Becoming a mom changes you. I think that goes without saying, in theory, but once you’re in it you realize just how much your new perspective is drastically different. You look at everyone and everything through a new lens.
Before having kids, you spend your life consumed with yourself. You are the center of your universe and all decisions you make come from that centeredness. What’s best for me. And then suddenly your universe expands. Overnight there’s this baby with a fresh start at life.
No bumps or bruises just yet. No scars.
I used to laugh with embarrassment when my mom would yell at cars driving too fast in our neighborhood. Slow down! Kids are playing here! She’d preach from the driveway’s end. Or how my dad would pace the hallway of our house when it would be school dance night. Isn’t that dress too short? He’d say to my mom, with a slight beg and plea in his eyes – don’t let my girls grow up just yet. I thought it was goofy when I’d see that sign in the back of someone’s car: Baby on Board. But until you know the weight of those little humans trusting your every move do you really, really get it.
And I get it now.
That your new normal is completely raw. That you have this feeling in your heart that is both of great love and fierce protection. You have this new, extra job and it’s all about your kids. Are they healthy? Are they kind? Do they have friends? Do they call their grandparents? Time is always, always fleeting and there’s nothing like being a mom to remind you of that.
You see the fear when you drop off your son at his new daycare. He feels this newness and he hates it. For those first few weeks when you check the app religiously throughout the day to read the updates, you see photos of kids all together playing, and your son in the corner by himself with his favorite raccoon stuffed animal. A part of you is crushed. You know this too shall pass, of course, he will grow to have friends, and one day soon he’ll be in all the group photos, but for now, you’ve never been more thankful for that raccoon.
And you see the world around you differently.
You look at your parents and your mind races. What were they doing at your age? Did they struggle with choices of careers and playdates? And you think of your parents and you do the backward walk. If my kids are 3 today and they’re 60s tomorrow, how much time is left? That one hurts. You now have these two competing realities of brand new life and aging life that command different parts of your heart.
And you think of your aunt and uncle who lost their only child. You remember that when he died you weren’t yet a mom and you remember that as soon as you become one, right there in that hospital room in that uncomfortable gown and in your sore and aching body, you beamed with joy and felt an immediate deep sadness for them. This is what they had too. And you now can confidently say that none of us has much control at all. You wonder how they get up each morning and go to sleep each night. And you see that when they look at your own kids there’s both a smile of familiarity and a distant glossy sadness in their eyes of what once was their everything. You’re reminded in those very seconds that you can be physically present and absent all the same. That losing your child is unimaginable. Unfair. And very real. You look at your kids and you have this possibility tucked away in your mind. That nothing is forever.
As a mom, you’re exposed in ways no one could ever imagine. You have this ability to feel everything and nothing all at once. This feeling that you must be strong for your kids. You tell them they don’t have to be scared because there aren’t really monsters under the bed or dragons out the window. But that it silently breaks you when you say this because you know there are monsters in the world. There are bullies and bad guys and predators. You can only be there in that moment briefly otherwise you’re mentally wrecked.
As a mom, you’re judged. By other moms, by people without kids, by your kids. And you slowly begin to realize that it’s useless to spend time questioning whether your 2-year-old is watching too many movies. There’s a much bigger picture and Frozen on repeat is just a blip on the radar. That life is short – seriously – ask anyone who has kids and they’ll tell you the whole it goes by so fast thing. And wow, is it true. The only way it seems to make sense, in a very literal way, is comparing it to that scenario where you’re driving to and from work and home every day. The traffic is heavy, there’s rain sometimes, snow others, accidents, jerks, a stranger’s wave, and before you know it, you’ve done this same in and out so many times you forget some of the details. You just know you got from point A to point B over and over again, some days hardly remembering the how.
So picking your battles never felt more relevant, more important.
And at nights, when the world hits you the hardest and you’ve gone down a rabbit hole of worrying, you pray hard to whoever is up there. Trying to come to terms with the fact that you have so little control in life and parenting – in the ways you want to wield control, like complete and total safety, like complete and total health, like complete and total happiness. But you know you can’t – there’s no such superpower, so you plead with the guy in the sky.
And you think of your own life. It feels both so much more in focus and a giant blur. You think of your own health. Is it the best it can be? You want to be around forever, or as long as forever permits. Waging a war against time is something none of us will ever win but it still takes up so much space in our minds.
Happiness mixed with worry mixed with plans that become derailed and moments you clutch to preserve periods in time blended with facts and opinions on how to do it all right – this is the day-by-day recipe of feeling it all and feeling it all so differently.