Once Upon A Time I was re-born as a mother.
But Once Upon A Time - before that - I was a woman with a history of her own. Now my stories seem to begin with my firstborn’s birth story, or maybe the story of my complicated pregnancy with him.
I realized the other day that I don’t talk about my history with my friends. These days, I mostly spend time with moms of kids around Bean’s age, and we mostly talk about funny things the kids did, or how to handle various parenting challenges, or what is coming up that we want to do together (and usually with the kids).
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as I have no time to dwell. Certainly I have no time to live in the past while an almost 3-year-old is racing through the living room, asking “why??” constantly and my almost 4-month-old is insisting I shake a toy over him lest he take back his sweet smile and unleash his baby wrath. Motherhood has hardly allowed me to think about or address my needs of today; I lose track of how long it has been since I showered (though I can tell you how long it has been since the baby’s diaper was changed), I sit nursing on the couch holding an empty water bottle (it was empty last time I nursed, too…but I forgot to refill it, or even to drink water between feedings!).
I am busy remembering to take care of my most basic needs in addition to two other people's – and taking quiet where I can get it.
In talking to a friend the other day (a “mom friend” who did not know me pre-kids), I started thinking how little of our lives beyond kids my friends and I have shared with each other. Again, I think this is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. At first, I thought maybe it was unfortunate – that these friendships must lack intimacy or depth. But then again, these friends have seen me – and my children – in some difficult, awkward, and emotional situations!
So I guess I don’t expect my current “mom friends" – even those I consider my very close friends - to know my pre-kid history. I certainly have pre-kid friends for those situations that require advice with longer perspective.
But there is a bit of a duality then, isn’t there? In a sense, I was completely re-born as a mother; I have new friends, new social expectations, new responsibilities, new body image, etc. I view myself very differently than I did three years ago – looking at pictures it seems like it was decades ago. Perhaps lifetime ago! But I am also still that work hard/play hard college student, that teenager lugging baggage literally and figuratively, the newlywed who lights up upon seeing her husband unexpectedly.
I am still that person, but not in many people’s eyes – including my children’s. And the people I really think about knowing my personal history (or not) are my kids. What will I tell them, and when?
How about you, fellow parents? Do you feel this push and pull of identities, roles, expectations, and perceptions of you? Do you try to reconcile them, or do you just let yourself fall into those different patterns with different people in your life? What about when your parental role meets other parts of your life and “worlds collide?” (Like, perhaps, your children meeting an old friend who sure could tell some stories about you!)