My kids are still little. When I go out with them, it’s a constant barrage of negotiations and compromises as we try to get through the errands without meltdowns and/or potty accidents.
I miss them when I go out alone. (Even though that’s not enough to keep me home.) Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t miss the screaming or the tantrums. But it’s almost as if I don’t feel whole without them there. (Maybe because I spend so much time actively trying not to lose them.)
For the past 6 years, it’s been all about buckling carseats and trying to keep kids from running in the street. It’s been nonstop diaper changes, potty training, and butt wiping. It’s been sleepless nights filled with children who I’m pretty sure are conspiring to keep us awake forever.
And it’s getting harder and harder to remember the woman I was before I had them.
Now when I leave the house without my kids, it’s like I have to learn who I am all over again. Where do I want to go? What do I like to do in my spare time? What even is spare time?
I struggle to find things to listen to on the radio. What music do I like? Who are any of these bands? When did I get so old and out of touch?
Even when given the option of where I want to get food (which is basically my favorite thing), I find myself second guessing what I actually want. Because I’m used to eating whatever. I sure don’t eat lukewarm leftover chicken nuggets because they are my preference.
After enough time away from my family, I’ll eventually reconnect with “me.” She still knows exactly what she likes to eat that her family doesn’t (all of the sushi, please). She still knows all the words to Shoop. She still very much enjoys loud music in a fast car with the wind blowing through her hair.
She’s always there, buried under all the obligations of motherhood and trying to make everyone else happy. But she’s not the same person, she’s different in many ways.
She’s smarter. She’s learned a lot in the past few years (mainly from trial and error) and she has not taken any of those lessons in vain. She’s found out the hard way that she doesn’t know everything, but that has made her wiser over time.
She’s tough. Damn, she’s really fierce. She’s brave and she’s outspoken and she’s no longer nervous about raising her voice when it’s necessary. And if anyone messes with her cubs? Watch out.
She’s softer, too. Motherhood brings grace as well as courage. She’s more compassionate and empathetic to the needs of others. She’s more aware of how her words and actions affect those around her. She’s kind, because she wants her kids to be kind too.
She’s humbled. FUCK, has she been humbled. Motherhood has pushed her to the breaking point more times than she can count. Each time, she’s risen from the ashes like a damn phoenix, ready to push on and conquer another day.
So I might hesitate when it comes to what music to listen to, or where to go to reclaim my time, but at the end of the day, this is still who I am. It’s just another season in my life. Before I know it, these kids will be grown and I will have more time to reconnect with my fabulous self.
But that self is not the old “me” that I remember. She’s the me that’s been broken and rebuilt into something even stronger. And I like this version of me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.