Dear Former Self, Welcome Back.
With my kids with their dad this past weekend, I spent some time with my single-no-kids friend and did all sorts of single-no-kids things.
We wandered aimlessly around New York City, then finally stopped for brunch around 2:30pm.
Yes, my first meal of the day was at 2:30pm.
We sat and ate and talked and ate some more. Absolutely no agenda. No plan. No list or responsibilities or obligations.
I still remember feeling so lost when I had my first child, mourning the loss of my former self, wishing and hoping there would be a time when she would be able to make an appearance again.
It’s not something people talk about because there’s a cute baby in the picture and you’re a parent now and well, you just have to suck up the mesh underwear and the lack of sleep and the cling-on attached to your boob.
I liked my work-filled days, 15-17 hours of them sometimes, my microwaved dinners, and impromptu trips to Paris or Japan. I didn’t like rocking a baby to sleep for 3-hours or wearing her on my body non-stop so I could just get a little peace and quiet.
I didn’t necessarily have some sort of “THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!” expectation when I got pregnant, but I didn’t realize how much I would feel like a stranger in my own body and head.
I was a shell of my former self.
But she –me– has made a comeback, of sorts, with my kids no longer in diapers, all of them able to sleep (mostly), my hands the only body part involved in feeding them. I can crack jokes and poke fun and belt show tunes in my Ethel Merman voice, now for an underage audience who sometimes requires butt-wiping assistance.
I am feeling like Kristen, that Kristen, just now with four kids.
Yes, some of this is a product of divorce and having weekends where I don’t have my children with me so I can. But I think a lot of it is just my kids getting older, their needs changing and thus, my role changing.
Or maybe it’s me finally giving myself permission to be a little selfish.
I don’t know what it was that made me think that gaining a child meant losing myself, but I know that I’m not alone in that line of thought. I envy the women, as criticized as they often are, who keep some semblance of themselves after they have children.
If I could whisper in my own ear ten years ago:
Keep working. Get a babysitter. Find a hobby. Go on date nights. Ask for help.
And be as much of yourself as you can muster.
As wonderful as it might seem for you to be the mom you think you should be, your kids need the you that you actually are.
You might not be able to work 15-17 hour days, or take impromptu trips to far-off destinations. But that passion. That spontaneity.
That’s what makes you their mother. Let them see that person.