Stealing moment to jot down a few words as the kids are at the table having a snack and discussing what show to watch (seems Spiderman and His Amazing Friends was won). Squealing laughter and high energy is jarring by body, I feel so prickly, as though I want to crawl out of my skin. I practice breathing in and out, finding my own smile and start to revel in their joy.
I notice the nervous energy emanating from my girl. I become curious, wonder about her performance to her friend. Is she trying to cheer her friend? To connect to her? To prove her own worth?
Or is she simply over-tired and over-stimulated and trying to expel the built up energy within herself?
Oh, how much I take on and worry about as a mom. Filled with concern for her joy, her happiness, her sense of self. I lost myself in my worry for her. In my mission to create a life for her that was and is so different from my own childhood I forgot what it means to be a full person, who I am beyond motherhood.
Or did I?
There is an irrevocable and indescribable change that came with becoming a mother. A softness, a vulnerability that wasn’t here before. I am grateful for every lesson my daughter has brought me–so many lessons in losing myself and finding myself; in feeling the dark depths of failure and the sparkling heights of getting it “right.”. She gave me The Reason to battle through years of depression and anxiety, to keep fighting: for answers, for my health, for me, for my life.
Yes. I did lose myself in her, in so many, many ways. And she is also my savior.
It is ironic, this push and pull of motherhood. How I have lost so many pieces of me, gained so much more of me. I can’t imagine life without her while simultaneously longing for freedom and quiet. Sinking into finding some sort of balance, looking back at the me before child and seeing those carefree days in a new light.
Youth, indeed, is wasted on the young.
And while I long for that spirit and sparkle of my twenties, I have no desire to relive those years. The drama! The heartbreaks! There were so many dark times, times I have no desire to relive–lessons learned that I don’t need to relearn. My twenties were turbulent at best. Of course there were the bright and shiny spots: girlfriends who stood by me and helped me claw my way out of a bad relationship; the glamour of clubbing; meeting my husband, were a few.
There was a confidence I had in those early adult years. A confidence I lost in my thirties when I dove deep into the corporate world. A confidence, quite honestly lost when I stepped away from my circles of women and into the world of men.
Away from my circles of women I entered motherhood. Yes, I still had female friends, but the circles of my twenties were gone, even if some of the people remained. I was feeling like I didn’t fit anywhere in those early days of motherhood: not a stay-at-home-mom, that a man with a wife at home. I found myself constantly comparing myself to the men at work, their achievements and the mothers online and how they “did it all.” I was constantly falling short of these unachievable standards I was setting for myself; constantly falling short; feeling less than and more less than.
My depression and anxiety fueled these feelings of less than just as the feelings fueled the depression and anxiety. I was caught in the center of this ever growing snowball that was rolling over and flattening my life; destroying me, my marriage, my career.
I don’t believe I was a stellar parent during this time, however it was my relationship with my daughter that helped me keep my head, albeit barely, above water. I put all my energy–what little I had–into her life: reading everything I could get my hands on regarding child development, emotional development, attachment theory and education and figured out ways to implement those theories into real life. I put all my focus and energy on raising a psychologically healthy child all while I was losing my own mind. Yes, I willingly gave up free time to write, to be with friends, to have any space or time to myself in order to let her be healthy–she was my life raft, she had to be healthy.
The irony of course being that while my obsession to become a “perfect mom” kept me alive (literally), it also was a heavy contributor to my mounting mental and physical health issues. Having a demanding career in a male dominated profession and industry didn’t help matters. I was being swallowed alive by my obsession to keep up appearances and try to keep everything moving forward.
After a few years, and finally getting the medical and mental help I needed, I started to see how I hadn’t failed. How, in fact, I had succeeded. How despite all the chaos that had swirled in my mind and heart, my daughter was (and is) a beautiful, amazing and relatively well adjusted person. Focusing on her and our relationship ended up giving me a sense of success after years of feeling nothing but failure at motherhood (and the rest of my life). Suddenly I was able to start to build my own self-confidence again and not just in parenting, but at school, in friendships, in my business, my marriage and the whole of my life.
So yes, I lost myself in her, yet it was she who helped me claw my way back to me. Now we are in the time of separating, of her becoming more and more independent and when years ago I would fear these days, I now feel a bittersweet feeling of accomplishment. She is becoming more and more her own person, and now, again, I am too.
Having battled depression and anxiety and winning, looking back on those first years of her life I can look at my mistakes and not judge them harshly, but know that I have learned my lessons. It will be different with my son, for so many reasons. I am a different person now for one and he is a different person than his big sister. More than that I understand the importance of my own self care and the absolute ridiculousness of comparing myself to others and the absolute stupidity of the “Mommy Wars.”
I am stepping more and more fully into myself. I am grateful for my daughter, she saved my life. And now I am going to live this life, fully and unapologetically as a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, a writer, a business owner, a therapist-in-training; a person who practices yoga and meditation, who loves to paint and laugh and be silly, who is sensitive both emotionally and sensorily, who loves to learn and dive deep and also loves to be shallow and follow fashion and read fluffy young adult novels; a rebel saying f*&! you to the status quo and a pacifist who just wants everyone to get along.
I am becoming all of me. And it feels so very, very good.