Today I did the worst thing a mom can do. I put myself first.
Not only did I go to the theatre, like a grown up, with a friend who is not part of my family, but I did so with the full knowledge that my son would have to miss a soccer tournament.
Furthermore, I sat by and said nothing when one of my son’s friends asked him why he wasn’t going. And I didn’t even cave when he turned his big brown eyes toward me and replied he wasn’t sure.
If you’re still with me and have not swiped the page in disgust at my behavior, please let me explain.
About six weeks ago I saw an advertisement for a play that in my previous life as a single person with no responsibilities, I would have loved. So why shouldn’t I go? I have three kids. I work full-time. I have a husband who does his share. There is no reason why I shouldn’t do something that I would like to do. My passions, energies, and pastimes are as important as everyone else’s, right?
At this point, there was nothing in the diary, so I convinced a friend to go with me. I booked tickets and spent the next six weeks really looking forward to it. As the weekend crept closer, the kids’ schedules started filling up, so the family director of logistics (me, of course) went into overdrive. My little one had to be taken to and from a party. My husband had to stay home to keep an eye on our middle-schooler who suddenly had two friends staying over. I had to make sure soccer boy got to and from practice and had someone rooting for him from the bleachers.
So by the time my son’s friend asked the question and I had to suffer the full force of his big brown eyes, I was so exhausted from a week at work, sorting everything out and nearly passing out from the heat watching soccer, I was almost ready to cave in and cancel.
But then I felt a kind of fury (inappropriate, naturally, the kid was only 10). I wanted to tell him that my son has a brother who at that moment was at home with his friends probably doing all manner of inappropriate things. My son also has a sister who not only had to be taken to and from a party but who also told me at the last minute she needed to take candy, so I’d already done an emergency dash to the supermarket. My son has a dad who is great but travels a lot and was heading off to the airport at 4 p.m. My son also has a mother who works full-time, is in bed by 9 p.m. every night, and has a hard time keeping her shit together.
I read an article today about moms feeling invisible after giving birth. However wonderful motherhood is, it’s still really hard to give up the things that always made you you. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this feeling doesn’t always go away when your kids start to walk, or stop wearing diapers, or even when they start school.
Maybe you gave up your career or took a less demanding job so you could be there for your kids more. Maybe you gave up your hobbies because it was just too hard to find the time in between driving your kids to their clubs after school every day. Maybe your appearance changed after childbirth, or you just couldn’t find the time to go shopping for clothes anymore or fit in that trip to the gym you used to love.
I remember trying to explain to my husband in the early days of being a mom that I felt like I’d been “erased.” I just did not have the time or the energy to be the person I used to be and fit in the things I used to love. The compulsion to put our family first was so strong, everything else just fell away. But where was I? What was left of me?
So back to the bleachers. What did I do?
I felt bad but I bit my tongue. When we were on our way home, I explained to my son that I was sorry about the tournament, but I had managed to get him to practice and really enjoyed watching him. I had also managed to sort out a fun sleepover for his brother and get his sister to the party with the right candy. And I was really looking forward to the play. He’s a good kid, he got it, and I can make it up to him by making sure he’s at the next one.
And do you want to know the truth? I loved it. It was a great play. It was amazing to be in the theater and not have to take anyone to the toilet or worry about them not being able to see past the freakishly tall people sitting in front of us. It was great to do something grown-up that I had always loved.
And I’ll tell you something else: When I came out, I felt lighter. I felt like myself. And I was nicer to the kids when I got home.
The moral of the tale is, maybe to stop feeling invisible, we need to think about what make us happy. And I don’t mean the big three: kids, marriage, work. Of course they are the most important things. But sometimes it’s the little things that make us feel like us. And a little bit of selfishness can do us a world of good.