Long conversations, nights out with friends, date nights with partners, trips, seeing a new band, and you realize that who you were is still who you are.
A few weeks ago I went to see a friend's band. This is something I used to do on an almost nightly basis. There was a time in my twenties when most of my friends were in bands, when I was greatly familiar with the Seattle music scene.
I would go out night after night to see friends, or friends of friends, and drink vodka sodas and wear heels and dance until last call. It's a nostalgic era that has only grown sweeter with time. I felt my most alive in some ways, as I was growing into the woman I would become, honing my tastes and interests and just plain having a blast.
It almost goes without saying that this is a major departure from my current lifestyle as a mom.
Nowadays, I'm lucky if I stay awake until 10pm, the music I listen to during the day most often involves trains and singing animals, and the only heels I own are sensible two-inch pumps that I wear on the rarest of occasions. This is simply the turning tide of parenthood and I fully accept it.
But there are times, like when an old friend is in town, when your current lifestyle grates against a past lifestyle. Where the current version of yourself is confronted by the past version of yourself.
Are they the same? Was that young woman really me? Is this frantic mom really her?
This is the ongoing crisis of motherhood. Those elements of ourselves that require constant tending, frequent pruning; where am I, what am I, who am I both inside and outside of this role? Answering these questions time and again is vital to our development as individuals. Yet, who has the time?
Motherhood is an all-consuming role in so many ways. It's not that it's impossible to get out and do things, but the forethought that goes into it, the planning that it requires for so many of us, often negates that energizing spontaneity, that careless freedom that we had before we became moms. And sometimes, no matter our level of preparedness, our darling kiddos get sick or injured, and we have to cancel the whole thing anyway.
When my husband and I got to the bar that night to see the band, I was giddy. Not because I don't go out much (well, okay that, too). But because it felt so deeply, satisfyingly right. A Seattle band, a hoppy beer, my arm slung around my man while we swayed to the rhythm of creativity, bravery, artistry.
In a frustratingly San Francisco crowd (read: subdued, too cool), I earnestly danced until I sweat, I cheered, I bought merch. I just had a damn good time. It felt so joyously familiar, so pre-kid me.
There is nothing that has made me feel more truly myself than becoming a mother. But there has been nothing more thrilling than the realization that inside this mother, I still exist. I'm still in there.
In the early months (and I would argue years) of new motherhood, you have to shove so much of yourself aside in unprecedented ways. Generally speaking, never before have you had to attend so completely, so dutifully, so relentlessly to someone else's needs, particularly at the cost of your own.
As my son approaches the two and a half mark, we have all reached a place of homeostasis. Equilibrium. Space. There is finally space for me to explore these questions of identity more deeply. My home is balanced (enough) to allow me some real time to myself. For excavation and exploration.
In the moment, the day-to-day grind of motherhood can feel excruciating in its mundanity. You can find yourself lost in yourself. Where you don't remember what you used to like, think about or do before it was all snacks, activities, playdates and bedtimes.
But there are flickers, clues that you're still in there. Long conversations, nights out with friends, date nights with partners, trips, seeing a new band, and you realize that who you were is still who you are, one just gets more camera time than the other (but both are so much more tired).
Yeah, there are some days I yearn for those late Seattle nights, those falling-over laughing, carefree, music in the air, fizzy, sparkling kind of nights. But there are others, just as potent, just as electric, that I can have now.
Like when my husband and I curl up in the fort we built for our kiddo after he's long asleep to watch Stranger Things 2 and drink tequila, and there is nothing that is better in the world, and no place I would rather be. Because I carry both the me who likes music and art and excitement alongside the me who is tired and nurturing and mothering all day long.
That night out, we weren't able to stay long after the set. We had to get home to our kiddo. Instead of being sad, my husband and I drove home with big smiles on our faces and talked about how much pure fun we had, and how awesome it was that we were going to be in bed by 11. These two sides of myself, happily coexisting.
A few days later, as I was driving my kiddo to his playdate, I put the band's album on in the car. He said, "What's this song, Mommy?"
Me: “A band called Smokey Brights. Do you like it?"
Him: "Oh yeah! I love it!"
I turned it up and sang because I'm definitely still in there. And the even sweeter part? My son is right there with me, and he's learning to sing along.