Thursday, August 21, 2008

Motherhood on a shelf

For nearly three years, I've had to fight to remember who I was before I became a mother. I had to wonder what I did with all my time.

For the last 2.5 years, I haven't been able to escape being a mother. I couldn't dream of being anything else. The simplest things led me back to two beings: My daughters.

I breathed them. I dreamed of them. I daydreamed about them. I couldn't imagine another child, another life ever being more consuming than my love for them.

I couldn't imagine anything -- nothing at all -- ever coming between me and them. Where I began, they started; where they started, I began.

Now, as I spend eight hours away from them each day, I have to fight to bring myself back to being a mother. When I'd normally be fixing their lunch, I'm fielding calls with complete strangers who now need my attention.

As I walk on short breaks around town, I wonder who am I now? Am I still Mommy? Am I still a writer? Glimpses of my old self have started creeping back. It's me, but very different.

Like a web spun by a spider, I'm feeling stretched from limb to limb to remember the person I've been the last two years, the one who has put creativity and art and nature before everything else. The one who values family and love and gratitude above all. The one with dreams that have been on hold.

And it is hard. I walk down the store-filled street, window shopping for exercise, and realize that I'm drawn to the natural elements as I have been lately. I long to sit in and do yoga, create an artful masterpiece to sit on my daughters' bookshelves, a small bowl wih a simple message. I want to drop in the all natural cleaning store and soak up the good vibes respectful of Mother Earth. So many things I wanted to do ... so many, many things.

And yet ... I want to grab a glass of wine and listen to some music. I want to browse at the library. I want to talk to random people because I haven't' talked to random people in so long. but I forget how to talk to them. How to speak. How to get a conversation started without my conversation pieces -- Jadyn and Liana. I have nothing to glance down to, nothing to push forward and say, here these are my girls! Look at me! I'm somebody!

It's just me. Feeling very exposed but thin and frail and a bit insecure. Like just learning to walk for the first time. Careful, cautious, considerate.

My first three days were spent nearly incognito in a town where many people would recognize my face, and know my name. But, I have even changed that. I'm no longer using my maiden name -- my byline, a name that illuminates that woman I used to be and who hardly exists anymore. Even my hair is different.

At 5:01, I lock the office door, and briskly walk-run toward the parking garage and swiftly make my eight block drive home to my husband and daughters who await my entrance with giddy laughter and big smiles -- something long, long overdue in my life.

This week has been easy. I know they've been happy and fulfilled. Next week, next week will be different. And hard. Perhaps putting motherhood on a shelf won't be as easy.

But, for this week, it's been an interesting experiment to just be a little bit of both of women I used to be.

Photo Courtesy of Luckychair.


Shannon said...

Oh, sooo well said. And that just proves that YES--you are still a writer. And still all those things that you were and will be.
I actually had this same experience, just for a different reason. When I moved back here to FL, I started remembering who I was and slipping back into the joy I used to feel at living. It's odd, the life changes that we go through and the different women that these changes turn us into. Anyway, you will always be you and you will always be MOM. (No matter how short you cut your hair. :-)

justagirl said...

Hey Shawn

All so true, I remember feeling that, not sure who I was where I fit etc... All a little confusing.

You will slip into the new you, taking a bit of the old you along the way.

We are always changing, evolving on our journey through life. Soon the new you will be a wonderful mix of the mummy you and the career woman you.

I understand your cautious feelings.

mapelba said...

Sometimes I think that as we go more and more into the world we collect more selves. I mean--I'm a mom, wife, writer, teacher, daughter, friend, and on and on. Sometimes these selves live well together. Sometimes they grate.

My thoughts are with you in the juggle.

amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay said...

lovely- I so understand how you feel. It is kind of hard to find that balance and symmetry. Yr doing great! Yr all the things you want to be.

Octamom said...

fantastic post--you have beautifully captured the challenge of living the multi-faceted, multi-identity life--

village mama said...

You are brave, smart, kind, hard working, soul searching, a dynamo. You ARE a some body, a very special woman. Wishing all of you happiness and fulfillment. XO

Shelli said...

I so understand you.

Mama said...

I loved this, Shawn! I have felt so many of these things at different times. Great post.

Sue Jenkins said...

The more you venture out without your kids, the more you'll come to love the new, independent version of yourself. I secretly love my solo monthly work jaunts into the city. Each time I go, I do what I want, when I want--such freedom! I also use each trip as a time for pampering myself with things like a massage and a big sushi dinner. Of course, it's also wonderful to come home to the sounds of "Mommmy!" and "Sweetie!". Being away for a short time helps us all be a bit more grateful for what we have. (PS. I'm honored you posted a copy of one of my Flikr pictures with this article.

Claroux said...

You are a brilliant writer. You summed up what I think every mother - working or not - goes through. I remember when we put together the twins' cribs. That night J found me in a lump on the nursery floor crying. I just looked up at him and sobbed: "now you and I will never go to Paris together!" I've had many moments like that since then - maybe not quite as hormonally induced but still the same in most respects. I think about it when I get into my MINI VAN each day. How the pre-baby me would've (and DID) laugh at the Mom's shuffling about in their ugly soccer-mobiles. I cringe when I drive it. I HATE IT. It's not who I am....or who I was? See - you totally hit the nail on the head with this one! Who the heck are we and will we ever find out? Do you think our Mom's and their Mom's felt this way too?

Again - you're simply brilliant and I'm so happy I stumbled upon your blog, your life and you!