Being a mom means being able to shift on the fly. And I don’t just mean leaving a meeting to pick up a sick kid or changing your dinner plans because someone no longer eats Kraft dinner. Being a mom means constantly changing, evolving and juggling our big and small-picture plans, goals and routines to suit everyone else.
Whether we do this grudgingly or with enthusiasm we do it because it comes with the mom’ing territory. Whether life involves a big change, like a move, or a small change, like adding a weekly tutoring session to the family calendar, it’s usually our job to make it all happen.
And that shit ain’t easy, especially when there’s a little voice in your head (or devil on your shoulder) asking Really … again?
This is not a ‘here’s another way motherhood is hard’ post. This is about the fact that I see you and you’re a rock star because let’s face it, the former we know and the latter we need to be reminded of.
So let me say it again: I see you mama. I see how you changed your hours at work to accommodate 4 pm ball practice, and I see how you looked around after having your first, second or third baby and thought now what?
It’s normal to wonder how you (you as woman, not you as mom) fit into everything you’re doing, coordinating and creating for everyone else. You’re more than the lunch maker, the chauffeur, the homework coach and the kisser of ouchies. You have your own plans and goals and it’s perfectly fine to wonder if you’ll be back in control of your own time and your own plans anytime soon.
When my husband accepted a job in Las Vegas last August, my first thought was ‘have a good time, the kids and I will miss you!’ My life was in Canada, and it included friends, family and a career I’d worked hard to reinvent after two kids. But it didn’t take long for this way of thinking to fall apart, so we said goodbye to everything we knew and moved south. I don’t regret or begrudge it at all because I see my kids growing, changing and having experiences they wouldn’t get if they stayed in their same environment.
But while he’s at work and the kids are at school I’m looking around like okay, now what? Everyone is happy and settling and moving on with their lives, getting back into routine, and I’m puttering around our rental house feeling like I’ve just landed on another planet. I didn’t know this previously but, believe it or not, you CAN watch too much Netflix and eat too much raw cookie dough.
Again, this is not a pity party. I regret nothing and I know we made the right decision for our family. But the voice still exists, and she gets especially loud when I’m tired or frustrated. You know the voice because you’ve tried to silence her too. She’s the one that asks what about me? Sometimes she just won’t shut up and to be honest, I don’t even want her to. I want her to keep reminding me there’s more to me than getting kids to school on time and making sure they eat a vegetable once in a while. I want her to hunker down beside me in the trenches and kick me in the ass when I start feeling sorry for myself.
Because I know my time will come again. Our time will come again. In the meantime, our job is to find a balance between enjoying and merely surviving these years when our lives are not our own. The inescapable paradox of motherhood is that we spend much of our kids’ lives feeling too tired and busy to enjoy all the little moments, then feeling desperately sad when the little moments stage is over.
Yes, this is what we signed up for when we became parents. We knew that having children meant it was now about someone else. But I’m here to tell you that it’s still okay to wonder if and when that will change. It’s okay to miss the you that you were before you started reporting to a tiny boss who talks a lot of smack for someone who can’t buy his own socks. It’s even okay to get pissy about it from time to time because getting pissy means that the voice inside you is still alive.
Sometimes it helps me to think about it this way: all the things we do as mothers translates into a pretty awesome resumé. Being able to shift on the fly, reprioritize and revamp are valuable skills that demonstrate selflessness, resilience and creativity. ‘Change management’ might feel thankless at times, and unfortunately, society doesn’t really have our backs on this but trust me: by rolling with life’s U-turns, whether that’s having a baby, moving cities, you or your partner switching jobs or taking time off to care for a sick relative, you’re teaching your kids to be flexible and adaptable. You’re leading the team that matters most. And if you feel like a human glue stick trying to keep it all together then you’re probably doing it right.
And I see you.