I’m taking off on a flight across the great big nation Wednesday evening. Alone. For 36 hours someone else will be caring for my children. All 3 of them. ACK!
The kids will be fine. They might even like the change for a while. But I’m realizing as I get ready for this little jaunt how much I’ve changed since becoming a mommy. I couldn’t name a recently-released movie if my life depended on it. When I went to the library to look for reading material for the flight, the only authors that popped into mind were Sandra Boynton and Dr. Seuss. I think the people in the seats next to me might giggle if pull out Barnyard Dance when the flight takes off. Looking for things to do in L.A., I instictively googled children’s museums.
Here’s how I figure it. Being a mom requires self-sacrifice. When that little embryo takes up residence in your belly you immediately lose your body, not to regain it until you’re finished nursing (if even then). When baby #1 is born, you feel frustrated that you can’t finish the book you were reading when pregnant. You don’t have time to catch up on emails – at least not with both hands to type with. Blogging and computer games take a back seat, as do other hobbies.
Baby #2 comes along and there aren’t any hobbies to put down – it’s been so long since you’ve quilted or knit you don’t even miss it. What you miss now are opportunities to shut the door when you go to the bathroom. You revel in the pleasure of taking a shower in peace and quiet, knowing it’s the only 5 minutes you’ll get to yourself that day.
Baby #3 is born and suddenly you don’t even wish for a quiet shower. You just want to bathe a few times a week and whoever wants to come in is welcome. Your wishes now aren’t for quiet showers or even a closed door in the bathroom, you just want a moment of quiet to hear your own thoughts, or what’s left of them. You’ve forgotten what you liked to do on a quiet evening before kids, so you certainly have no disappointments about not doing those things anymore. When people talk about the latest TV shows you can only chime in about Word World and the Wiggles.
I haven’t gotten there yet, but I can imagine that with baby #4 you lose the longing to hear your own thoughts – you’re too busy to have thoughts or to miss them. With baby #5 and beyond your friends begin to wonder if you have thoughts – or if they got lost and eventually dispelled in the swirling sac of amniotic fluid your body is so adept at producing. Because really, why would you keep doing that to yourself if you were capapble of independent thought? (That’s what they’d say – not me…)
The idea behind all this is that motherhood is at essence a sacrificial role. With each child you lose a bit of yourself, or at least the self you were before. It’s a trade-off though, because with each child you also gain a new perspective, grow into someone you didn’t know you could be, and become more than you were before.
I might not be able to carry on a coherent conversation with my seat-mate on Wednesday. I might be too tired to watch a movie I’ve never heard of. But this much I know – I’m more comfortable in my skin, even many pounds heavier, than I was before I was a mom, and skinny. Motherhood has brought confidence, patience, perspective, contentment, and all sorts of other traits that I didn’t used to have. And those are much more valuable than the ability to discuss Tom Cruise’s new flick or the pros and cons of a french pedicure.