She spends 9 years as a Mother but then

My almost three year old is lying in my arms. She’s my very last baby and I feel her aging acutely. We are on the master bed watching Sesame Street. She’s singing along with Elmo.  And clapping. 

“What’s the letter of the day?” *clap clap*

And she’s completely naked. 

Her fine blond hair is thickening. And curling. Her body is lengthening. Baby fat is gone. A few mosquito bites dot her thighs. Her bathing suit tan lines show how much time she’s spent playing outside this summer.  

Oh my God. She looks like a preschooler!

Now she’s laughing at Grover. 

Real sadness is foreign to her. Her older siblings dote on her every move. She falls? At least two other people swarm her with love and kisses before mommy even blinks. I haven’t lifted her from her crib in the mornings since school ended because her siblings always get to her first. 

Now she’s somersaulting across my legs. 

She knows nothing of heaven nor hell. She knows nothing of life. Nothing of what lies spread before her. 
The social angst of adolescence. The struggle of achieving academically in high school. The apprehension of choosing a college. The exhilaration of a first kiss. The soul-blinding chest squeeze of true loss. The fierce competition of the workforce. 
Beauty. Self-doubt. Marriage. Divorce. Religion. Government. Employment. Taxes. 

She’s just in the moment. 

Laughing. And naked. 

I do what I can to protect her. Shelter her even. Give her a happy childhood to reflect back on when life finally dumps on her. But my time is limited. 

Watching her age is different than when my eldest was this age. I’ve had time to reflect. Practice. Change my style. Correct mistakes (Sorry, Jack). The journey through our parenting years is certainly a soul-shaping mind-bender. 

Yet, after 9 years as a mom, I still don’t know if I’m doing the right things. Sit and talk with adults and many of them either have strained relationships with their parents or none at all due to some issue the offspring has with the way they were raised. What if that happens to me?

So I still feel inadequate at times. 

An imposter in the game of motherhood. 

How do I instill in her everything she needs to be a successful adult?

Even worse, how do I face myself when she is an adult dealing with issues I failed to address during her childhood?

Surely someone else is far more equipped than I to raise this tiny human, so full of happiness and light. 

The pressure not to screw her up bubbles like a lidded pot on high.

Mommy, Please Don’t Go

Somehow every single organization I’m involved with has multiple meetings last week, this week and next week. 

And Maggie has begged all week “Mommy, please don’t go to the meeting again” and she wraps herself in my arms. 

Today she pouted and said how unfair it is that Caleb and Juli get to spend all day with me and she “never sees me.” I reminded her that when she was that age, I spent every waking moment with *her* too, and we talked of all the fun stuff we use to do like play dates and parties and day trips and body painting at parks and fantastic art projects. 

She still cries. 

And Jack chimes in with “Mommy why can’t you get off work to come to mine and Maggie’s first basketball game tomorrow night?”

They’ve actually been breaking down the past few weeks, begging me not to go to work. 

I make the comparison to them that just like school is their responsibility and they can’t just up and decide not to go, the same is required of adults. 

And still Maggie cries when I leave. 

And begs me not to go as I walk out the door. 

And wow the instinct to answer her pleading call is very real. What life lesson do I want her to learn at the tender age of six? That women are strong, dynamic, capable and responsible to their community to take charge, lead, and participate in the world? Or do I want her to learn that motherhood is the deepest, most precious of all responsibilities and that without good mothers the world would fall to its knees and crumble…and therefore a mothers responsibility is to respond dynamically when their children need them and be there, physically, no matter what? 

My mother provided me with that last example so it’s what I naturally reach for. 

After nine years as a stay at home mom, what a weird fine line this is to walk, balancing the desire to be an amazing mother and the desire to be “Lisa” again. 

I’m not even sure how to merge those two distinct, very different individuals.

10 TIPS FOR DEFINING IDENTITY

Have you ever taken a moment to define yourself? Who are you? Who you want to be? This is your roadmap in life. Your own personal GPS. 

Our society lumps us into categories from the moment we are born. 

Breastfed or bottlefed?
Cloth or disposable?
Cryer? Screamer?
Good sleeper?
Bad sleeper?

Is it any wonder that we too wind up defining ourselves based on who society tells us we are?

We define our adulthood, labeling and crafting our identity based on external forces that don’t actually state who we are inside. Husband. Wife. Father. Mother. Sister. Rich. Famous. Single. Taken. 

As a human who has merely had the privilege of reproducing four times, I found myself drowning miserably in so many parenting areas. Daily. I struggled with raising multiple children while feeling like a child myself. I chided myself for not being good enough. For not raising perfect children, a perfect house and a perfect marriage. 

So I had to change my outlook. I had to change the way I defined my role. 

I had to regain individual identity. 
And if you’re reading this, you do too. 

And you will. 
You just have to keep driving. 

Day after day. Plug into life. Look for new things to do. Refuse defeat. 

10 TIPS FOR DEFINING IDENTITY 

  1. Set strategic goals
  2. Dive into new opportunity 
  3. Accept life changing activities.
  4. Mingle with happy people.
  5. Put yourself out there. 
  6. Accept new roles
  7. Push your comfort boundaries
  8. Accept that you will suck some days.
  9. Know that will rock some days
  10. Forgive yourself 

And when it gets too overwhelming?

Remember your main goals should be to have family who smile, partners who laugh, protective shelter and food in bellies.

Everything else is non-essential.
Everything else can be let go. 

I remind myself of this when I am overwhelmed with unsorted clothing piles, unmopped floors, gross dishes or feel my children’s loud antics sending nerves skyrocketing. 

I also remind myself not to keep everything in. I force myself to share life with others even though I am, at heart, a shy timid hermit. I have a support group for depression sufferers that I belong to on Facebook. We all know each other in real life and check in on one another regularly. I swallowed my pride in a doctor’s office and admitted to suicidal thoughts. I accepted medicinal help from Zoloft when I realized I wasn’t superwoman and control the depression. 

And I do everything in my power to seek “Lisa” and develop my own personal life outside of kids. 

As a parent it’s so important to take time for yourself throughout the week. Work on “you”. Work on hobbies that are purely “you”. Over and over. Those moments and hobbies will give your brain the much needed rest and will give you a channel to focus aggression that may other wise come out as Ill-used words towards your husband and kids. I also find that I am much nicer and forgiving when I focus on “Lisa” because it helps remind me that the kids are individual humans too and their actions are from them trying to live life as best as they can, just like us all.