“Enjoy it while it lasts” was always the sage advice I got from grandmothers watching my tantrum-throwing toddler. I would be trying to put him down, so I could eat a meal with a fork. I’d look at them, smile, and think, “Miss kicking-screaming-snot-filled-face-wipes-on-my-shirt fits? I don’t think so.”
A new mother longs for the days when she can take a shower with the curtain closed because every time she closes it her baby’s mouth is open. The life you had before the baby feels like a lifetime ago. Freedom. Independence. Showers. Distant memories of the past. Eating. Sleeping. Shaving. Luxuries you can’t afford anymore, all because you’re somebody’s mom.
You took watching TV uninterrupted for granted. You can’t remember a time you walked unencumbered or in heels, without tiny little hands gripped around your ankles as you leave for work. Carried a purse instead of a diaper bag. Read a book without pictures. Be normal. Those are the days I should’ve enjoyed while they lasted. That should be advice these grandmothers dispense.
These women done with play dates, birthday parties, and park visits. These brunching-bottomless-mimosa bitches. These sisterhoods of the stainless pants. These women have independent children. Children with driver’s licenses and part-time jobs. These women have teenagers, college students and full-fledged adults that call them mom. So what do these women know?
They actually know a lot, which is why I never said a word. Even before I became the mother of a teenager, I knew what they meant when they said, “Enjoy this.”
This is the special time between mother and baby, where he wants me.
He cries every time I leave the room because he can’t stand to be apart from me. Then there is the pure elation on his sticky little face when he sees me walk through a door. These women weren’t dispensing advice; it was a warning. Warning: this time is fleeting. My teenage son can’t wait for me to leave the room. His sticky face smiles are replaced by eye rolls and whispers to stop embarrassing him. Your child replaces you with dances, dates, and cell phones. You’re left in the dust of powdered sugar from the cookies they won’t bake, rolling pin in hand thinking WTF!
“Hey mom, do you think you can’t be so you?” Was the question my son posed from the backseat as I drove him home from middle school. “Excuse me?” Maybe I didn’t hear him correctly. “Can you stop talking to my friends and teachers when you pick me up?” Initially, I wanted to skid to a stop and guilt trip an apology out of him. But he continued, “I’m old enough to talk to my teachers and figure things out for myself.” He was right, and so I conceded: “You are.” My baby boy is a young man. Independent. I-Got-This. And it was the first time I realized I wasn’t his mommy. Which he totally solidified by ending our conversation with, “So keep the chit-chat with my friends to a minimum. You’re a little embarrassing.”
So, what now? Where are the sages’ advice for this? My kid dumps me like a hot potato, and I’m left to my own devices. Asking myself “What now?” and worse, “What do I want to do?” Free time for a mother can be dangerous. We wander aimlessly, like crafting nomads looking for that “busy” fix. Knitting. Scrapbooking. Book clubs. Quilting bees. The most desperate of us revert back to our nurturing instinct and start over with a puppy. Project to project. Group to group. Until one day the glitter dust settles, and we step away from the glue guns.
I realized a hobby is not a life, it’s a distraction. The only advice dispensed now came out of the mouth of babes, “Get a life.” Which single mothers hear far too often from other people. People not our children. So, the advice turns to real common sense. We know this. We understand this. It’s the one activity we never really plan for. However, there is good news! Think about the books you couldn’t read. The series you couldn’t binge because he had karate. Your time is now your own. You can choose whether you take up a hobby (sleeping) or you change your life for you. You become the woman you once were, packed with knowledge and insight to use for yourself.
“Do you.” Should really be the advice, because now you get to experiment with veganism and yoga. Which is what I did. Of course, it looked like a nervous breakdown to everyone else around me, but I had to slow down and be okay with thinking about me. I was already on the case, so I decided to go deep five years ago. I’m still on my path, with a predisposition for Hatha yoga and pescetarianism. And that’s perfectly fine. I’m a work in progress. Perfection is in the persistence, not the completion.
Look, if it was easy every mom would have a life. You’ll have setbacks. Arguments. Even give up. Which is not the way you do your kids, so why would you do this yourself.
Be patient. Be committed. Be adventurous. Be forgiving. Get back out there. Reinvent yourself by reacquainting yourself with your passion, not just a hobby.
The equation is simple. Curiousness + Love = Passion. The solution makes us happy and it should be the love for our children that transfers into our found existence and spills over into everything we create. Find your real sense of self, summon the courage to be the woman you always were. There is no time limit, so pace yourself and give permission to dance it out, court it a little bit, then decide what to do with the rest of your life.
I’m on call for my teenager and I scrub in when I need to. Watch an 80’s flick together on a slow Friday night. Yogurtland always buys me time, so I’m not totally out of the picture. I’m still his mom. I hang in the margins, watching, waiting. But in the meantime, I go on with my glitter-dusted-pescetarian-yogi life.
Header Image Source: @myepiphany