A few years back I befriended a young colleague. Newly married and contemplating parenthood, she shared with me a blog that she had written about a few mothers she knew, including me. I, she asserted, was the one who did not let motherhood define the totality of who I am and how I perceive myself. I still maintained my interests and individuality rather than being swallowed up by parenthood. I was the kind of woman she wanted to be after she became a mother.
I was deeply flattered by that blog, but I kept asking her, “Really? Really?? Me?” Maybe the fact that her early impressions of me were in the work environment led her to believe that I don’t wear motherhood on my sleeve, or that it didn’t impact every aspect of my life or permeate my personality. But the fact is that almost every action or thought is influenced by the fact that I am a mother. I have to will myself not to hound people with cute stories and pictures of my children.
Aren’t they cute? They have blue lips in this picture.
I could describe my life before children as blissfully vacant. I know I’m supposed to be this liberated woman who does not declare her fulfillment by way of children, but I never knew how incomplete my life was until I had them.
Even so, there are times that I wistfully recall some practice or habit that was vaporized once my children arrived.
Here are some things I miss about the old me:
1. Reading books. I gave this up years ago. My nightstand drawer has been crammed for six years with books which are as fresh today as they were when they left the publishing house. My boy had just started getting old enough to not demand around-the-clock attention and companionship when I a) started reading an amazing book about the life of Franklin D. Roosovelt and b) got pregnant. I had the baby before I finished the book, so there it sits. Sometimes I dust it.
2. Pampering myself when I’m sick. Being sick is very unpleasant but there is something satisfying about calling in to work and then laying on the couch in your pajamas all day, dozing and watching TV. You don’t get much of that when you have little ones. The best I can do when I’m sick these days is take a shot of whatever medicine we have on hand – inevitably children’s cough syrup – and get on with the child rearing.
3. Cooking and eating really good meals. I miss good food. The other night I came home and invited my mom to stay and have dinner with us. I warmed up some leftovers and opened a can of corn. At the table I looked down at my plate and registered shock. “Mom,” I said, “I am so sorry! This looks awful!” She assured me that it was just fine.
I have vague recollections of standing in my kitchen with my glass of wine and my copy of Gourmet magazine, stirring a sauce or chopping some shallots. I enjoyed trying and serving new things. It’s hard to find time to do that these days. If I do, then it becomes my husband’s responsibility to entertain the kids, and he has things to do too. When he does entertain the kids, I have more pressing things to do, such as scrape ravioli off the high chair tray or clean toothpaste off the bathroom wall.
4. Watching movies in their entirety. I have a DVR so I can record movies that I want – usually classic films – and watch them whenever I have time. I was always a Turner Classic Movies junkie. I now, occasionally, turn a movie on at night, if the children are in bed, lunches are made, dishes are washed, and coffeemaker is set up for the next morning, will allow myself to watch a bit of a movie while I am folding laundry. There’s also a twist there: even if I have the time and a quiet house, I cannot make myself sit still for an entire movie. I’ve conditioned my attention span to shut off at the thirty minute mark.
5. Entertaining. I mean really entertaining, with china, polished silver, and tablecloth. I used to host holiday dinners for my family but am on sabbatical. And even if I’m not really entertaining, simply entertaining – with everyday china, frozen lasagna, beer – can be hard to pull off. Even if I do a simple dinner, letting any but my closest confidantes through my front door is excruciating, for I surely will not have cleaned the house to my standards. Even my newer, more lax, post-children standards.
So there you have it…my list. I wouldn’t change a thing. But some days, I remember me, and I miss me.