This blog post is dedicated to my beautiful sister-in-law Melissa. She is a dedicated mom to my niece and nephew and has demonstrated a remarkable energy and focus on their health and development since they were born very prematurely almost 5 years ago. It seems almost impossible that they will turn 5 in a few short months and watching them run around and be silly with our daughters is such a happy sight. Melissa asked about how we, as moms, can find ourselves again, after devoting so much energy to our kids. Or maybe even how to be ourselves when so much of who we are is tied to children. This is my best shot at trying to describe how it feels and what I’m doing in those few moments when maybe (*maybe*) I’m getting it right.
Perhaps my only redeeming qualities in my early twenties were that I was a good friend and could make decently wise decisions. I never turned in anything on time, I didn’t always show up on time, I always stayed up too late the night before, and sometimes ate just green beans for dinner if it’s all I had in my apartment. This morning I went through two piles of paper that came home with my daughters from school yesterday, filled out two permission slips, went searching for pennies for the penny drive, coordinated an appraisal for one of my clients, cleaned my kitchen in a rage, snapped at both of my kids, brushed (then re-brushed) my 5 year old’s hair, helped my daughter search for her solar system socks, and now I’m sitting here in my pajamas, eating some organic version of cocoa puffs, and working. The house is silent. The kids are gone and Jason is at work.
Yesterday I told my real estate team that I intend to sell $15M in real estate this year, or 35 homes. I told them everything I was going to do to make it happen and wrote it down, month by month. I felt empowered and independent, decisive, and motivated.
And then this morning, I was folding laundry and looked down at our carpet and it was so dirty. And my 5-year-old was crying at the top of her lungs and kicking her bedroom door. The house was a mess and for a split second I wondered “can I do anything other than just be here, maintaining this, keeping us afloat?” I will be the first to admit that I have strong fortitude in life or death situations but sometimes everyday stresses can pile up quickly on my shoulders and sometimes I’m just plain weak. Can I work full time and run my own business and feel like my house isn’t falling apart? Am I ok missing field trips for closings? Why am I eating organic cocoa puffs?
I want to be both. I want to be the mom I think I’m capable of and I want to be an influential business leader. When I first had our oldest daughter (now 8), I didn’t know how to dress. Some of it was because my midsection suddenly looked like one of those throw pillows you see in the store and the stuffing is just all wrong…and part of it was because I was a mom. A 28-year-old mom. Do I cut my hair like the other moms in the suburbs? Should I start shopping at The Loft? Do I go out and get drinks with friends or do I just do playground dates and talk about sleeping and eating habits of an infant? I didn’t know…so I did all of the above. I cut a short bob, wore loose tops, sometimes tried to drive downtown, and go out with friends, usually wearing a nursing bra and sometimes standing in the corner of the bar yawning. I learned to cook. I learned to roast a chicken. I strolled every trail in North Reston. My infant and I went to music classes and yoga classes and little trips here and there. I was lost and I was found. Some grown up version of teenage angst and parental joy.
8 years later, I truly have a better balance. But it’s far from perfect. Both girls are in school full time so I can work full time without real guilt or the stress of dicing my work schedule into inefficient blocks of time. My kids are old enough that I don’t just feel like a physical vessel for their every need. They get more of Meg and less of mommy – for better or for worse. That involves a lot of laughs but also a lot of apologies for losing my temper or making a mistake. (Showing up at Thanksgiving lunch at school an hour late). But sometimes I think the best thing I can show them is a human in action.
I find myself when I laugh with friends about anything. Kids pooping their pants or throwing fits, saying silly things, or making big mistakes. We aren’t laughing at our kids, we are all just wondering if our universe falls in the normal range or not. I find myself when I get dressed for work and go into idea mode with clients or colleagues. I find myself when I take the afternoon off and rake leaves with some good music on. I find myself when we get a sitter and go out and get a little tipsy. And, it’s true, I lose myself in the daily grind sometimes.
Maybe we aren’t saving the planet or living in unfathomable third world conditions, but parenthood is both a bucket filler and a sacrifice. And when there’s medical issues involved, it’s more than a full-time gig. It involves emotional energy and mental anguish, I’m sure.
How did I go from jumping on an Acela train up to NYC for a weekend, on a whim, as a 22 and 23-year-old to staring at a pile of laundry on a Friday morning while my 5-year-old loses her mind over a stuffy nose in the bedroom down the hall? I have no idea. It was some combination of a decision and a miracle. I’m lucky to have people in my life who remind me of who I’ve always been – whether it’s my parents remembering something I did as a child or teenager, or my college friends reminding me of how I used to just cut my pants (rather than paying to have them hemmed), or kicking the soccer ball with my daughter and feeling like a kid again. Every time we do something new or meet someone new or go somewhere new we change a little bit. Motherhood might be an epic version of that “new adventure” and one that truly alters our heart. But, I think that our spirit is ours alone and we are allowed to care for it like we do a small child.