Friday, May 6, 2011
Living the Dream
Before I put fingers to keyboard to write this blog, I had to wash snail slime off my left hand. Snails are a very big deal to Livie right now. She gathers them from around the neighborhood and keeps them in bug catchers in the back yard. Once she even brought one of them in the car in her "Catcher," and being the extremely attentive mother that I am, I didn't realize until the next day that she had crushed it. The Catcher, not the snail. The snail is still at large in my SUV.
As I just walked to the mail this lovely Friday before Mother's Day weekend, Liv had gathered a "family" of snails, all of which had come out of the shell in the time it took me to cross the cul-de-sac. And since the family members couldn't be separated, I got to carry them en masse back to our front sidewalk. They actually slithered across my palm. Yuck. But while this was happening in my left hand, my right hand was opening this card (above) from my friend Wendy.
On the outside it said "Motherhood, oh yeah..."
And on the inside it said, "Living the dream, baby."
I laughed out loud.
But here's what's funny: I am living the dream. Sunday will be my seventh Mother's Day, and I'm feeling really, really good about it. I'm feeling like -- and try to stay with me here -- I don't need my kids to do anything for me or thank me for anything. I love being their mom. On this particular day, week, whatever, I'm not even feeling exhausted, just lucky that they are my kids. It's weird, because it hasn't been exactly the easiest week. We've had sore throats and injuries, tantrums and messy (amazingly messy) rooms. My husband has worked long hours in the office, which means for me long hours at home.
But at this moment, I look at my life and feel a fullness and satisfaction that I frankly just didn't feel on Mother's Day when my children were younger. Whatever desperate need I had to be seen and appreciated as a baby mom I don't feel this year.
Don't get me wrong: I love babies. I mean, LOVE them. My first ever nephew was born on Thursday this week, and I seriously considered trying to smuggle him out the hospital and taking him home. But looking back, I don't love myself as a mom of babies. I didn't know who I was or what I was doing most of the time. I lost most of my creative energy, and almost all my (how to say this subtly?) romantic desires. I missed the kind of wife I used to be and what my husband and I had been like together. I had trouble finishing thoughts because my brain wasn't functioning. I didn't recognize my body. I was so, so tired. Basically, I lost myself.
I was also working 20 hours a week at my editing job when Sophia was a baby. I hated leaving her. And I felt torn between two worlds all the time, and being in a creative field with no creative energy is not a good situation.
So, now as a mother of 3 and 7, I'm aware that I've come out of the early childhood tunnel. I finish conversations with my husband more often. I finish books. I create things. I serve other moms. I love my kids in a wonderful, deeper, less terrified way. They're real people with real ideas and selves and thoughts and abilities. They're miracles, who can, miraculously, use the toilet and get their own snacks and don't need to actually eat off my person. And because I don't go out to an office anymore, I can bloom fully into my role as mom without a sense of divided loyalties.
Today at my MOPS group I gave a speech about how God sees all the little and big things the moms do for their kids, and I'm sure in that room of 100 that at least 50 needed to hear it. Or maybe I'm overestimating because of how much I needed to hear that when I was in the baby stage. But what I really wanted to say, and didn't because I don't want to sound smug, being only a couple of years ahead of most of these young mommies, is that motherhood gets better, and in a pretty short time. I've heard women say that they suddenly knew themselves at 40. I suddenly feel I know myself, or know myself again, at 33. So I wanted to tell my young mommy friends, "Don't worry, at the other end of the tunnel, you're waiting for yourself. You'll find yourself there."
But, actually, that's not accurate. Hopefully, they'll find an even better version of their old self there. A mellowed out self, a more confident self, even if that self has loose skin under her belly button that will never go away. And in the meantime, their kids will get easier to take care of, and be -- dare I say it -- even more interesting to be around.
Last week, one of the day care moms was dropping off her child at my neighbor's house. Livie and I, just returned from dropping Sophia off at school, were peering into the hollow of big ficus tree where all the neighborhood's snails sleep every night in a big, disgusting, slimy pile. I had a coffee cup in my hand and a bucket of snails in the other. "We're hunting snails," I said to the mom.
"I'm jealous," she said. "I'm going to work."
I know, sweetie. "I'm lucky," I said to her. And in my head, I added, I'm living the dream.