In Tuesday’s post, I shared with you how I struggled to come to terms with the true sacrifices of motherhood. My determination to stock-up on baby supplies during my first pregnancy proved how ill-equipped I was for the job at hand. I went from underprepared to over-controlling and exhausted by the time my children were toddlers, trying to overcompensate for my lack of mothering know-how.
For the first six years of their lives, I orbited around my children like a planet encircling the sun, and believed that I was mothering. Since I devoted zero time to myself, fashion was out of the question. I re-wore my husband’s t-shirts, cringed when a pair of pants at a superstore cost more than nine dollars, and extended the life of my mascara by adding a few drops of water into the brittle, dried out tube. I declared war if my husband interrupted bedtime, and in bed, passed out asleep without so much as a tender word to the man who once made my heart swoon.
By year seven, and maybe by the grace of God, I discovered the sales rack in the women’s section in a department store and slowly shed the guilt I’d feel anytime I purchased something nice, just for me. I learned to throw away makeup that had cracked and leaked, and relinquished my dependence on my children’s long left behind baby combs, investing instead in an actual hair brush. As I slowly allowed myself to also be a priority, I learned to let go of my frenetic need to keep the children on a timeline and the dinner on the table at exactly five, in exchange for happiness in our home, for all of us.
My husband took my by the elbows one afternoon, when our children were eight and nine, and said to me, “You’ve changed. You are more beautiful now than when we first met.” I knew he meant: “Thank you for finally cleaning up a bit, and letting go of the drill instructor routine.” What I discovered in the process was my ability to be a better mother by taking better care of myself. In the more relaxed atmosphere of our home, our oldest son discovered a passion for the guitar, and developed an impressive dry sense of humor. Our youngest channeled his boisterous energy into a set of acoustic drums that pissed off the neighbors but made me proud of his determination. My relationship with my husband stopped resembling a mother and her child and felt more like a true partnership, two people committed to one another’s happiness. I took solo trips to visit girlfriends I’d lost contact with and he rediscovered his love of sports and nature. This new idea of motherhood transitioned away from desperately clinging to schedules and Love and Logic manuals, into a symbiotic relationship of harmony and happiness. I couldn’t keep them from the occasional scar, so instead – I allowed myself to be there and bandage the wounds.
Things were perfectly imperfect. As I learned to let go and appreciate the moments we still had with our children, I also realized how quickly time had slipped from our hands. It was as if I blinked and in one moment, my children were teenagers, with pubescent beards and cracking vocal tracts. These kids, these young men, would rather text their friends than watch a movie with me, would rather roll their eyes than accept my advice, and dream about the day when they get to move away and start their own lives. There was guilt to be had, since I’d wasted the earliest years dictating the rules and forgot to hold on the sound of chipmunk voices that said “thinger” instead of finger, or “Valentimes” instead of Valentines. Where were those sweet children I’d once born?
Today, while driving my sons to school, I saw my youngest, now thirteen, in the rearview mirror, singing along to a song by Bruno Mars, while staring out the window. He has traces of acne across the bridge of his nose, styles his hair with gel and wears contacts instead of glasses. I struggled to hold in the overwhelming sob I knew would explode the minute they left the car. For most of their lives, I believed it was me who raised them, but seeing their faces, listening to their voices, I know – without question, they raised me, in the most literal sense of the word. I am far above the human being I once was, elevated from the bowels of thinking that diapers and shampoo had anything to do with mothering, and grateful, so immensely grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of their constantly changing lives.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I wonder how many of you moms out there have witnessed your own growth alongside your children’s. How has motherhood transformed you? What crazy notions did you once have about your role as “Mom?” I can’t wait to read your responses. Happy Mother’s Day ladies, it’s quite the journey – isn’t it?
For part 1 of the story, click here