With Mother’s Day approaching, our Editor-in-Chief is thinking a lot about motherhood, all it’s ages and stages, and what she’d say to her “new mama” former self now that she has eight years of experience under her belt.
I’m almost eight years into this motherhood gig. My days are my own and my nights are not sleepless. My children have been known to prance up to bed solo after a quick hug and kiss. When I drop them off at school, they barely say good bye. My nearly eight-year-old slumps over her breakfast plate, nose in a book, and makes almost no demands from her mother. My five-year-old has even been putting her shoes on lately without my repeated “put your shoes on, put your shoes on, put your shoes on” refrain. They still need me, of course, but they don’t need me in that relentless, insistent way of their baby and toddlerhood. There are different kinds of responsibilities to parenting now.
I haven’t changed a diaper in years, gave away every sippy cup in my house ages ago, and finally put that dusty disassembled crib on the curb for some other family to claim like so much treasure. I don’t really remember those early baby days, and can capture only the whisper of their intensity, though the reality of their chaos and anxiety and constancy are surely tattooed in the out-of-reach corners of my heart.
And then I see a new mom, her baby tucked in a carrier, messy bun, no makeup, dark circles, gigantic diaper bag, juggling her coffee and cell phone. She looks at me with world weary eyes, for new motherhood can feel like circumnavigating the globe without leaving your neighborhood, and smiles weakly. I smile back and give a nod to the sleeping (gorgeous, squishy, cuddly) baby. She glances at my big girls walking four steps ahead of me, my reality as incomprehensible to her as hers is to me, though there’s something familiar that passes between us. We’re kindred spirits, though our realities are opposite sides of the same coin.
And, as she passes by in all that familiar newness, I think of all the things I’d say to my former self if time travel were possible and I could whisper in her ear.
Just wait, I’d say.
Today was a shitty day; I know. You cried four times (five), never finished a single meal, and walked around with poop on your tank top for at least three hours before you noticed. But. Just. Wait. You’ll pass these days so quickly, it will nearly stop your heart. You’ll forget their squishy baby scent; it’s fleeting. Their soft skin will change; those roly poly wrists and chubby thighs replaced with skinned knees and lean, long arms. Even their bubbly, baby giggle will change. You’ll notice it one day, likely months (nay, years) after it’s gone and wonder: when did that happen?
Their faces will start to reveal the grown women they’re going to become. Their limited vocabulary will blossom into a way of speaking that could rival most middle-schoolers’. They’ll explain the Civil War to you in heart-breaking (yet fascinatingly accurate) 2nd grader terms. One day, one of them will call you Mom instead of Mommy, your husband Dad instead of Daddy. You’ll look at her and fail to recognize what’s happening until weeks later when you notice that she has held fast and your new name is, in fact, “Mom.” You’ll consciously listen to your younger daughter and pray that she’ll hold on to “Mommy” just a little longer than her sister.
They’ll ride their bikes without training wheels, dive off a diving board into the deep end, and proclaim one evening that they don’t want you to read to them anymore (“you can read with me, Mom, just not to me”). In the rare moments that you actually notice what’s happening, you’ll think how that old cliché about it all going by so fast is true. SO fast.
You’ll go through a long period thinking you suck at this and that you’re ruining your children. You’re not. They’re awesome. They’re kind and funny. They’re wise beyond their years. They think you’re a fucking rock star.
You won’t cherish every moment. Don’t even try. Half (more; let’s be honest) of this whole motherhood endeavor will kind of suck. Your soul will ache at the complexity of it, and not always in a good way.
But, you’ll be lucky. Roughly once a day, those gorgeous kids will do something or say something that is so completely revelatory that you’ll want to laugh until you cry (or cry until you laugh; it varies). You just have to pay attention so you don’t miss it. Because it’s easy to miss.
Mollie Michel is a South Philly resident and a Philadelphia public school parent. A recovering non-profit professional, Mollie is also an experienced birth doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, and the mom of two awesome girls and a sweet pit bull named Princess Cleopatra. In her spare time, she is usually trying to figure out how Pinterest works, training for a(nother) half-marathon with her dog at her side, or simply trying to keep up with her increasingly wily daughters.