As a mom, it’s easy to allow yourself to be swallowed by that one label. So much of our days are spent as caretakers, fixing plates and filling cups, changing diapers and, sadly, wiping bottoms long after the last box of diapers is gone. It’s hard to find time to remember the self you were before these tiny humans captured your heart and practically all your time.
As my kids grow, I find myself growing as well. Farther away from the individual I once was. Where is that fierce girl, striking out on her own without knowing anyone in a new state? Where is the woman who planned on naming her daughter Audrey to honor the great Hepburn who taught her that style and class go hand in hand with kindness and heart? Gone are the days of curling up to watch a black and white movie at 9 p.m., worrying about no one’s bedtime but her own. Or taking a bubble bath with a new book, without fear of the sound of the faucet waking the baby. Or just sitting on the porch, listening to crickets and watching the stars, without the ever present, slight whine of the baby monitor (or the toddler you just can’t shake).
These days, I look for that fierce girl while debating whether to try and venture out on my own, with two kids, in a place where I don’t know the parking situation. Street parking is terrifying when the four year old has to stand by my side as I unbuckle the two year old. Trying new things has gotten scarier, as I don’t know how one kid or the other may react. Simply going to a new park can be frightening, as one child has a tendency to wander off while the other deliberately runs away.
I try to salvage pieces of the person who I was once that feels so much stronger than the one I am now. I’ve always been an avid reader, but these past few years reading has taken on a feverish intensity. It feels like the last shred of something the child-free me loved, and I cling to it. Each year, I challenge myself to read more than the last. Last year, I topped out at 54 books. This year, it’s June and I’m on book 41. It’s a desperate attempt at remembering I’m not just a mom; I’m still an adventurous spirit, tethered by the desire to put down roots for my babes while also stretching my limbs to experience as much of life as I can. Reading takes me to places I can’t physically go, to people who don’t exist but often feel like friends nonetheless.
It’s hard to find balance. The person I used to be seems glamorous now, but she struggled too. The grass is truly always greener, and looking back allows me to choose personality traits I’d like to rediscover. A love for classic movies? Absolutely. I hope my kids grow up knowing who Audrey and Humphrey are, and I think they will, if only because one day I’ll get to sit down with them and show them Sabrina. My love of books and porch sitting are already being imparted. My adventurous side, previously explored through circus arts and travel, are a little out of reach right now. I can't stride recklessly into new scenarios without research and preparation, as these little pieces of my heart walking around need me unbroken and present. These parts of me aren’t truly gone; they're simply on a shelf, waiting for the day I can help these smallish people discover the same things I once loved.
The reality is, I am still strong. I’ve handled midnight illnesses with a strong stomach I didn’t know I possessed, and childbirth, for heaven’s sakes. I’ve overcome a fear of appearing impolite in order to advocate for my children’s healthcare. This strength is different than the bravery the old me had; this comes from a deep well of love resultant of caring for other people, and giving them parts of yourself along the way.
New parks and situations may give me a fleeting pit of panic in my stomach, but that doesn’t make me weak. It means that in this stage, new situations with tiny kids can be scary and that’s just something I have to deal with. The grocery store before lunch is equally scary, and that’s well tread ground. Different seasons hold different combinations of the me I used to be and the mom I am becoming, and that’s where I find the balance. Thankfully, years of tight wire walking have made me an expert at balance. In the meantime, I’ll be driving to the same old park while singing “Yellow Submarine” with my four year old (and the two year old, because this park is fully fenced so there is no escape). Maybe one day I'll even get to teach this precious cargo of mine to leap into a chasm, holding onto a metal bar and, for just a moment, fly without a plane.