I always knew I wanted to be a mother.
Even as young as 15 years old, I have diary entries spelling out exactly the kind of mom I wanted to be. I wanted an “arts and crafts cupboard” that my children could explore on rainy afternoons and use to create to their hearts’ content. I would stay home with them in the midst of their creative chaos, watching lovingly, writing something, anything.
Crazily enough, both of those things actually did come true, although the arts and crafts cupboard is currently stuffed so full it’s practically a landslide of half-scribbled Frozen artwork.
But looking around, at the life my husband and I have created with these little people, I also can’t help but marvel at how downright weird it is that I really haven’t known them all that long.
I mean, really, I’ve lived the majority of my life without even knowing who my children were, you know? I’ve known my oldest for just over 7 years and my youngest just shy of 1. Heck, we are virtual strangers in the grand scheme of things. And yet, when it comes right down to it, I feel like my life truly didn’t get started until I met them.
I guess part of me has been thinking this stuff over because I’m a little afraid of what my life will look like when babies, who have been the center of my world for a long time, are no longer in it.
Get it together, Chauntel (my real name), I told myself. You lived without your children before, you can do it again when they’re grown.
And I did, of course, live without them before.
But I still feel like my life didn’t really start until I had them in my life.
I can barely remember the girl I was before I had my children and frankly, I’m not sure I liked her all that much. She was a lot more ambitious than her successor, but she also lived her life to exhausting ideals of outward validation. I know she wasn’t confident in herself or believed she had any self-worth, so she filled her life with accomplishments she could check off of a list to prove herself — the volunteer hours she logged to make herself feel better, the countless hours spent being the best student, the degree that she picked to please others, all stacked up neatly on top of each other to try to reach some impossible platform leading to nowhere.
I feel for the girl, I really do, and I thank her for all that she has given me today.
But I also am not really sad to see her go, because opening my arms to my children also opened me up to a better, freer version of myself.
It’s like in going through the experience of giving birth, I was actually reborn too.
My children freed me from the version of myself that relied on other people and external “accomplishments” to have value.
I know now, that good, aching kind of bone-deep knowledge, that when it comes right down to it, none of what I can “do” freaking matters. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot I want to do, but I no longer feel like I’m on a hamster wheel, chasing down the next thing to make me feel worthy. I’ve seen what simply being is, in being present with my kids — and nothing else compares.
I know now that I can’t be anything else to anyone, including my husband or my children, without first actually liking myself. It sounds so silly, but how many of us can actually say we like ourselves? It took some time but having children, for me, has been like having one of those giant magnifying mirrors, like the ones they sometimes roll out while you’re giving birth that screamed in my face, Look! You can’t escape your own issues anymore!
So I stopped trying.
I know now that the world is not judging each other so harshly as I once thought. Prior to kids, I would go to social functions and avoid talking to people because I was sure they hated me. But now? I realize that they’re probably just as tired as I am. We’re all just doing our best to simply get through and taking the time to just be nice, heck maybe even smile at one another, can get you a long way in life.
I know now that having children is really realizing that motherhood is not about me. I really am a vessel, a stepping stone that bridges the girl I was to the woman I have become, marked forever by four people who are independent souls that will not be tethered to me for much longer.
I know now that my life, thanks to my children, will never, ever look the same.
And for that?
I am incredibly grateful.