I distinctly remember how exciting the beginning of September used to feel. How the looming new school year was like this big empty bucket I could fill with raindrops of possibility. I can be anyone I want to be this year, I told myself.
I could go back-to-school shopping and get new clothes, a shiny Trapper Keeper (oh hey ’80s babies!) and a fresh new ‘do and walk into class feeling like a newer, better version of the person who left the year before. The power of the makeover was real and I could will myself to be the *new* me I wanted to be.
I had no idea that one day the new me would be a mother looking at herself thinking, “Who are you and where did the old me go? (I want the old me back.)”
The good news: this year I’m finally starting to remember who I am.
Who I am apart from being your mom.
Who I am apart from being your wife.
Who I am apart from who everyone expects me to be.
When my son was born, I was plunged into a world of uncertainty and anxiety. Throughout most of my life, I’ve felt generally confident. I always felt like if I didn’t know something, I could learn. And that no mystery was ever too much to conquer. I was used to trying hard and working at something and reaping the rewards. I thought I could do the same with motherhood.
I laugh at the idea of that now.
Actually, I don’t laugh. I feel kind of like how my mom must have felt when she saw me trying to master a new skill or talent growing up (similar to how I feel when I look at my son doing the same). She must have thought—you have so much ahead of you, you don’t even realize what’s in store.
I had no idea that with his birth the stakes would rise to an uncomfortable level. That it would feel foreign to me to have so much matter. (Did anything really matter before?) Suddenly, the same legs I had solidly walked on for 30+ years started to wobble.
I didn’t realize that having this piece of me—in the form of a wholly separate, but eternally connected human—would make me feel so fragile.
That a person could exist that meant more to me than myself. Because when he was born, I suddenly felt like I mattered less. And I felt okay with that—then.
The non-mother version of me was gone forever, and I made peace with that. I thought this was the new me forever and that the old me was just…dead. She would never be able to exist again because there’s no going backward. There’s no forgetting or letting go that takes away that identity shift.
But then things began to change.
A year and a half passed and I was adjusting to new motherhood and getting less anxious. I remembered that I am more than just a feeding/cuddling/diaper-changing/playing mommy and that it would be okay (healthy even!) to think of myself as more than that.
I think that the new me was such a seismic shift, such a complete and utter takeover of my entire being that, at first, I had to give in to get by. I had to fully accept it to learn how to be comfortable and understand how to deal and live this new life.
But like I said, this year is my year. And September is the perfect time to reassess and list out exactly how I can find the old me again. Then the process of re-knitting her back into my life can begin.
Because when you think of it, we’re always about 20 different versions of ourselves at once. We’re mother, daughter, friend, wife, teacher, doctor, nurse. We don’t have to give up one for the other.
Starting this September, I’m going to give up the guilt when it comes to doing non-baby related activities.
Yes, this means that sometimes I might work late. Or leave him with a babysitter for a date night. Or sleep in while I let my husband do the morning routine. It will never make me love him any less, and it will be great for him to be loved and cared for by a wider circle of people.
This September, I’m carving some time out dedicated just to me.
Whether that’s to read, take up a hobby, focus on my creative writing or even binge-watch TV. This is my time alone to be myself without being beholden to anyone else’s needs or whims. (What will I even do with myself?)
This September, I’m going to reconnect with my friends outside my home.
Make time for going out and dressing up and seeing people I really enjoy and care about. Because they have spent far too much time sitting on my couch while I run around trying to talk in between cooking dinner, doing laundry, and bathing the baby. Time for a venue change.
This September, I’ll keep being grateful for everything I have. Marvel at my baby son and how he grows, and how I keep growing along with him.
New me, meet the old me. I think you two will really like each other.