I wanted to run away from my kids yesterday.
Everything just came crashing down all at once. There were several factors at play: I just felt tired, alone, like everything was on me, and that I had no way out.
Motherhood has this way of consuming every atom capable of feeling love in your body, and then multiplying each and every one at an exponential rate. It can make you want to sacrifice everything and anything for another person, without having to think twice. It is exhilarating, beautiful, and fulfilling.
Motherhood also has another side, a side we feel guilty talking about. We shouldn’t really talk about it, right? I sound ungrateful. I’ve been blessed with the privilege of raising these amazing children. I shouldn’t complain. I could have it a lot worse. I should focus on the positives because the negatives will just bring me, and others, down.
The truth is that, at one point or another, you’ll feel it. You will. You’ll feel trapped. You’ll get tired of being so completely depended upon. You’ll miss your freedom. You’ll think back to when you were just you and only had to take care of yourself, and you’ll miss that. You’ll miss the luxury of thinking to yourself, “I think I’ll go to bed now,” and then waking up when you decide you’re ready to do so. You’ll miss sitting in a cafe reading a book for three hours. You’ll miss shopping alone, without any time restrictions and without having to do the mommy-jiggle-shake-bounce while you try and lull that ticking-time-bomb baby to sleep as you hurriedly examine ingredient lists and price tags.
You’ll miss how you were as a couple. You’ll miss your decadent two-person holidays and your lazy, late Sunday morning brunches. You’ll miss staying up to watch a movie on a Friday night without worrying about whether you just heard someone cry on the baby monitor, or frantically calculating how many hours of sleep you might get if you bite the bullet stay up another hour.
What’s my problem? Did I seriously just have these kids so that I could wish to be alone and unattached again? I need to get over myself.
I remember when my secondborn was about three weeks old, my husband and I decided to go for a walk and get some ice cream. I had her in the carrier, and my husband was pushing our older daughter in her stroller. I hadn’t slept for more than an hour at a time since the baby was born. My body was still recovering from a C-section. I was only comfortable in my maternity clothes because nothing else really fit, and the furthest journey we were willing to make as a brand-spanking-new family of four was 500 meters down the road. As we walked along the pavement, I had a terrible, horrible, selfish, unthinkable thought brewing in my head, and I was so nervous to say it out loud to my husband because I could just hear how awful it sounded. I gathered up the courage and just blurted it out.
“Do you ever miss life without kids?” I asked him.
He answered so quickly and confidently that relief flooded my heart so fast I nearly cried. Heck, given my hormonally-volatile state, I probably did cry.
I read an article shared by a friend last week about how mourning the loss of our pre-motherhood selves has a big, fat, giant “taboo” sticker on it. The article struck such a huge chord with me and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then, because that’s exactly what I’m going through right now.
Motherhood demands the impossible from you sometimes. You have to constantly give more and more and more of yourself. Just when you think that you’re spent, you’re all out, you really have nothing left, you have to search every last corner of yourself and give more.
You start to desperately crave simple things, like leaving the house on your own to do whatever the hell you want with one small handbag and no promises as to when you’ll return.
You dream of spending an entire day on your own: reading, shopping, running, singing, writing, going to a spa, driving a car, eating a meal with a knife and fork at the same time, and drinking a hot coffee as soon as it arrives at the table.
You wonder what it was like when no one physically depended on you for all of their nutritional needs. Or when you could eat or drink whatever you pleased without having to worry about how it might affect someone else.
You want to look at your hair in the mirror and think, “I need a haircut,” and then book that haircut for tomorrow without having to plan and strategize and think about pumping, naps, and feeding schedules.
You want to spend hours – hours – at a grocery store or a mall, browsing to your heart’s content without checking your watch or your phone, or wondering if you should head back just in case, even in the absence of someone immediately needing you.
You want to feel like you aren’t asking for permission or a favor when you want to leave the kids with your husband or whoever else and have some me-time. It’s funny, because it’s only you that feels that way, but that limitation you set on yourself only adds to the feeling of being stuck, and only makes that motivation to do something for yourself, and only yourself, harder to find.
The truth is, we are forever changed because of our children. We can’t switch off. I know they’ll be 25, independent, and totally self-sufficient one day, and I’ll still be wondering if they’re okay.
So I’m going to book that haircut. I’m going to go on that shopping trip. I’m going to get that massage. I’m going to read my book at that cafe (but maybe only for an hour). I’m going to chase that dream that I put on the back-burner because I thought the timing just wasn’t right. I’m going to go for a run. I’m going to take care of me, because in order to properly take care of someone else, I need to be okay, too.
I’m going to reclaim as much of myself as I can while accepting that I am not the “me” I once was, and there is nothing wrong with that. We grow, we change, we evolve. Nothing is static and things rarely go back to exactly what they used to be.
We need to be okay with admitting the hard parts, though. That new mom who feels like her world is falling apart and that she’s doing it all wrong needs you to assure her that, yes, some of this really, really sucks. It’s hard, and you’re not a bad mom for feeling that. You’re not a bad mom for wistfully thinking back to when you didn’t have kids.
You’re not a bad mom for thinking, “I miss just being me.” You’d be surprised how many of us have thought that exact same thing.
This post was originally published here.