Recently I was reminiscing on those first few months of motherhood with our first baby.
How upside-down my world was turned, and how I had to rethink my whole identity and daily routine. It was blissful but frantic; enlightening but stupefying. Not only was I navigating the new-ness of a sweet baby girl, a person who hadn’t even existed until mere months ago, but I was also trying to figure out exactly who this new Mom-me was. As much as new babies are loved and regarded by the general population, the very act of becoming a mother was incredibly alienating. In talking with other moms, I am not alone in this observation. Often, friends who don’t have children fall by the wayside – they may not have as much in common with the new parents anymore, their priorities have changed, schedules don’t align, et cetera et cetera.
Then you start making new “mom friends”, with children similar in age to your own and so basically a built-in play date for both the parents and the children. These moms become a lifeline of sorts, the ones you can ask the hard stuff such as, “Is it normal for a toddler to poop seven times a day?” and “Do I have spit-up in my hair?”. You commiserate, you trade off babysitting, you try to organize Mom’s Night Out forty-seven times in a row before it actually happens. This is all part of that early stage of motherhood, when children are not yet in school but you have usually moved past the constant sleepless nights and round-the-clock nursings/bottle-feedings that young babies require. Without these mom friends, it is quite possible you will reach a state of insanity that will require your own round-the-clock care.
There also comes a point in motherhood, or at least in my own experience, when the mothers within your own family become the rock in your storm. I know that I can relate to my own mother and mother-in-law in ways that I never would have before having children. I trade stories with my sisters-in-law about each stage of early development, and look forward to the time when I can pass on (probably un-wanted) wisdom to my sisters when they start having babies. It’s all part of a web, a network, that helps us moms sort through this entirely different persona we take on after we cross that threshold into motherhood.
But part of this reminiscing I was doing was about the person I was before.
Before babies, before pregnancy, before the daily routine of having little people completely dependent on me for their health and welfare. Where is that person now, and more importantly – where will she be when the babies are gone? When my children have left the nest and moved on to their own independent lives, how will I define myself then? Rather than fret over how I will cope when the very definition of who I am changes yet again, I realized that I need to embrace that person now. Remember who I was before children and take the time to let her be part of the me that I am now.
As painful as it is, I have to acknowledge that this definition of myself as the mother of young children is incredibly fleeting. The children will grow up, will change, will need me in different ways than they do now. The time that I am “Mommy” first and foremost will span only about twenty years of my life, a mere wrinkle in time. I need to cultivate the relationships I have now, whether the friends are other moms I see on a regular basis or old friends whom I have lost touch with over the years. My relationship with my husband also needs to be more about who we are as individuals who love each other, so that when the children leave home we are not staring at each other at a loss for conversation.
Rather than be sad about the fact that my time is short with littles, I am embracing the changes that come with the passing of the years. Although there will come a time when my home is not filled with the pitter-patter of little (elephant) feet, I do look forward to the time when I can engage with the kids on a more conversational level. The time for play dates and playground visits will come to an end, but then there will be mall visits and high school sports games. In the midst of it all, I know I need to carve out time for me – not the Mom-me, but for Elysha.
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