I’ve just picked up a hallway littered with Hot Wheels, fished a half-eaten, 3-day-old pear wrapped in a baby wipe from my $800 Coach purse, stepped in something sticky, set another load of laundry, cleared the kitchen for the nth time, fed the cats (again), poured myself a glass of wine (again); all the while thinking about the business trip I’ll be taking on Thursday, what bills are due at the end of the month, how I want to start my next vehicle review, and when I plan on squeezing in my next run.
On the eve of my son’s third birthday I catch myself taking a very deep breathe, reflecting on what’s been, how far I’ve come and equally how many steps I’ve taken back. A lot can happen in three years, and never has that been more true than in these past 36 months.
I live alone with my son now. As marriages tend to do, ours fell apart for reasons you never think will happen to you, but they did. Both parties are guilty, both admitted defeat, and so we separated. Now that we live apart, we’ve perhaps become closer and (sometimes) better than we ever were before (but that’s a subject for another blog).
I knew having a child wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it wasn’t going to be this fairytale of cute little rose-scented burps, gurgles, coos, and smiles till he was old enough to feed, dress, and care for himself. No, I knew that wasn’t the case. I may be blonde, but I’m not ignorant. And so I took the sleepless nights (for nearly 2 1/2 years), the dirty-everything, the feeling like I always came second even when I didn’t need to, and the realization that I was perhaps doing it all wrong, but wouldn’t know until Owen grew up to either be an architect or the next Jeffery Dahmer with a sigh and a “It’s just a phase” mentality.
Somehow through all of that I desperately wanted, and somehow managed to keep, my career, as well.
And here’s where I find myself now, walking this very narrow plank wedged between motherhood and a son I absolutely adore being with and raising, and the beginning of my 30s where I find myself single (in a weird, I’m-not-dating-but-I-don’t-live-with-anyone-and-my-ex-and-I-still-see-one-another-a-lot-so-a-new-guy-would-get-pissed-instantly kind of way), the smallest weight-wise I’ve ever been in my entire life, very well situated in a field I adore and in my career, finally free of personality shackles that held me back for years, and full of confidence I never knew I could harness.
It’s a crazy place to be, but here I am.
I devour mommy blogs about career-oriented mums. I lap up pseudo-serious columns about wearing barf as accessories and how to get Sharpie off your bathtub. I adore no-BS write-ups from mums who tell it like it is. I take it all in, and I want to believe I absorb it all and use it on a daily basis without even realizing I’m doing it. Because it’s all so important, it’s all so necessary this support in motherhood, this watching out for one another (even if we don’t know that’s what we’re doing).
Do I think I’ve done a bang-up job up to this point? No, not really. I had a rough first year and a half with Owen. I felt disconnected from everything, from myself. With the strained marriage and the introduction of a needy, wailing child, I lost myself entirely. I’m not sure if it was post-partum, but it was something, and it was horrendous. I look back now and I don’t recognize myself. Not one bit. I shut down from the world. The only person I gave an ounce of care to was Owen, because I felt obligated. That’s not motherhood, that’s not even mothering, that’s just duty.
So, no, I don’t think I’ve done a superb job up to this point.
I’m learning every single day. As Owen enters the “But, mummy, why?” stage, I once again have to learn to take a deep breath and readjust. Life truly is all about change. All about little tweaks, tightenings, shims, and maybe a bit of Crazy Glue. Nothing is ever perfect, and if you try to make it so (or believe it should be) you’ll spend a lifetime failing. That’s no way to live.
I know mothers who are content with a lifetime of Sesame Street, Rice Krispy Square cook-offs, bubble baths, and Crayola. That’s not me. I love doing those things with my son, but I also love my time. I like going to bars. I like concerts. I love to travel (alone). I like loud music. I like to drink. I like to dance. I’m an adult, and I have a personality that doesn’t have to be lost in motherhood.
I know mothers who would ask, “But, isn’t being with your child excitement enough?” And to that I’d say, “Sure. But when that child goes to bed/day care/Nanny’s house/nap time, I should be allowed to be the 31-year-old who enjoys a dirty joke and a glass of wine every once in a while.”
And I know that most who would ask that question wouldn’t at all agree with my response. And they’d judge. And that’s horrendous.
Mums/moms I’m talking to all of you. We are mothers. Whether we stay home with our kids all day or we run companies in CEO positions, we birthed children. We carried them for 9 months, we let them feed from our bodies for months after we evicted them, we bathed them, changed their diapers, wiped snot/barf/poop/tears/food from wherever. We did it all. And we are still human. We are still women. We are still individuals. We are more than just mothers, and we always will be.
Being a mother just adds another level of empowerment, of awesomeness, to who you are as an individual. Don’t lose you. Ever. And don’t let anyone tell you that you need to lose you to be a better mom.
I run. I run as often as I can. I’m always asked how I find the time. I say I make it. I didn’t always do that. I used to make excuses (I was super good at it): there’s laundry to do; I didn’t get enough sleep last night; the kitchen is dirty; what if Owen wakes up early from his nap; I’ll wait till tomorrow when the weather is better. All of those weak, pathetic excuses were draining me of me. They were weakening me as a person, as an individual. I hated that.
So, I made the changes necessary (which meant taking a long hard look in the mirror and accepting that I was allowed to be this way and that it wasn’t going to make me a bad mother or person in any way) and started living for me as much as I live for my son.
I’m proud to be a mother. I’m proud to have a son. I’m proud to have a career. I’m proud to have a life. I’m proud to be healthy.
It took nearly three years and many, many ups and downs, but I’m here.
I want every mother to feel this, always.