I seem to have reached a milestone in my journey as a mother – heck, maybe even in my journey of life.
It came upon me slowly, with itty bitty changes and baby steps that I didn’t even realize were happening. And then, I had a wonderful, blissful drive all by myself and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I am comfortable with who I am as a mother and as a person. That probably sounds bland and boring. But when you add up six years of questioning every single decision made in regards to your children with the tumultuous years before children of “finding oneself”, there’s a whole lotta shaky ground going on.
Let me take you on my little car drive for a minute, because I seriously wish that I could relive it.
I was on my way to a photo shoot that was taking place about an hour away from home, taking full advantage of the fact that there were no kiddos in the car with me. The windows were down and the radio was up – I couldn’t believe my luck in finding a radio station playing Fleetwood Mac followed by Heart. I was, of course, singing at the top of my lungs. For a few minutes, as long as I didn’t glance in the rear-view and spy the three car seats in the back of my minivan, I could pretend that I was seventeen again. I wasn’t thinking about my mountain of laundry at home, my muffin top, or if I should be doing more learning projects with the kids. I was in this amazing state of just being me. It felt so good and it got the wheels turning (seriously, if someone could find a way to turn those wheels off every once in a while? Money in the bank.) – this is the sweet spot.
Maybe it’s because I feel a measure of success for my own personal achievements, as my photography business has grown a lot this past year. Maybe it’s because my husband and I had recently had a really great date night. Could be that I am riding the high that is back-to-school routines. Or possibly it’s because I no longer have to haul around a huge diaper bag with every size of diaper and sippy cup imaginable tucked inside. It could be any number of those things and more that add up to this great feeling of contentment, but I’ll tell you: it feels good.
The Mommy part has always been good.
I felt that missing puzzle piece slide into place the moment our firstborn was tucked into my arms. I love the snuggles, the milestones, the pure love that I get from my children. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as every mom knows, and it’s so easy to be hard on ourselves in those dark moments. It also doesn’t help that there is a huge amount of pressure to be everything and do everything when you are a mother. Stay at home? You’re judged negatively for not contributing financially to your family. Work outside the home? You’re judged negatively for not spending enough time with your kids. Then when I started my home business, it was like I felt this huge amount of pressure to be incredibly successful in my career, but also still try to be the Wonderwoman Mom who cooks every meal from scratch and plans out educational activities for each day of the week. I know I’m not alone in this. There was a point where I felt on the verge of breaking down, and I did have a good long cry on my husband’s shoulder. Why was I doing this to myself? There are no guidebooks in this parenting adventure, no authority figures hovering over our every move and deciding whether we pass or fail. So why did I constantly feel like I was being watched and judged?
I decided that was enough of that. I realized I had let my “self” get lost somewhere along the way and it was no one’s fault but my own. I needed to do more of the things that make me, well, me. So I started reading books for pleasure again (real books especially – there’s just something comforting about the smell of paper, right?). I play word games now and then. I’m making plans with friends and date night plans with my husband where we try really hard to talk about anything other than the kids. I light candles, I blow dry my hair, I put on the stations I love and dance around my kitchen while I make dinner. I plan on starting an exercise program, not because I care what anyone thinks of my looks, but because it will make me feel good. Maybe I’ll even plan a trip away for a weekend by myself.
As sad as it may seem in many ways, the reality is that my children will not always be little and so very dependent on me and my husband. I think it is important for our own health, and for a healthy relationship with each other, to maintain our sense of “self” even in these early years with kids. Taking the time to just be is so freeing and the most it takes is a conscious effort to do it. Of course I want my children to remember all the fun things I did with them while they were young, but more importantly, I want them to remember this about me: that I was content.