I’m not going to bore you by going on and on about all the ways motherhood has changed me. You won’t hear me erupt with emotions about having found a pure, true love, or the new capacity for the love I have. I won’t tell you about the depths of my exhaustion or how I think I’ll never feel “rested” again. I’ve found I’m no longer squeamish about bodily fluids or functions, but I’m guessing I probably don’t need to mention that either.
Whether or not we actually experience these changes once motherhood takes ahold of us with its all-encompassing grip is an entirely different story. But it seems safe to say that the world expects these changes to occur. It is a new love. It is consuming, day and night, physically and emotionally, in and out. “Mother” is a title we gain and can never lose. And with that new moniker comes a host of changes, not just the expected, and, while no one’s experiences can match another’s, we all feel the impact of some change.
Motherhood has changed me. I’m not who I was. And I don’t think I’ll bounce back.
It’s not just that these circles under my eyes will never go away. Or that the grey literally sprouting in my hair as I write this won’t suddenly regain its original hue. Nope. It’s deeper.
I have been changed in ways I wasn’t ready for. Some are dark and eat at me, forcing my pulse to race with fear or rage. Some are empowering. Some are exhausting. And some changes just are. But none of theses are changes I will be able to shake.
My Patience Is Gone
There was a time when I would happily sit around and listen to a second and third run through of the same story that was told to me minutes before. I’d sit quietly behind a car stopped more than a few seconds at a just-turned green light, pleasantly expecting the driver to look up any second, realize, and mosey on through. But, welp, just not happening any more. I get too few moments between driving here and there and picking up this, signing that, and cooking more, to just let those moments slip by in feigned interest in a story I’m experiencing for the fourth time around.
I need to consolidate those minutes, so, at the end of the day, I have a whole stretch of ten or fifteen minutes when I can just do my own thing without also being so tired I sit still, staring, struggling to stay awake and squandering those precious moments. Shaming myself for not actually doing more than shaming myself for not doing anything.
I Fear Death
This isn’t so usual. People fear death. I mean, I feared death before I had children. But it’s different now. The fear is different. I fear for the sake of my children. Sure, I’m lucky: they would be fine with adequate support in place. But, still, I worry about how they will feel. What would my daughter do when she needs to talk to me? Who would know how each little person likes their sandwiches cut? No one would tell them there is more love for them than there is sky.
So, I am more cautious than I ever was, especially with myself. I won’t just let that pain in my side go unchecked for weeks as it slowly gets worse. Exercise doesn’t happen just because I want to fit in last year’s clothes. Motherhood has made me value my life because those little people value it so.
Small Talk Is Easy
There was a time when I could only really make small talk with the help of a glass of wine or two. But, for a myriad of reasons, I can’t go around to mom groups with a glass of wine or two stashed in my bag (at least not until they get to know me).
This means just getting by on the ability to actually make small talk. At first it was hard. There were a lot of discussions on the weather, being tired, and Target’s dollar spot. Now though, it’s much easier to just let my mom small talk flow. I think it’s that whole practice makes perfect blah blah blah thing.
I Am On Time
This is a blatant lie. I have never been on time in my life. But, before I had little people, I didn’t really make a great effort at being on time, especially if it was of little consequence. If I was meeting a group of friends for drinks, even with my best efforts, I’d still be twenty minutes late. But I would be less than troubled by this, knowing my friends were safely engaged in relaxing without me.
Now though? I get it. Time is a commodity. I don’t want other people to think I don’t value or respect their time. The thing is, now that I have little people, I cannot be on time. Ever. I plan an extra ten minutes, then twenty. I arrange the night before. Still, at the last minute a shoe is lost, a glass of water is spilled, a diaper is dirty, and a tantrum is thrown. Usually all at once. So, I’m hoping to some day be on time. I get it now. But there are serious forces against me here.
Traveling Gives Me Anxiety
We are a traveling family. Car, plane, weekend, or weeks. We do it, and we’ve never shied away from it. We’ve taken our kids across the globe, across the country, across the state, and down the street. I’m proud to say that motherhood hasn’t impacted that. But there is an aspect of travel that it has infiltrated: traveling alone with my husband.
I know it’s irrational, but I get stomach-churning anxiety when we are in a car or a plane without our littles. And this is directly related to the fear of death I have let creep in my peripheral. I don’t want both my husband and I to face the same risks at the same time. They need us, so one of us must always be safe, protected. Now, yes, I push through this. Because I have to. Because fear and anxiety can’t be the rule of the land, but it is still there. Sitting like a hard ball in the bottom of my stomach.
I Am A Morning Person
I mean, where do I begin here? No, I don’t get up before my children wake and get myself ready. I don’t get to sit in the silence and sip my warm cup of coffee before little feet come cascading through the house. But oh I want to. I seriously want to.
Before my first was born, I had to work hard to make it to work by 10:30 a.m. And it wasn’t because I had a long commute. I was just up all night, devouring books, playing Wii Rock Band, and watching House Hunters International. If the clock said 10:00 p.m., it seemed like I still had hours and hours to tie up all the day’s loose ends.
Once I had that beautiful little girl though, I realized that the world actually starts to exist well before 10:00 a.m. And the feeling of having accomplished all of the day’s tasks before the sun set? It was life changing. Now I find myself panicking once it hits noon and bemoaning how “late” it is. So, while I am not necessarily a morning person, I don’t think I can ever go back to feeling accomplished when I still have a three mile long “to do” list at 9 p.m.
No Hangover Is Worth It
I may like to have some wine now and again, but I do not enjoy that wine so much once the sun has set. I can claim this new view has to do with growing three children in my body. Or the years of extreme moderation because of breastfeeding. But, frankly, I just get tired. Too tired to do much beyond just collapsing into bed.
The balance to this, of course, is that I drink enough to make me feel a bit giddy and then I find the giggly energy to stay awake for a while, exhausting my body until I can barely crawl into my bed. The problem here is the next day never feels good, even when a sweet toddler crawls on top of my spleen demanding kisses. I don’t get pulled from my position on the parenting field when I’m injured. I still have to stay committed to the game and make multiple plays. That hurts. And it just isn’t worth the pain.
I Am Stronger than I Knew
I’ve always been proud of my ability to get things done. If there was a deadline, I would meet it. My house? Not a thing out of place. Each knick and each knack shined up to perfection, gleaming really with a welcoming glow. But then I had a little one and it got a bit tougher. Along came another little person and a bigger house (because we all know that squeezing a bunch of little people and their belongings into a tiny city apartment is painful to say the least). Then another little person and guess what happened?
And it’s not just keeping a house clean or a family fed. It’s not just hitting all the deadlines or remembering who gets signed up for swimming lessons on which days. It’s the mental load that motherhood brings with it: schedules, doctor’s appointments, school events, snacks, play dates, activities, rsvping, garbage day, new clothes, uniforms, tantrums, shoe tying, potty training, flossing…it’s everything. For everyone. But the thing is, no matter how hectic it gets or feels, or how frustrated I may be, I can do it. Because, honestly, I have to. And once and a while, I have to stop and pat myself on the back.
My Mother is Amazing
I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve always had a connection with my mother. She knows more about me than any human I’ve ever had the privilege of bumping into. Sure we have our disagreements. (I mean we’re family, that’s par for the course, right?). But the thing is, I don’t remember her struggling to balance her day to day life with raising my brother and I. I remember delicious dinners, a house that was warm and safe, a feeling of being listened to and loved. And I never saw her crack.
She was in bed after I was, was awake and happy to greet us in the morning. And she worked all day. I don’t think I realized just how many sacrifices she must have been making, how taken for granted she may have felt, or how exhausted we may have made her with all our events and activities. Because she never seemed to let on. I’ve always found her to be an exceptional person (I mean, she battled and beat breast cancer no less than five months after my father suddenly passed away), but since I’ve become a mother, I have finally started to realize how truly magical she is. Seriously, she’s like a unicorn.
I Ask for Help
Motherhood is tough. Some times it can be so tough you don’t really shake it. After my tiniest little came, I was broken. Not at first though. I remember telling every one that bringing home the third baby was much easier for me than bringing home my second. And it was. Until it wasn’t.
That year I also quit my job teaching. It was a job I loved and it had taken me three post grad degrees to figure it out. I was finally doing what it is I felt I was supposed to do. And then I wasn’t. I came down hard on myself and everyone around me. Something had to change.
At first I blamed my house. I had moved three years prior and still felt we were moving in. We hadn’t painted, half the furniture wasn’t ours, nothing was my style. I had no space of my own. So I set out changing it. Rearranging rooms, painting, furnishing, ripping off the porch and adding a new one. It didn’t make it better. I thought about moving. And not just across town. I cried. A lot. And then I finally found it within myself to realize it wasn’t anyone’s fault. Even mine. I talked to people. I admitted how I felt. And I found I wasn’t alone. People gave me my strength back.
You change schedules, you change jobs, you change houses, you change towns, you change cars, you change sizes, you change friends, you change health, you change priorities. You change everything when you become a mother.
Some of these changes, thankfully, are temporary. But one thing isn’t: you will always be a mother. And I, for one, will not bounce back from this thing called motherhood. Really, though, that’s just fine with me.