Monday, February 04, 2008

How Mama Didn't Get Her Groove Back

When Noah was nine months old, I had decided that enough was enough, and came up with an enthusiastically naive plane to "get my groove back". It was August of 2005, and I suppose the reality and the permanence of motherhood and all of the damaging free radicals that came along with it had yet to set in. I thought I would be able to eek out some old resemblance of myself. Thought I would find the time and energy to regularly exercise again, dye my rapidly graying hair, create art and nurture my relatively new marriage. I had dewy hope and youthful ignorance on my side. I also had a baby who didn't walk, who still napped (at least some), a cabinet full of zoloft and nobody had yet to start asking me "when are you having another". I believed that betterment was possible, that I was going to find my cozy, little niche, that I was going to find myself again.

It's been two and a half years since that faithful post and I can say quite positively that I have not "gotten my grove back". In fact, I resemble myself and the life I want to be living less than ever before. Days are spent wondering where things went wrong, how things went wrong. I have exhausted the solutions and the outs. It's just a waiting game now, waiting for something additional to come along that feels right, that belongs to just me. I am for lack of better words a "Mother" and this for lack of better words "Is my life" and I for lack of better words have just "surrendered" to the facts.

It's not that I don't love my child. You can absolutely love your child as any other parent would, but not feel quite right in your skin as a full time, stay-at-home-Mom. There are millions of mothers who chose to work, even when it isn't financially necessary and they still love their children just the same. I feel grateful for what I have. I count my blessings. The most loving husband, a healthy family, a roof upon my head, food and clothing and friends. Everything to thank my lucky stars for. And I do.

What's making me feel so sad is difficult to articulate. It's less about what's wrong and more about what's missing. Sure I have my superficial battles, they eat away at my spirit day in and day out. But, who doesn't, I tell myself. The nagging, little feeling I got at each over crowded playdate, the doubt of genuine interest I had in diapers and sippy cups. Or how about that feeling! That feeling they all said I would have around 18 months or two years. The one where I would start to long for another baby. Where I would actually MISS the soft, cuddly, powdery smelling infant days.. (Noah was never ever cuddly, although he was soft and squishy.)
That powerful, biologically driven feeling never descended upon me, I waited and waited some more ......and then I started to wonder. I wondering and I wondered and I wondered....what the fuck was wrong with me.

The woman with one child. To me, she was always either a tragic story of infertility, or a cold ice queen who obviously lacked maternal instinct. She was something for me to ponder out in public, she was a bit of square peg, shrouded in sadness or veiled in selfishness.
And now I am her. I am . Oddly, after tear stained nights and countless "sessions" with my therapist, comments from strangers and comments from family, I'm ok with this.
Look, I can't make myself enjoy endless kid centered things. I can go for Noah's sake, so he has fun, but as hard as I try, I can not seem to make reproductive responsibilities and child-rearing my soul thing. I personally need something else to go along with it.

The problem is, I am veritable parked in my current role for numerous time/energy/money reasons. I know that when Noah starts school full time in several years, things will change. But when you're feeling quite empty most days, and hopeless and stuck in "Ground Hog Day-the movie", you can't help but feel utterly freaked out, because several years is a LONG time.

Last night I had an odd quite a random dream. It was surreal and disjointed, but GOD, I woke up feeling so excited and full of energy. I was of all things, working in a job as the assistant to the director of the Art College at Wayne State University. I have absolutely no idea if Wayne State University has an art college, nor do I know anything of this mythical director, but gosh was it fun working for her. I multi-tasked around the offices and hung giant antique mirrors in their hall. I attended art openings, party planned for all the cliched students in their moody black clothes. I was "in my groove". Then my uncle Rick, who is, in real life, a wealthy 60 year old man with a third wife and five young kids between them and two exciting, successful careers and a very large house; came to pick me up at work. He said to me in this dream; "I want to have more kids." and I replied in a snide tone; "Of couse you do, you have a nanny." Then I woke up.

My mind used to be a muscle! It was nice and spongy and had two little arms with biceps and it enjoyed learning and debating and laughing. It used to be surrounded by like minded friends who championed the bleeding liberal heart and enraptured me in fellow existential joy.
Now this brain is just gray material. I sit alone and play my New York Times crossword puzzles on my little Nintendo DS, but it's just not the same. I went to the theosophical society for Mediation circle and met some fabulously open minded and freaky people, but they were meditating the whole time, so I never got past much more than "Om" with them.

"You're my Charismatic" I said to Ilya last week. Which basically means, I'm magnetically drawn to you fool, although you piss me off, I am drawn to your ways, your quirky, glowing personality forever. He lives, he travels, he loves, he creates, he dances quite good you know. I want to do all of these things too. More than you know.


Bree said...

MMmm. Such a good post Lauren. I think I personally need to start looking at my children as mere accessories to my soul, rather than the end-all, be-all of my soul. They are like precious earings, the kind you never take out except just to clean. I mean, they will always be there, there will be sometimes that I look in the mirror and feel as though these damn earrings are all I'm ever about and I never change them! I guess the lesson is that in addition to your earrings, you have some room to add a bracelet, a watch, a handbag. In other words, there is room to be more than just mother. And I'd love to meet these people that pressure you so, the comments about having more. It's pure insanity that anyone would have anything personal vested in your private fertility matters. Maybe I'm different but I've never questioned single-child mothers/fathers. I've never so much as thought twice. It's a choice. Like if you want to pierce your ears once or have triple holes, shit, that's up to you. Some people are apparently more bold and spicy when it comes to reproducing, and some people think one is enough.
I also don't think that you need to give up hope for gaining back some of your autonomy. Like all things, it's a process. It won't ever be the same, but maybe it can be just as good in a different way.

Judy said...

Wow, Bree pretty much said it all. You will probably never be "that person" again, but you can be a different person, a better person. BUT, it takes time, and that is frustrating, I know.

In the meantime, you write VERY well, what about submitting things to journals and such? Art journals, even letters to the editors at Parenting...just some outlets for that part of your creative side. Do what you do best. And find a way to enjoy it.

Jeremy said...

I used to feel a lot like you did, especially after we had Logan. I lost part of who I was - independent, free-wheeling, up all night and sleep all day kind of person who lived for that ultimate night at the club or who could randomly go to that concert at that divey little bar in the middle of the ghetto.

And then, it all changed.

It took me a while to understand what was happening with my life. I knew one thing - that I could never go back to the person who I was. I would never be able to buy a plane ticket on a Thursday afternoon and jet out to Vegas for the weekend.

It's true, kids change everything, including yourself. And while I can understand the frustration of not being the person you once were, you'll never be that person again.

For me, it was up to me to re-invent who I was. Believe me, the person I am now is VERY different from the person I once was. I set out on a mission to be the "cool dad" who spends time with his kids, does fun things with the family and still manage to have some "me" time. For me, that involved doing a series of things that I never did before I had kids.

I got a motorcycle, I got a tattoo, I started socializing with other "alternative" parents who took their kids along to concerts in the park and did all the cool stuff I never thought you could do when you had kids.

Heck - we even travel, more so than we did before!!!

For myself - it's all about not falling into those parental stereotypes, but doing things MY WAY.

I'm not saying that's what you have to do - it's just something I did that worked for me.

And of course - the one most important part of parenting is GIVING YOURSELF SOME "YOU" TIME. If you don't, your kids will start to rule your life and you'll resent them from keeping you from doing the things you want. "You" time can consist of taking a cooking class one night a week, or taking up some sort of athletic activity, or hell, sign up for salsa dance lessons.

So, there's my $0.02. Take it for what it's worth.

Lolo said...

Oh my gosh, you guys, thank you so much. All three of you had such excellent input. I really really appreciate it. How did you guys get so wise and zen!?

Everyone is right, a huge part of it, is how you look at things and the way you learn to "re-invent" yourself. Of course I've never expected to be the old me, my problem is more about finding a balance in life and figuring out who this new me is.

I love Noah with all my heart, but, because I'm not one of those women who are in love with being a stay-at-home, I need to figure out what my additional "thing" is. (Btw, don't get me wrong, I admire all the stay-at-home Moms out there, a lot of them are so strong and resourceful. Heck, I admire the working Moms too, they're also super strong. Let's throw the Dads in also.) I guess the point is, be it a part-time job, a hobby, a sport, travel, volunteering...I just need something to challenge my mind and make me feel like I am doing something additional in this world.

I'm also kind of caught in an odd place because all of the Moms I know right now , really love staying at home for the most part and they keep having kids. Like I mentioned before, I'm kind of the odd man out for having just one. Also, I don't know any truly liberal stay-at-home Moms right now. (Well. A. you're pretty liberal, huh? But we don't live super close to each other.) I don't know, I just, I just haven't found my spot.

Anyway...thank you so much Bree, Judy and Jeremy! Thank you for taking the time to write wonderful comments with very good perspectives. I'm so lucky to have you guys as friends! :)xoxoxox