What can I say about Nell? She gets me. She’s a barefoot urban hippie mama who just is who she is and knows what she is about. And I love her. Nell is the kind of woman who makes you feel like you are special, even if she’s just telling you where the bathroom is. She has been a huge supporter of my writing, the journey I am on in telling this story of my heart, and she loves poetry, so you know. I’ve only met her twice, but I consider her a dear friend. Nell is that kind of woman. So sit back, drink your coffee, and soak up the love.
Dear fellow mother,
You are not defined by your children. Not the number of them. Not the age gap between them. Not their clothing choices. Not the state of their hygiene. Not the contents of their bowl in the morning. Not by how messy their hair is and how they rip out their pony tail holders all the time.
You are not defined by your child’s naughty almost humorous meltdown in front of your entire group of older adult guests at a fundraiser. You are not defined by your baby’s eczema on his face that looked as if you’ve never lotioned him up before. You are not defined by your daughter’s low-weight gain, or petite status that looks as if you’re not feeding her enough.
You are not defined by your son’s early speech, his quick ability with words, his apparent cleverness that also translates to terrible difficulty with not getting his way (long way to say tantrums). Nor are you defined by your baby’s big size and early movement, Mr. Plank, Mr. Pushup at 4 months, Mr. Scoot Around the Room on his Tummy.
You are not defined by your once fashionable eye glasses that are bent and greased out of proportion. You are not defined by your “ironing pile” as in “grab it and quickly iron it before you need it pile” that is shuttered behind a closet door. You are not defined by your garden that never produced herbs this year, or its poorly produced tomatoes.
You are not defined by the number of pieces of Halloween candy that you have eaten out of the deep freezer next to the laundry machines. Nor are you defined by the failed laundry attempts while busy eating said candy in a furtive fashion that resulted in RED CRAYON dye all over your load of whites.
You are not defined by the frayed and frazzled state of your hair at the beginning and end of day. You are not defined by how few times you’ve worn high heels (or fashionable shoes) in the last five years, or listened to a new band aside from great kids music. You are not defined by your pre-baby wardrobe that really needs to be donated and freshened up but sits in sad little heaps in your closet instead.
You are still you. I am still me, the pre-baby me. I’m just a fuller (literally and figuratively) version of that me. I cannot be me without them. My body is physically altered by them (even down to their DNA still residing inside me after giving birth). My brain is constantly on a treadmill of thoughts about them
who has to pee
when did i last nurse
do they need a snack or should i leave them alone
how wet is that spot on the bed and do i have to wash these sheets
how long can they screamfight before I need to intervene
I grow into this mothering role better and better with each year, each baby. I resent the intrusion into “my” desires and “my” life less and less. I find time and schedule it, dammmmit, for me and what I need to feel human, that me pre-baby, that me underneath. But I do not and cannot let my needs and wants direct my life anymore. My soaring spirit, my adventuresome self, all turn toward mothering. What beauties can I share with them? What adventures can they experience? What can I provide for them?
So we are all in this muddling mud pit of mothering together, we young mothers. I am trying to not define myself by my children, hang my easily bruised ego on their sleeves. And I won’t define you by yours either, instead, simply respect that you’re a person aside from your kiddos, when they’re great and when they’re atrocious.
Perhaps this is my letter to me. And a promise to you, too.