Navel Gazing

by Mel

I have reached a point in my life where I am reevaluating everything…I mean even more than I normally do. I mentioned that this time around, my writing would be less about being a mom and more about me. The problem with that is…. being a mom is me. It is what I do…and most of what I am at this point in my life. Thing is, I have reached a time in my life where that is starting to feel very confining. I had my son when I was pretty young, so being a mom is all I have ever known in my adult life. Then I had my daughter, a little over five years later, and that role was reinforced. Not really a whole lot of time for self-exploration when you are in your second year of marriage, with a difficult 5 year old and an equally as difficult new baby, trying to work on your first home, now with a mortgage and a myriad of other grown up responsibilities.

So..what did I do? Well..I was a mother. That was me. So I threw myself into it headfirst. I made my own baby food. I used cloth diapers. I researched everything I possibly could about being the best mom I could be. And I love my kids like crazy, but being a mom has always felt like I am living someone else’s life.  Like when you are little, and play dress up, shuffling and clunking around the house in your mom’s high heels. Sure, I stumble through it, but it is awkward and difficult and far from graceful. Ok, so being a mom is definitely required of me, but it is by no means the sole way I want to define myself. I mean…I suck at it. Most days, I am barely scraping by. Thankfully, kids are pretty resilient and hardy creatures, and I have managed to keep them both healthy and alive…which is more than I can say for a lot of plants and even pets that I have owned. So I tried my hand at a few different things, trying to find my place in this world… own businesses….making jewelry…..blogging….and a mish mash of other projects and ventures (spelunking! under water basket weaving! churning my own butter!)…… with nothing really working. And with two little people needing me for something every second of the day, and many nights, as well…I didn’t really have the time or energy to devote to finding myself underneath the mom I had become.

Now my kids are getting a little older, and needing me a little less oppressively (most days anyway)…and so my mind and heart wander back to that place. That place of wondering who I am. What am I apart from a mother? And my reaching this place of questioning is met with mixed reactions. Not just from others in my life, but from myself. The guilt that lives in every mother…..hell, probably every woman…creeps in. How do I take time for myself without sacrificing something? When I spend a few hours, sitting at my computer, editing my images from sessions, should I be playing UNO or wii with the kids? (Or baking something? In an apron? When was the last time I baked a freaking cookie? Maybe vacuuming in pearls and high heels?) And when I am gone, on a Saturday, shooting a session, should I be doing something fun with the kids? Never mind anything that isn’t technically work….like making time to take my camera, and shoot and process some images for myself, and not for clients. How much time is there left to spare, to pursue the things I want to do…to become the person I want to be….without sacrificing the person that I need to be?

The load of guilt doesn’t get any lighter when I see other people’s responses to my desire to find myself. I mean, sure, they are supportive, but it is the subtext that is disturbing. When, after their words of encouragement, they feel the need to add, “Just remember there is a balance, don’t go crazy”….or “remember that your kids are not going to be young forever.”  As if I were going to, after 12 years of putting my kids first, suddenly begin locking myself in my room for hours on end, while they eat cereal for every meal, as the house gets buried in clutter and mountains of laundry. Oh wait….that is what my life looks like anyway. Kidding. About the hours locked in my room part, anyway. “There is no shame in just being a good mother. That is the toughest and most important job there is,” I am told. Of course. I will never argue that. But it should not be wrong for me to also want more. No man has ever been told that being a good father should be enough when he spoke of what he wanted to be when he grew up. So why would we tell our daughters that? I want to be a good mom to my kids as well as happy with who I am aside from being a mother. And I hope that I can set an example for my daughter so that she strives for the same. Now….I just need to figure out what the hell that means.