I’d like to say I’ve thought about Mother’s Day a lot this year. I’d like to say I have gifts picked out for myself and have been lovingly cocking my head at my children, but the truth is, I’ve been extremely busy. And I very rarely get a moment to myself – really to myself – complete with a clear mind and quiet all around.
Yesterday, after a brief, but completely re-energizing few moments between myself and the charcoal grill, a realization that’s been forming for the past few months finally achieved synergy. As I sat, drinking in the warmth of the sun like starving vine, watching tendrils of white smoke curl gently towards me, then away, I realized how grateful I was, for the yard, for the sun, for my family.
Regular, run-of-the mill appreciation, no doubt. Under another circumstance, it may have been enough. Yesterday, though, the appreciation bubbled up and ran over my fingers, down my hands, and into my soul. I was grateful for myself. I didn’t fully understand this at first, though I’d been solidly (yet unknowingly) working on it for several months.
After almost thirty years of never quite being enough, not saying or doing exactly the right thing, not wearing the right clothing, laughing too loudly, and otherwise conducting my existence in an inefficient and/or ineffective manner, I completely laid off.
I don’t need to remind you about the complete loss of modesty that happens with pregnancy, when that life (or those lives) inside you dictate who you are, what you eat, if you sleep, and how you spend your days. I don’t need to remind anyone about the chaos that ensues following any birth. But it does bear a mention that people change, sometimes unrecognizably, after children enter one’s world.
After my first son was born, I was hyperfocused reclaiming ‘me’. In the short four-and-a-half months before I became pregnant with twins, I was on a mission – doing exercise DVD’s, walking, using the elliptical machine, eating only whole grains, lean protein, and produce. I was no longer me. I felt I somehow disappeared, was swallowed up, within the course of the pregnancy. And that was unacceptable.
I spent my time standing, facing the mirror, looking at myself from the side, trying to catch glimpses from the back, and trying all of my old clothing on in vain. In vain. Because my body was no longer the shape I had known. It had changed.
When I learned I was pregnant again, I felt a great, painful, heavy weight lifted off my shoulders. I could be me again, growing, and whining, and gestating. I was okay. I was pregnant. I could withdraw into my physical symptoms, poking and prodding, and questions from strangers again. I didn’t have to work on myself.
When my twins were born, in the bustle and confusion of living in a too-small house with three babies, I found I began to let up on myself a bit. I no longer stood at the mirror, straightening up, sucking it in, shifting my weight, adjusting. After back-to-back pregnancies, and twins, I was grateful any clothes fit.
And I moved on.
In the continual struggle just to get through my days, I let go things that had been of extreme importance to me (like my hair), and I didn’t mind. Angry, sidelong glares that I’d use to offend my reflection softened to quick, approving glances.
I was okay.
My preoccupation with whether my top was sticking to my rolls or what the shirt was (or wasn’t) hiding, blew away with the breeze. Lipstick became a commodity, that I’m proud to say I’ve only dug up and applied a few times.
And this phenomenon, of being kind to myself, that I’d believed was only a phase, has only gained momentum.
I don’t give myself a second look now when I leave the house. I don’t scold myself for wearing comfortable clothes over pretty ones. There’s a time and place for pretty now. I don’t scold myself for not wearing heels because they enhance my figure. I congratulate myself for having the good sense to wear practical, comfortable shoes. I don’t scold myself for sharing a cookie with my son, or banish myself to the basement to work it off. I get around with these babies. So much so, in fact, that I could probably use another cookie.
I realized that if people are going to love me, they will love me whether I’m five-foot-three or a sneaky five-foot-six, whether I’m covered in macerated Goldfish or not, whether I’m dressed up or simply dressed. Or if my hair’s not done, my eyebrows aren’t plucked, my legs aren’t shaved, or any of these other measures of a woman that have been so mercilessly pounded into us all of our lives.
After a lifetime of never quite reaching the top and repeatedly beating myself into submission, I owe this to my children. To show them they’re enough. To show them they’re beautiful. To show them they’re okay.
And that’s my Mother’s Day gift this year. From me to myself. And to them. Because they deserve it. And so do I.