Ma. Ma. Ma. Ma, uppy. Ma, you push swing high? Ma, potty? Ma, we go walk? Ma, we play tag? Ma, read book?
From the second – and I mean the second – they open their precious little blues, we spend all our time together. In fact, I am not sure we have spent but a handful of their waking moments apart since conception. We dress, shower, run errands, even crap with those little suckers attached to our hips.
All this time together helps create the inseparable bond we seek from birth – the connection that ensures they know we are their life force, so they don’t go wandering away with every other lady who has disheveled hair, coffee breath, and bags pulling on her eyelids.
This relationship also slowly changes the women we once were. Attention to self slips slowly to last place. Quiet moments of reflection are no longer. Gone are the days of endless meandering through life, as time is now set in blocks of feeding and nap schedules. Emails go unanswered, dates become cold meals at home, your nails (go ahead, look) scream for a file and some polish. You gradually start becoming a barely recognizable version of yourself.
A dear friend of mine, seeing me in the throes of this newfound Mommy-and-Me condition, suggested an open gym class for the boys. I signed up immediately, looking forward to them enjoying some time playing with someone other than Mommy.
I went to bed the night before class like a child before a holiday. Images of me relaxing and drinking my hot cup of coffee, maybe even catching up on some emails, while the children frolicked with their new friends, danced in my head.
As I entered the gym, my cheeks hurt from smiling, gleeful for the adventure ahead. My amusement abruptly halted, though, as I walked in the room. In front of me, a scene unfolded not much different than my living room: a bunch of toys tossed from one end of the room to the other and a bunch of mothers sitting on the floor playing with their toddlers.
Seriously??! Had I just rushed through our morning routine, raced over here, and walked through my own front door? I could have easily stayed in my pajamas and done all this in the comfort of my home. And, to top it off, I was now paying the woman who organized this “gym class.”
I figured it had to be a joke. No one would pay someone to do what they already have to do.
Sure enough. Another Mommy-and-Me trap. One more scenario where it’s just me managing my gremlins. I mean, sure, now I could look around the room and commiserate with the other ladies struggling to enjoy the torture they endured. Is there nowhere I can go and get a break?!
I love playing with my littles. Building a tower, swimming in the pool, making a playdoh house, even running in the backyard. But every now and again, I long for a secret little place we could go where my kids played with someone else for a few minutes. Where I could sip my coffee and watch them enjoying themselves from afar. Where they might not catch me savoring a pastry. Where, even for a minute, I could enjoy some time without someone hanging on me.
When I was young, my mother read to us, a lot. Some of my fondest memories are of her reading the “Little House on the Prairie” series during her work breaks. My sister and I eagerly awaited the next day’s installments. I remember her occasionally walking us to the park, where she sat on a bench and watched us play.
We had lots of Barbies and puzzles and one of those pretend kitchens. I still remember the Christmas I received my favorite plastic guitar, which I was allowed to play outside, by myself. I don’t have a tremendous amount of memories playing with my mother.
She didn’t sit on the floor and dress our dolls. We didn’t tumble and jump on her back in a gym class designed for toddlers. We had play dates with friends, where my mom and her friends sat and chatted and we kids played together, without video screens or constant adult interactions. We didn’t expect mom’s undivided attention from waking moment to sleep because, quite frankly, we knew that wasn’t an option.
So when did it become the only option??
We live in a different world now. We are judged for our parenting skills more than any other role we fill. The scrutiny has brought some significant changes in our parenting. I am all for increased car seat laws, not smoking around littles, hell, even forcing healthier food choices. These changes have all positively impacted the lives of our children. But how has attachment parenting and doting on them nonstop impacted them?
I love my kids more than life itself, and I enjoy most of the moments I spend with them. But I don’t enjoy being their buddy. I am their mom. I am the crucial part of our Mommy-and-Me, but I’m losing the Me.
I want to be the best mom I can without losing everything I once knew about myself. I want to push trucks down the banister. I want to finger paint and mold clay. I want to race each other to the park.
But I also want to get some wash done while they play. I want to drink my coffee in the morning without reheating it four times and then accepting it cold. I want a quiet dinner with my husband. I want to pee without someone trying to get in my underwear.
I hope we all find that secret hole in the wall where kids entertain themselves for a few minutes, where a play date doesn’t include us creating some orchestrated fantastical experience for them. I wish for us all to gain the strength to lock the door and let them scream outside while we use the bathroom. I wish for a break in the day to call our long-lost friends. I wish for a damn warm coffee each morning.
Here’s to taking a few minutes each day to look in the mirror and dig out the woman in there. Here’s to finding the balance between being the Mom in Mommy-and-Me and the Me in Mommy.