Before we were moms, we were women. We danced, karaoked, stayed up too late, judged the parents of screaming toddlers at Target, and ate pizza at 3am. We spent too much money on things we couldn’t really afford. We cared too much about what people thought of us and spent entire Sundays watching “Real World” marathons while ordering food that could be delivered.
Then we became mothers, and some things changed. Our dancing became less about the booty and more about the giggles. Our karaoke nights became car sing-alongs and our late nights became less about closing down bars and more about midnight feedings or sick children. We stopped judging the parents of screaming toddlers, and instead felt sorry for them because we’d been there. We may have continued eating leftover pizza at 3am to sustain ourselves through late night fits of tears or colic or vomit or night terrors, but it wasn’t because we were still awake and hungry after a night of dancing and drinking. We started spending too much money on things or activities for our children, while what we wanted was put on hold. We had to stop caring as much about what people thought because all sense of humility and care was lost when a random lactation consultant grabbed our gargantuan breasts and carefully crammed them into the mouth of a tiny newborn that was pushed out of our lady parts only hours earlier. “The Real World” lost its luster anyway, but any marathon TV watching was done on PBS or Sprout, and definitely not MTV after someone started calling us “Mom.”
We became mothers, and many things did not change.
And sometimes, we forget. We forget who we were and we forget who we still are.
It’s unfair to us to forget the women we were just because we added offspring to our lives. It’s not fair to us – but it’s a disservice to our children. Being a mom does not change who you are, but rather it adds to who you were. It adds a level of patience and unselfishness that you may not have known existed before. Sometimes it adds a newfound jealousy of your friends who do not have kids. Jealousy of what they can do with their lives while you spend your time arguing with someone half your size over something stupidly insignificant. And while you love that little one unconditionally, you would really prefer be in a different room from them for much of the day, or—better yet—hanging out with that friend you just saw on Facebook amongst a herd of elephants in Thailand.
Being a mother can add a level of love, gratitude, and respect for the person with whom you share the responsibilities, heartbreak, exhaustion, and milestones that are children. If you’re doing it on your own, being a mom adds a sense of pride and independence that you may not have even known you had in you.
Being a mom may not change the fact that you still wish you could go dancing and stay up all night eating pizza at 3am. So you should do that. Your kids should know that there is more to your life than only them. There was more to you before them, and there is more to you now. It doesn’t feel like it very often—in fact most days you will probably feel like you’ve lost yourself, but do not let that happen! Allow yourself to be found by you. Your kids will be better for seeing you for who you really are…
I speak from experience. The days when I feel like I’m speaking one long grumpy monotone order at my children, when I rarely smile, and feel two seconds away from running away, I think longingly of who I was before I was filled with the gratitude of momdom. I was a traveler. I stupidly maxed out my credit cards traveling to Europe and studied abroad in the South Pacific. I hit an average of one new country each year for my first 10 years out of high school. I loved other cultures, foods, people, sites, sounds, and smells of places other than where I am from. I still long for that. And when I don’t do it, I don’t feel like me. I feel like a shell of myself. I feel like who I was is practically unreachable. So, what can I do, except travel? Since children, my travel has occurred closer to home for shorter stints and for longer breaks in between, but I still have to travel. When I’m lucky, sometimes my travel happens in accompaniment with my children, which is actually the best of both worlds. I love sharing a bit of who I was with those future wanderlusters. When I travel, I feel real again. I feel whole again, and I feel like I’m me again.
I live by this philosophy: One day, my kids will move away, and if all goes as planned, I will be left with my husband– Just him and me again. What would I be teaching my littles if I didn’t show them how to live? What will I do when they are gone if I lose myself in the process of raising them? What kind of a hypocrite would I be if I told them to “be themselves” but lose myself in the process?
Before I was a mom, I was me… and I still am. I just need to remember to let myself out to play every once in awhile so I don’t completely lose touch of me.
We became mothers, and some things—not all—changed.