You probably don’t recognize me these days. You know…without my pretty face on, without my wedding dress, without that “fool-in-love” look in my eyes. Believe me, I miss her too. I haven’t forgotten the way you looked at her, and that’s what makes this hard.
So much has changed. So much time has gone by. Now, there’s less quiet. There’s less candlelit dinners, fizzy wine, and late nights re-falling in love, talking about the beautiful house we’ll live in and the children we’ll have running around.
Today, those children are real. They’re here, in our beautiful house. I can hear our toddler’s feet pitter-pattering in the dining room as he chases his pullback cars, and another son is pressing his feet against the inside of my growing belly. I’m even at home, full-time, caring for them and watching them grow while you’re climbing the ladder at work, just like we’d hoped.
We used to stay up so late, imagining these days we’re living in now. Can you believe it? We’re here. Our dreams came true.
So…why is this so hard?
You don’t have to say anything. I know you’re wondering…
Who am I lately?
I’ve wondered this too, for so long, and I’ve been trying to find the time, and the words, to explain how I–your bride, your forever love–have changed. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but…
Here’s what I know:
You see, I’m lonely. I talk to a tiny human all day–for at least 5 days a week, 10 or so hours a day, inside these same 4 walls. Half the time, the talking consists of animal noises, and I miss having an adult conversation. Sure, I have a few friends and my mom friends online, whom I do adore, but all we talk about are rashes, wonky sleep schedules, teething, and poop. And sure, I can get out of the house any time I want really, but 90 percent of the time, it isn’t even worth the effort it takes with a toddler in tow…and soon I’ll have 2 children to change, clothe, feed, pack for, and wrestle into car seats just to make a trip to Walmart, a place I already dread. And for what? Usually laundry detergent or one more avocado or a loaf of bread. Not worth it. Plus, the real struggle is once I get there.
Let the child run wild?
Pick your adventure. They’re all exhausting.
I swear some days I’d give my right arm just to be able to drop in to my parent’s house and get some grandma and grandpa relief time, just so I can breathe for a bit. But I don’t have that luxury, living across the country from home, so yes, that’s why I Skype every day. That’s why some days are harder than others to keep my sanity. Some days, just understand that I am lonely.
It’s also like…I got a promotion with no pay. Don’t get me wrong: I cherish the fact that I get to be a stay-at-home mom and raise our children and witness all their “firsts,” and I would still give up my career for the time being to do this job, the full-time mom job. But just remember: I don’t get a bonus check, or an ego-boosting review, or even a pat on the back when I make it through the day without having to call 9-1-1 or clean crayon off the walls. I take the supermom job, I work overtime all the time, but my efforts often go unrecognized, and I must create my own gratification.
Of course, the reward is when our baby takes his first steps, or he says “Hot” for the first time, or he solves his first puzzle without my help. Those rewards fill my heart and remind me that I’m not always failing at this, but even those rewards aren’t always enough to feel truly rewarded. As a stay-at-home mom, these shining moments elevate us until we turn our heads and see that the dog peed on the play mat again. Then, we go from the supermom to the janitor. And when we’re on our hands and knees scrubbing up the mess, we’ve come back down from that “high,” and we’re back on the ground again. So just please, understand that I don’t always feel like I’m doing a great job, and though you tell me I am, sometimes it’s hard to believe it. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough.
Plus, I don’t have enough hands. Seriously…I have to pick my battles in order to survive, and I only have two hands to conquer with. I apologize that the house is often the aftermath of a toddler tornado, but I can’t always find the time to pick things up on those days I take on an extra freelance project and our child decides to go on a nap strike. And yes, sometimes I choose to not wash my hair and wear the same clothes for the third day in a row because a shower seems inferior to reading The Wheels on the Bus 10 times in a row and throwing in a third load of laundry before the stains and smells set in. This is my new reality.
If I were badass human octopus, I’d fold laundry with pumps on, I’d have shiny spotless floors and a pan of lasagna in the oven, I’d have a well-rested and happily entertained child, and I’d look like a supermodel while doing it all. But that’s not possible, so I have to make do with just two–tiny but mighty hands.
And with just two hands, all of me is tired and bored and checked out by 5 pm. I know I ask you when you’re coming home at 3 o’clock most days (sometimes 9 am if the day’s extra delightful), but I hope you know that’s because my mind and my body can only take so much arts and crafts and dirty diapers and Sesame Street in a day. I do love to color and dance and sing and count and collect rocks and eat fake fruit with our child, of course, but doing it every day can get boring, believe it or not. And I can only be so creative for so long; sometimes I just run out of ideas to keep things fresh and new and fun around here, so I have to settle for a little bit more Elmo in a day than I’d normally like and that sucks and that’s boring. But I can’t possibly be a 24-hour circus. This acrobat needs a break.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I get a little antsy when the countdown to you coming home is winding down to merely minutes. I’ll admit that I mentally check out by at least 5 pm, on a good day. I think it’s natural, and I’m sure working parents like you are ready to punch out well before the day is done too. Just know that even though I got to sit and fingerpaint while listening to Pump Up the Jam Pandora all day, that doesn’t mean I’m not drained when you walk in the door.
And I’m sorry: I’m not always smiley. With all these things considered, I have a hard time putting a smile on at the end of days that are monotonous, or disastrous, or infuriating, or exhausting, but I’m trying to work on that. In fact, there are a lot of days that are good. There are a lot of days that I rock at this stay-at-home mom thing, and the house doesn’t burn down. I just may not always be smiley, and that’s usually because a mother’s mind never shuts off, even if she says her shift is done for the day. I’m probably already thinking about what to prepare for lunch the next day or how I’m going to adjust the nap schedule this week. But none of this means I’m not happy. I may not always run to you with a kiss and a hug when you get home, but I hope you know that inside I’m rejoicing. Whether the day was positively wonderful or a total shitshow, there’s nothing more beautiful than watching our child rush to greet you at the door. Some days I may follow behind him; some days I may just watch from afar because I’m spent. But just know that inside, I’m happy that you’re home, and really, it just boils down to the fact that…
I miss you. We used to both get home from work and put our feet up. We used to whip up whatever for dinner whenever we wanted. We used to get dressed up and go places. We used to get out of town for the weekend because we could. We used to gush over each other and stay up until it was light out. We used to replay the details of our wedding day and relive our honeymoon by paging through photo albums and looking at souvenirs.
But lately, I can tell you don’t recognize me. I don’t look like the girl with her feet in the sand or the veil in her hair. Frankly, I don’t feel like her most days because I’ve changed.
You see, now I’m a mother. I am responsible for lives that are not my own, and it’s the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done with my life besides marrying you. Motherhood has brought out a side of me that neither of us has ever seen, so I just ask that you bear with me. I am my worst and my best self right now. But her…that girl, that blushing bride, that pretty smile across the bar, that carefree soul, she’s not lost; she’s still somewhere. I’m still her, just not all the time.
My eyes have more bags.
My hair is more frazzled.
My clothes are stained, saggy, and sometimes smelly.
The house is a sty.
My smile may be fleeting.
But I am happy.
I’m just changed. I’m finding that this is just a part of motherhood, of parenthood. I’m still figuring it out as I go, but this is who I am lately.
And my love, you may not always see it, but I still look at you like a fool in love. How could I not? You made me who I am lately.
You made me “Mom.”