I wanted to “have it all together” before I had kids.
I wanted to overcome my eating disorder (and I did). I wanted to learn how to love myself. I wanted to finish college. I knew some things were out of reach.
My husband was finishing his second Master’s degree when we got pregnant with our first child. We didn’t own a house. We didn’t even know what state we would end up in. I knew my life wasn’t “figured out” or perfect, but I did feel like I had some key elements in place. And then I had kids.
And then I was up late. And up early.
And then I was challenged to my capacity of being overwhelmed, and relatively friendless (these early stages of motherhood, for me, have been lonely), and my go-to stress relievers were now stressful to incorporate into life rather than readily helpful.
Exercise, for instance, became a dance between my husband and me for how we could both workout and also spend time together in this “free” time we have. Meditation and yoga took on entirely new meanings—I often laugh at myself while I’m practicing yoga, thinking “Namaste” as I ask my kids too loudly to please let me do this for a few more minutes.
To further complicate this play of my tangled emotions, of a mother loving her children and also struggling to maintain sanity and healthy individuality, my oldest daughter is on the cusp of entering her first year of full-day school. I don’t want her to be. I want her to be here, with me, forever, even though I obviously don’t.
We raise children to grow and develop into their own selves who, we hope even though we alternately miss them with every space in our bodies, will leave us; they’ll fly away, doing their own dance of becoming the best people they can be.
I’m aware I’m still messing up with my kids with all these same things I tried so earnestly to fix before I had them.
I’m still battling my temper, my cravings for alone time that rarely exists, and my distinct need to inhabit and enjoy this relationship with their dad that they were born from. In short, I’m fighting to keep this person in me alive and well; this person so intertwined with my role as mother while not completely defined by it.
Some days I do it better than others. Some days I’m amazing at it. Some days I’m terrible.
I’m glad I held onto my own personal reasons for making myself into the woman I knew I could be before I had my children. I’m glad I learned how to eat for both pleasure and health, and to breathe through my stress through yoga. I’m glad my husband and I knew each other and our relationship and had already gone through difficulties together. I’m glad, more than anything, that I believed in myself enough to challenge my accepted level of competency, because I needed this faith in myself when I finally had babies. But it turns out there is never the perfect time to have kids.
Many people told me this when they asked what my husband and I were waiting for. Considering we’d dated for over ten years before marrying, and even though we were only 25 when we did, I was often asked if and when we would have kids and then offered this response of, “There’s never a perfect time.”
Sometimes I think the athletic “me” of my twenties would have been physically more suited for active toddlers. Sometimes I’m relieved I had so many experiences before having kids so that I can focus fully on helping them experience their own. More typically, I feel grateful for where I am, at the times that I arrive, and I simply do my best as both a mom and a human being.
I hope I show my kids how much I love being their mother, even as I clearly display, too, how fallible I am. I hope they know there will be choices they’ll face as they grow older, and that there isn’t usually one good answer. Many instances in our lives contain decisions, and we must make them as best and as capably as we can, if only to move forward.
Cliche as it is, the most shocking, upsetting, humbling, and obvious lesson I’ve learned as a mother is that there is no such thing as a perfect one, like I always dreamed I would be. There are only people trying as hard as we can.
And despite my wanting to be seamless as a mom, the reasons we love people are often because of our humanness, and our fragility, not in spite of it. May I remember this on any randomly difficult day with my children, that I’m perfectly filled with love and imperfectly doing my best.