Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Losing Myself

I woke up in the middle of the night with the toddler's arms around my neck, her cheek pressed right up against mine and one leg flung across my chest - while I was nursing the baby who was pinching me at the same time.

I used to think the idea that mothering is 24/7 was a little bit overdone, a gripe for people who needed to legitimize their role as mother as "the hardest job in the world." I mean, of course we are on call for our kids at all times, but sleep does exist (even if it is in small doses) and there are those moments of quiet knitting and netflix with my husband and even the odd evening out of the house here and there. I get to grocery shop alone. It's not that intense, right? The thing is, back when I brushed off the idea of mothering as a 24/7 occupation, I had a lot less patience for the interruptions. The constant neediness. The plans gone awry and the devastation of the whole family coming down with a virus.

The past week has been non stop. Even as I write that, I feel the need to amend it. The past month, then? Year? The past 13 years? I think I may have caught my breath at some point a year or so ago but I'm not altogether sure...but no matter. I'm making peace with the intensity. When I expect to be on call 24/7, irritation doesn't arise as readily when that call actually comes. When I wake up to a toddler who has once again snuck out of her bed and into mine, my knee jerk reaction isn't to feel touched out anymore. When I come to expect to be needed and held onto at all times, I become a gentler Mama. I untangle myself from her grasp and carry her back to bed but I'm not upset at the interruption. This is just how this goes.

There is nothing to complain about when you expect to be poured out. It is only when your expectations aren't met that you get that creeping feeling of dissatisfaction. Sometimes I think we are so worried not to paint motherhood as drudgery that we do a huge disservice and swing wildly the other way, assuring young mothers to be that they won't lose themselves in the process - and when they inevitably do, pave the way to more disillusionment and discontent.

The miracle of it all is just this - that in losing yourself, your need to be in control, your need to know the outcomes, your desire to hold on to some pre-child version of yourself who was able to pick and choose exactly when and where to serve others (or not) - you gain so much more than you could ever imagine possible. Holding back and sealing off parts of yourself will only lead to atrophy. Why not give it all you've got? What are these gifts for if not giving away?

I may not get uninterrupted sleep now or in the foreseeable future, but I am adored beyond reason by these precious little ones. The gift of their lives entwining with mine is something that I will never regret and always treasure for as long as I live. Not because it went according to my plans, or was on my terms. But because by being completely opened to it, I received more than I could have ever asked for.

The best thing I ever did was lose myself. And every day I'll do it again and again and again.

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