Like every mother, I grew in to my role as ‘Mommy’. It’s a role every one of us plays differently and most days it would be a hell of a lot easier if it were scripted. But whether we are handed a tiny newborn, taking the hand of a skeptical toddler or welcoming a child or teen into our life, we all become ‘Mom’ pretty quickly after meeting our children. Thankfully we don’t need to know everything right away. We learn and develop as our children do and there is a comforting feeling, a feeling of home, in our own little family’s routines, expectations and traditions. It becomes natural, automatic, familiar and ‘ours. It becomes our motherhood; it becomes our children’s childhood.
For six (and a bit) years I found my place in this world as ‘Mommy’. For 11 (and a bit) months, I have had to dismantle, rearrange and play it all differently.
This topic is difficult for me to approach in conversation. I get a lot of encouragement and affirmation for all of the things that I am still able to do, and all of the ways that I am still the same mother to my children. I know everyone is well meaning and it’s not that I get offended by anyone’s comments, because I don’t. I understand that a lot of what makes a parent is emotional and not physical. I get it! But my motherhood has still been cracked open – wide open – and navigating out of the crevice has left me changed.
Figuring out my role now has been complicated. I have three little people that I need to keep in mind while I determine what aspects of their mommy are the same and what are different. I am ‘me’ but I am also ‘theirs’ and I am doing everything I can to still be who they need me to be.
I have two boys who, while incredibly resilient, cry and wish for the ‘olden days’ when I was walking, when I could come swimming at the rec centre with them and when I could do more than just sit in the snow. It breaks my heart. I have a daughter who will never know the ‘olden days’ when I was walking. She is always thrilled to go swimming at the rec centre without me and play in the snow while I watch. It breaks my heart. But for all three of them, I smile. I encourage them, I love them and I talk to them. We talk about how lucky we are that I am here and that different isn’t always bad. They always calm down. They sleep. And it is only then that I cry and I wish for the ‘olden days’.
It hurts when I can’t attend a field trip because it isn’t accessible. It makes me want to cry when I cannot easily climb into bed with my kids to give them a quick snuggle when they are feeling sad. I hate how I have to bend over and support my body on my elbow if I have any chance of doing up one of their jackets. I miss how easy it was to go on the floor, up to the couch, back to the floor and then quickly run to the kitchen to grab my phone for a picture. And it makes me want to vomit when I hear the words “Oh Mommy can’t do that anymore we need Daddy”. My littles say it so innocently and I always play it off as a joke. But it kills me. Every time.
I know a lot of this is physical but, to me, it’s important. It’s hard to see every routine we have established change. In one way or another, every routine has changed. My children’s childhood is forever altered.
I do understand that in a lot of ways I am still the same to them. I know I lose my temper; make them wear nice clothes and do their hair; enforce teeth brushing (that’s a lie…my husband does that); and bargain with them at the dinner table. I also still read with them, work on spelling, watch movies, play games, do puzzles and get silly. I know they still love me. But I know they also have moments where they wish I was still the old ‘me’.
I still have lofty goals of somehow forming these three wild hearts into caring, accepting and purposeful individuals. I know that as they get older the physical aspects of caring for them will get easier and that I will find my way and start growing into my role again. I will become a mom to three kids over the age of 5 and then a mom of teenagers. They will move out and become their own people and I hope I grow enough so that I will be okay with that. As we move forward into new phases, I will be as I am and won’t have the memories of doing it differently. I am hopeful that will make it easier. I am not the first person to parent sitting down. People do this! I can do this. I think.
While I do believe that my children’s childhood will always be different, I’m confident that it isn’t broken. My mommy life, on the other hand, is not quite living up to previous expectations and, good or bad, there will always be a crack in my motherhood.