Not the Mama

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.  We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

~Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Very shortly here, Abby will be five. On one hand, that’s hard for me to process- five years in the blink of an eye. But on another, who knew what twists and turns life had in store for me and when I turn back and glance over my sometimes-weary shoulders, I am struck breathless at the road behind me. There are pieces of sparkling magnificence strewn among catastrophic wreckage- and I find myself surprised and awed that the wreckage is quiet now– no longer burning white-hot and spewing black acrid smoke. Instead of being a smoking furnace consuming me, it’s a quiet, still, sentient and dark monument to the dead. It’s an odd peace to find in an unexpected place. I can look on it with quiet sadness now, but am grateful the sucking, cavernous hole that ripped me in two has gradually knit itself back into something whole and new, while still holding tender allusions to what came before. I am changed, I am refined. I am a new me. I am still me.

As I turn the corner, it occurs to me I am leaving more behind me than just charred dreams and monuments to a fallen life. I am moving into new phases of my life. The days of all-consuming child-care and the trials of toddlerhood are, for the most part, behind me as well. When in the thick of it, I thought it would never end- and wanted to kick the mamas who told me to enjoy it. I’m quite frank about not being a super-natural mother- having three little people was really hard for me. Am I selfish? Probably a little bit. I devoted myself to my children during their infancy, and I will continue to do so as they grow- I just think I will enjoy it a lot more now, where we can talk, joke and appreciate each other’s individuality.

And I intend for my children to know me as someone besides Mama. Moving forward means acknowledging my desires outside of providing for my children- a new balancing act. It’s disconcerting to look at myself and question what I want now. After I finish school, what do I want? Where do I want to live? Where do I want to take my children? What kind of life do I want to provide? What experiences? What do I want for me? These are exciting questions that I find myself grateful I get to ask.

It makes me appreciate what I found in the abyss, as devastating as it was, and makes me thrilled for the life to come and oh-so-eager to jump…

13 thoughts on “Not the Mama

  1. So um, thanks for not succumbing to the temptation of telling those of us still in cling-on phases to enjoy it. There may have been kicking required.
    I’m secretly expecting I’ll enjoy my kids the most through elementary school years. I’m just so fond of reasoning and learning together, and there is no reasoning with the under 4 set.
    I think your fanclub is pretty excited to see where you take yourself as well. You’re pretty awesome, you know that? (And I mean awesome as in, awe inspiring).

  2. Ditto Em. Thanks for not telling us to appreciate and enjoy the trench of toddlerhood we’re in now. I’m excited for the possibilities that are opening up to you in your time ahead and can’t wait to see the things you choose. I’m afraid I still have many more years before I reach that point.

  3. My son just turned 3 and every single day is a battle. These moms who say “oh enjoy it they grow up so fast!” clearly did not have sons like mine. And from where I’m standing, this horrible child can’t grow up fast enough.

    (I love my son but I don’t like him all the time.)

  4. I am one of the ones that really loves the toddler stage and is mourning the fact that it will be over soon (my youngest is just turning 2). I know, I know, let the kicking and throwing of rotten vegetables commence. I really do enjoy it and while we DEFINITELY have our moments of insanity, I just LOVE watching them learn so much and become the little people they are.
    Anyway, loved this post. Here’s to finding those bright spots in the wreckage ……

  5. From a Mama whose 6 children are now 22-8 and who has unintentionally caused emotional disturbance by saying “Enjoy these years; they grow up too fast!” …

    In this case I am fairly certain I can speak for the masses, so to speak.

    May I justify it by saying we do NOT intend to belittle the challenges, the tantrums, the fatigue, ad infinitum. Remember, we’ve been there, too, even if our memories are a bit jaded by time and distance.

    In general, what we mean when we say things like this is that amidst the chaos and difficulty are moments that are priceless – and to overlook the gems means you are missing the most important part of your child’s childhood. Most of us have learned that the hard way and won’t get those moments back, and therefore want to share some of our hard-earned knowledge so that others don’t also have regrets.

    Having said that: I absolutely do not miss lugging diaper bags, changing diapers, potty training (the most evil of all parenting endeavors, IMO), and all the negatives associated with pregnancy, nursing, infancy, toddlerhood, etc. I was the first to throw my hands in the air and shout “Hallelujah!” when we passed those stages. But sometimes I get nostalgic about the good parts: feeling a baby move inside me, the miracle of birth, the first smile, the first step, the basic fact that Mama-is-my-world-and-can-do-no-wrong, etc.

    There are a LOT of positives to having older kids. There are a lot of great things to look forward to and a lot of fun – even with the challenges, the tantrums, the fatigue, ad infinitum that comes with having older kids.

    Yes, parenting is parenting and the difficulties change right along with the ages of your kids… It doesn’t necessarily get easier, just different.

    The key is to find the gifts that are in the struggle.

  6. Thanks, Tracy. I love you, too.

    SilverRain, when I was a young, insecure, new mother I asked my mom why she hadn’t given me a heads-up about how difficult it could be. She half-jokingly responded, “I wanted grandkids!” 🙂

  7. It’s very exciting and you have such a way with words. I think it’s good and necessary to be a little bit selfish as a mom. My youngest is four, and I’m starting to feel the tug of expanding my world–going back to school maybe, or taking in more freelance work, joining something, or a part time job, etc. I don’t even know that I’m done having kids. But I do think that even if I have another one some day, that kid will probably have a mom that is doing her own thing some of the time.

  8. Yay for older kids! Ditto on hating the older mom “Enjoy these years while you can because its worse when they are teenagers” or “They grow up so fast, don’t forget to enjoy these years.”
    My youngest is almost three, but I think I can only really enjoy him because my others are 13 and 11 and 7. He feels like fun sprinkles (with occasional tantrums or potty training annoyances) because he is only 1/4 of the kids. It is awesome to have these older kids that play with him or just to laugh with me at his cute antics all the time.

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