As I was walking into school this morning, a fellow faculty member asked how long my drive was. She was shocked to hear it was forty minutes, and she asked me how I could stand to be in the car so long. I responded with excitement, “So long? SO LONG? I love my drive! It’s the only time that I’m ever alone anymore!”
It’s true. I look forward to the sweet forty minutes in the morning as a sacred time when I’m not being touched, prodded, talked to, or subjected to the repetitive annoyance of toddler cds and videos. With a hot coffee in my hand and talk radio through my speakers, I relish in the passing time as the only part of my day when I am alone with my thoughts. It’s tranquil and serene, and I love it.
I think as a mother, it’s very easy to lose yourself in the duties of parenting. I feel like I’m constantly being pulled in so many different directions: dishes, vacuuming, laundry, meals, dance class, trucks, books, potty training, tubby time. There is a constant inundation of activities that leave me tired and out of focus by the time my head hits the pillow. Don’t get me wrong, while I love my children and I love being a mother, parenting consumes me, as it should for any parent. It’s difficult to carve out any time in which I can focus on anything other than what I need to pack for daycare tomorrow and the important how-man-more-days-of-diapers-can-I-get-from-these calculation.
For the first two years of Harper’s life, Rob was constantly telling me I needed a hobby. I would tell him he was crazy, that I had one, and it was called being a mother. My hobby was washing bottles, wiping butts, and watching her grow. Like most new mothers, I felt guilty doing anything but giving her my undivided attention at all times. She was my top priority, the main character in all my thoughts, if I did anything to deviate my focus from her I felt like I was cheating her in some way.
However, after a while I found myself lost in a sea of sippy cups. I loved being with Harper, I cherished every milestone, every new day and activity, but I felt like I was floating on the surface of life. My life was my family, and beyond that was superfluous. I defined myself as a mother, but I lost myself as an individual.
I think a lot of new parents find themselves buried under the duties of child rearing, forgetting that they can have other interests beside what brand of diapers hold in poop the best. I knew I had become one of those people when I went out to dinner one rare night with a friend and found that I could only make conversation about the easiest way to puree sweet potatoes. I had lost my inner spark, my essence of Mandi, and I was quickly forgetting that there had once been a time when I had passion and opinions for things other than baby-wearing and co-sleeping.
It was at this time that I first started this blog. Which is ironic, because essentially this blog is for them. Then two months ago, I started my book. I realize that most likely, my memoir may never become anything other than the inner ramblings of my disjointed thoughts, but, writing has restored my passion, my fire for living, and has given me a purpose and goal outside of my daily routine.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the implications of gaining individuality outside of being a mother. While the description of mother, mommy, and diaper changer extraordinaire is definitely my most prized title, I don’t think that being a mother has to solely define me. When I’m filled with passion and purpose I am a better parent. I am more focused, more mentally present in their lives. I have better ideas, and can come up with some pretty sweet truck noises and Barbie outfits. Children learn the best from positive role models. Since I am their first real role model, shouldn’t I be exemplifying to them that they shouldn’t lose themselves when they are given a new title, rather they should seek harmony between all of their interests and loves? Finding a hobby, finding myself, and finding the balance between them and my children is the best thing I ever did for my kids.
I still wouldn’t rather be anywhere else but with my family. My perfect night would still consist of building a fort out of blankets and seeing the joy on my children’s faces after we made muffins and read books. Their light is part of my passion, and they shine bright.
I’m still going to look forward to my car rides alone, getting lost in my thoughts and hopefully not on my way to work. I’m not only a mother, but a wife, an aunt, a sister, a friend, a daughter, an artist, and an individual. I wear a lot of hats, the biggest and most beautiful is that of motherhood, but I still have plenty of other hats hiding underneath in the mess I call my hair.
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