My children will be 6 and 4 in a few short months. More and more it seems that a third baby is not in the cards, and this is something that pains me to my core. For some reason I finally feel like I get it. I get how to parent properly. A lot of it merely has to do with just being left alone and allowed to parent intuitively. I understand now why women stay at home to clip coupons and home school 5 or more kids. I know very well that other parents feel differently, but I can only speak to my own experience.
The times I have been the best version of myself as a mother is when I’ve just been left alone to do it. Not having to juggle working and mother hood, not having to make in-laws, my own mother or friends happy… When I’ve just been left alone without any other demands on my time and without any expectations from anyone else. Those few brief periods that I actually got to just be a mother were so, so good. To not be stretched so thin, not be forced to take on commitments of time and energy that I just want to go towards my children…
But truthfully, I never expected to feel like this. I always assumed I would have it all. That I would want it all. I always assumed I would have a career and a family. Even in darker times when I wasn’t so sure I would find a partner or a father for my as yet non-existent children, I always assumed I wanted both. I thought the women who stayed home to clip coupons and wipe runny noses were simple and quaint. Not me. I was an intellectual, an enlightened woman, a strong woman. I had a strong understanding of who I was, and I wasn’t going to waste my life being barefoot and pregnant in a kitchen somewhere. This is what has probably been one of the more complex facets of becoming a parent. You spend so much time dreaming and thinking about the little people you are bringing into the world… You rub your belly and dream of the person the little one in your womb will become…. But you forget to think about the person you will become once they are here.
Motherhood has changed me immensely. I know deep down I am basically the same, but there are so many more layers now. I think about the world differently, I fear different things, I notice different details…
I spent so much time dreaming of my kids and who they will become, that I completely failed to prepare and plan for how I was going to change. Though I suppose, this really isn’t something you can prepare for. Things that I would have been vehemently against 10 years ago, are now realities that I need to figure out how to live with. Options that never would have been considered before are suddenly on the table. Conversely, Things that I assumed would always be a part of my life are no longer an option. Not for the next 20 years anyway…
I will say that I am a much better person now. I’m much less self-centered and more able to find humor in everyday life. My patience has grown tremendously, and I’m much more compassionate towards my own mother in a way that I just wasn’t before. But, things are so different.
I can absolutely understand how women get lost in motherhood, only to feel shunned when their children inexplicably grow up and move on with life. I know a woman who said that she once went through a phase of being devastated that her children were no longer babies, and had to grieve that the baby years were gone. At 23 I would have thought this to be absolutely ridiculous. At 33 there is a very strong pull of recognition and a pit at the bottom of my stomach.
There is an ache that comes along with motherhood that I wasn’t prepared for. Not a pain, but a dull ache. You become so excited to move into the next chapter, the next milestone, to get just a little bit of freedom…. To then turn around a year or two later and miss the past milestones with such a strength that it leaves a catch in your throat. Sometimes you find a lone baby sock at the bottom of a drawer, long since lost its mate and long past fitting. It reminds you that the little foot that once wore it will never be that tiny again… and your throat catches..
It’s these little moments that throw me. I didn’t know I was going to feel like this. I didn’t know I was going to be this person. I didn’t know how deeply everything was going to be felt. I spent so much time dreaming of who these new little people were going to be, that I completely missed the fact that I was going to be a new person as well.
And now, as it stands, I have to make sense of it. I have old goals that don’t fit who I am now. I have expectations set on me from others that seem cruel and unfair. They don’t fit with this person, not now. But, I have to some how put the puzzle pieces together and make them fit.
If I could give just one piece of advice to new parents, it would be this: Give yourself space. When you welcome a new little person into your life, you also, simultaneously, become a new person. Give yourself space to become them. Ignore who you thought you were going to be, ignore the expectations of others, and ignore outdated goals and commitments that are no longer important. Give yourself space to get to know your child, and yourself as a parent. Don’t fight it and try hang on to who you were before. In my experience, who you become is so, so much better.