I like to reach my hand back and rub my children’s knees when I’m driving them around in the car. I adjust the rearview mirror to look at their faces when we talk, and shower them with lovey-dovey superlatives, and blow kisses at them until they tell me to just Stop Mommy! I can’t help it. Maybe it’s the working-mom guilt. Maybe I’m just a sap. Whatever. I overdo it with the praise and affection and deep down I think that’s nothing but good for children. They will certainly grow up knowing they are loved.
Driving them home from preschool the other day, rubbing knees, bopping along with them to some stupid pop song, without much thought I said, “You guys are my whole world, you know that?”
And then quite immediately it struck me: No, they are not. And then: Thank God for that.
I love my daughters so much it makes my heart ache. I, like most parents, am occasionally moved to tears tucking them into bed at night, smelling their faces, kissing their foreheads, my feelings for them so strong. But no, they are not my whole world. Maybe they were as newborns, in those first hazy, strange days of motherhood. Breastfeeding, sleepless nights and tiny necks so fragile I had to hold up my babies’ heads in my hands. When I lost count of whole weeks and rarely left the house. Then, they were my whole world.
But these days my life is so full. I love my job at the newspaper, where I am stretched beyond my comfort zone every damn day. I love my friends and the nights we all sneak away from our families to drink wine and swap stories and swear. I love my husband and the bond between us that parenthood has strengthened, and the conversations we have only after the kids are asleep, or when we are driving alone in a car somewhere. And I cherish my alone time, those deliciously long afternoons when I head up into the foothills with my fat, lazy dog. All of these things make me happy. All of these things make me who I am.
New moms: If you are feeling trapped in your house, in your sweatpants, feeling like maybe you made a terrible mistake and like maybe this tiny, screaming baby you created has gobbled up your entire identity, please believe me that it gets better. You will come back to life. Some parts of you will return quicker than others, but you will be back. And the best part — but not the whole part — is that when all of you comes back, you’ll have this entirely new, incredible person to go through life with, this funny little child who makes you cry with love when you kiss them goodnight.