my being. One is a woman who is a mother and she is soft and attempting to make peace with stretch marks and she is joy-filled and emotional and honestly spends the majority of her time thinking about the child that she has and his future, and the child that she wants and their future. She consumes herself with reading about ways to honor the magnitude of trust that’s been placed in her hands, and reaches out to other mothers for guidance and acceptance and communion, she cries out of pride and fear and frustration. She’s grateful for early mornings and date nights in and the excuse of needing to be home for nap time. She’s unapologetic about all of the ways that she changed, all of the ways that her priorities have shifted, all of the ways that her resolve has morphed.
The other woman is the one that longs for a lot of things. There’s not another way to say it. She has opinions and gigantic ideas and she wants to over indulge and spend her life on a dance floor spinning and laughing. She’s anxious to always be feeling something new, to be recognized for being more that a long shadow behind a set of small footprints, to spend her time making out in backseats, and hunting down books, and learning how to finally make beautiful things in a meaningful way. She thinks about work and making a name for herself and saying, see that? I did that, and sure, I’ll be right over, no problem.
Until recently, I couldn’t really articulate this, but in an indistinct way I felt these two sides of myself in constant tension with one another. Not because I felt that one side was superior to the other (quite the opposite) but just that there was discord. It wasn’t harmonious, you chose one path or the other, there was no turning back. Thinking about Mother’s Day, and my anxiety about having a spotlight shined on a part of my life that I secretly feel guilty about not being 100% about 100% of the time, has made me think that I probably just need to lighten up a little. My two ‘lives’ are not mutually exclusive. I am a woman and I am a mother and I am a wife and I am an individual. My guess is that almost every single woman–parent–out there feels this on some sort of spectrum. We wouldn’t trade our lives with our families for anything, and we desperately want not just everyone else, but our own eyes to still see us as those awesome independent women that once ruled our worlds. We’re both. Two for the price of one.
The last thing that I’ll to this is that I sense the finality of it. We will have our youngest child move out, move on one day, and although my heart will still be in permanent residence in someone else’s shoes, and although I’ll still be thinking about their future and their well being and all of that, but my time being mine will be the rule and no longer the exception. I will suddenly be able to sleep in and stay out and say yes, I’ll be right there, and I can take classes and read books and learn to make beautiful things. I see that door on the horizon, and here again I feel a strange little dual ping in my heart. I can’t wait. I hope they’ll never leave us.
Perhaps the metaphor of turning our hearts over to our children is even more apt than I’ve realized…we’re not making a choice, we’re creating a song: they put the baby in our arms and one becomes two, a single note becomes a harmony.