I followed up our NYC trip with what has felt like so much alone time this past week, or my own time I should say. It’s funny how motherhood changes your perspective, how you used to never notice something like a solo car ride or a night out as anything unusual, and now I’m realizing it’s been something like two years since I have been on my own on a regular basis. Which is fine really. It’s what I signed up for, and I know these years are so quick. But as fast as these months have flown by, sometimes I think back to a time when I wasn’t “mama” or a time when I hung out with friends and talked about something other than Jude, and it seems like a million years ago. It’s easy to lose yourself in this motherhood life.
So two or three little events in the past week, on the heels of a weekend away, have felt both strange and wonderful. Last Wednesday I went out for a dinner and a catch-up chat with two friends who have known me since before the Jude days and are sort of unlikely matches for me in terms of friendship, but we get along so well nonetheless. We haven’t all three hung out in about two years, and it was a night when we got lost in conversation and forgot to eat what was in front of us because we couldn’t stop talking. One when you realize the restaurant is closing and it’s time to go and you’ve been sitting there for three hours even though it felt like only one. And after the compulsive can we not let it be so long before we meet again comments and tight hugs, I drove home feeling a part of me resurface that tends to get lost sometimes. And I hate saying things like that last sentence because I feel like saying I miss some things about my pre-child life implies that I don’t like this role, and that’s not the case. But I’m learning that balance is important. I’m learning that little things – a solo car ride with the music loud, a long dinner where you talk books and music and wanderlust, using a toddler’s naptime to call a friend instead of clean – these little things aren’t reasons for guilt but they’re my livelihood sometimes. Being Katie and not just mom is hard, but I can’t be authentic in this role without remembering who I am.
I love my son. But I love lots of other things and people, too.
I followed up a good dinner with a short road trip to visit with some college girlfriends. Jude stayed home with Scott, and for the first time in a long time, I left him without guilt or anxiousness or instructions of any kind. Things have changed with these girls no doubt, and we are not the same people we were when we met at eighteen. But then again we are. When we linger over dinner or lounge at the pool as we did this weekend, we see past the baby belly or the impending due date or the toddler at home, and sometimes, if only for a second, it is just the same as all the other times we gossiped poolside or absorbed silence in that comfortable friendship way that is so hard to find. New friends are fun, but old friends have their place in a way that is priceless now that I am a mother.
I know we want to have a family of more than three, and I know I want Jude to have a sibling, but I can totally see how, if you wait too long between babies, it’s tempting to not go down that road again. Because when I think back to the length of my pregnancy, plus the process of birth itself, plus the breastfeeding, plus everything else that goes along with caring for an infant, it seems like such a monumental process. Not seems like one, it is one, I guess. And I love him with all of me, of course, but these months are intense, and it’s really a challenge to hang on to parts of yourself, I think.
This is a boring, babbling, pictureless post when I am writing for myself and I forget that I even have readers to share with, and I am not even quite sure where I am going with all of this except to say that being me feels good, and I think I need to create more time for that in my life. Little things go a long way, and I always can take twenty minutes or so to do something that reminds me who I really am. Aside from mom, aside from wife, aside from all of these things that are so significant and so rewarding, but so likely to swallow you whole.
I’ve been reading some Mary Oliver lately, and she has a pretty famous passage from her poem “Wild Geese” which you’ve probably heard quoted before. She says, “You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.” I think as mothers, as women, maybe just as people, we tend to walk on our knees through a desert, so to speak, if that is what it takes to get a task done or to convince ourselves that we are living like we are supposed to. Sometimes just loving what I love – no matter how seemingly big or small that thing is – is enough though. It’s more than enough actually, it necessary and it’s the foundation of real happiness and fulfillment.