cover image by saul venega
I’ve been so lost after having kids that it might be sad if it weren’t so damn funny. I never wanted children—yes, I was one of those. I suppose I felt like I had too much to do with my life, and children seemed to take you on a detour I wasn’t confident you could get back from.
I still remember how my husband and I arrived at the decision to have our first child. The discussion on my 35th birthday went a bit like this:
Hubby: You still want that dog.
Me: Yes! But you said you wouldn’t walk it. Or feed it.
Hubby: Yeah. Well, I was thinking we should have a baby instead.
Me: You won’t take care of a dog, yet you want a baby?
He somehow won me over—though looking back, I swore I had a valid point. But if I’m honest with you, that period in my life represents the last time I had any “real” clue what the hell I was doing. Ever since then, including the nine months of both pregnancies, I have been winging it, basically making it up as I go along.
I’ve always been pretty determined. I have a knack for putting my head down to concentrate. I can deep work for a long time, only taking breaks when biology or appetite demands. But the skills that have led me to various moments of success in my past, don’t particularly translate into great parenting. Parenting requires an insane amount of flexibility. You need to be able to think on your feet without the benefit of research. There’s no time to google and then read the various reviews on how best to handle a meltdown in the middle of a shopping center. And strategies involving reason and logic seem only to exacerbate the problem. I’ve discovered that so much of great parenting* is about just being in the actual moment. And then developing the mental agility to be pulled out of that moment and thrust into another. And another.
Because much of my existence these past seven years has been dictated by my children’s needs, I now feel lost as I try to identify the person looking back in the mirror. There are three permanent lines on my forehead that weren’t there the last time I truly looked at myself. The well-defined curls that used to characterize my hair have obtained a liberal amount of frizz. And that’s just my physical appearance.
While I have gained more self-confidence, I’m less decisive. I have learned to love with a vulnerability I never knew existed, but have been told my honesty can be somewhat off-putting.
It’s been intimidating finding myself. But it’s also been exciting. I’ve learned that life is not the either/or proposition I subscribed to in my younger years. The urgency to form an opinion has been replaced with the importance of listening and the wisdom gained through silence.
Parenthood is a detour of no return. And one of its most beautiful gifts is the joy of finding yourself, again.
*Great parenting is accepting your occasional lapses in good judgment, common sense, and sanity and still making the effort to show up when it matters.