I wanted to run away from my kids yesterday.
Everything just kind of came crashing down all at once. There were several factors at play. Suddenly, I just felt tired. I felt alone. I felt like everything was on me, and that I had no way out.
Motherhood has this way of consuming every atom capable of feeling love in your body, and then multiplying each and every one at an exponential rate. It can make you want to sacrifice everything, and anything, for another, without having to think twice. It is exhilarating, beautiful, fulfilling.
But motherhood also has another side, which we feel guilty talking about. We shouldn’t really talk about it, right? I sound ungrateful. I’ve been blessed with the privilege of raising these amazing children. I shouldn’t complain. I could have it a lot worse. I should focus on the positives, because the negatives will just bring me, and others, down.
The truth is, at one point or another, you’ll feel it. You will. You’ll feel trapped. You’ll get tired of being so completely depended upon. You’ll miss your freedom. You’ll think back to when you were just you, and only really had to take care of yourself, and you’ll miss that. You’ll miss the luxury of thinking to yourself, “I think I’ll go to bed now”, and then rest assured that you will only wake up when you decide you’re ready to do so. You’ll miss sitting in a cafe reading a book for three hours. You’ll miss shopping alone, without any time restrictions and without having to do the mommy-jiggle-shake-bounce while you try and lull that ticking time bomb baby to sleep as you hurriedly examine ingredients lists and price tags.
You’ll miss how you were as a couple. You’ll miss your decadent two-person holidays and your lazy, late Sunday morning brunches. You’ll miss staying up to watch a movie on a Friday night without worrying about whether you just heard someone cry on the baby monitor, or frantically calculating how many hours of sleep you might get if you bite the bullet stay up another hour.
What’s my problem? Did I seriously just have these kids so that I can wish to be alone and unattached again? I need to get over myself.
I remember when Puff was about 3 weeks old, my husband and I decided to go for a walk and get some ice cream. I had her in the carrier, and my husband was pushing Tuna in her stroller. I hadn’t slept for more than an hour at a time since the baby was born. My body was still recovering from a C-section. I was only comfortable in my maternity clothes because nothing else really fit, and the furthest journey we were willing to make as a brand spanking new family of 4 was 500 metres down the road. As we walked along the pavement, I had a terrible, horrible, selfish, unthinkable thought brewing in my head, and I was so nervous to say it out loud to my husband because I could just hear how awful it sounded. I gathered up the courage and just blurted it out.
“Do you ever miss life without kids?”
He answered so quickly, and so confidently, that the relief flooded my heart so fast I nearly cried. Heck, given my hormonally volatile state, I probably did cry.
I read an article shared by a friend last week about how mourning the loss of our previous, pre-motherhood selves, has a big, fat, giant “taboo” sticker on it. The article struck such a huge chord with me and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then because that is exactly what I’m going through right now.
Motherhood demands the impossible from you sometimes. You have to constantly give more and more, and more, of yourself. Just when you think you’re spent, you’re all out, you really have nothing left – you have to search every last corner of yourself and give more.
You start to desperately crave simple things, like leaving the house, on your own, with one small handbag and no promises as to when you’ll return, to do whatever the hell you want.
You dream of spending an entire day on your own, reading, shopping, running, singing, writing, going to a spa, driving a car, eating a meal with a knife and fork at the same time and drinking a hot coffee as soon as it arrives at the table.
You wonder what it was like when no-one physically depended on you for all of their nutritional needs. Or when you could eat or drink whatever you pleased without having to worry about how it might affect someone else.
You want to look at your hair in the mirror and think, “I need a haircut” and then book that haircut on the spot, for tomorrow, without having to plan and strategise and think about pumping, naps, and feeding schedules.
You want to spend hours – hours – at a grocery store, or a mall, and browse to your heart’s content, without checking your watch, your phone, or, even in the absence of someone immediately needing you, wonder if you should head back just in case.
You want to feel like you aren’t asking for “permission” or a “favour” when you want to leave the kids with your husband, or whoever else, and have some me-time. It’s funny, because it’s only you that feels that way, but that limitation you set on yourself only adds to that feeling of being stuck, and only makes that motivation to do something for yourself, and only yourself, harder to find.
The truth is, we are forever changed because of our children. We can’t switch off. I know they’ll be 25, independent, and totally self-sufficient one day, and I’ll still be wondering if they’re okay.
So I’m going to book that haircut. I’m going to go on that shopping trip. I’m going to get that massage. I’m going to read my book at that cafe (but maybe only for an hour). I’m going to chase that dream which I put on the backburner because I thought the timing just wasn’t right. I’m going to go for a run. I’m going to take care of me. Because in order to properly take care of someone else, you need to be okay, too.
I’m going to reclaim as much of myself as I can, while accepting that I am not the “me” I once was. And there is nothing wrong with that. We grow, we change, we evolve. Nothing is static and things rarely go back to exactly what they used to be.
We need to be okay with admitting the hard parts, though. That new mom who feels like her world is falling apart, and that she’s doing it all wrong, needs you to tell her, to assure her, that yes – some of this really, really sucks. It’s hard. And you’re not a bad mom for feeling that. You’re not a bad mom for wistfully thinking back to when you didn’t have kids.
You’re not a bad mom for thinking, “I miss just being me.” And you’d be surprised how many of us have thought that exact same thing.