Recently an anonymous poster in a mom’s group spoke of feeling lost in motherhood and craving something outside of the domestic realm through which to find and express herself. The acute need behind her words resonated with me.
I think that many parents, and especially moms, experience a kind of disconnect from themselves amidst the daily trials and tribulations of parenting. The challenges of the past year have undoubtedly amplified that feeling for countless people, and I’ve heard and read more than one person drearily anticipating “another COVID summer with the kids.”
I wonder how many of us stare into the mirror in the mornings and wonder: Who is this frazzled, exhausted person?
When my husband and I decided to have a child, we knew our lives would change. I experienced quasi-parenthood when my step-kids lived with us for four years. However, they were older (9 and 10) and independent in many things so I still had space and time to pursue my self-fulfilling passions of music and writing.
Currently, I’m lucky if I get 15 minutes to myself to play the piano, never mind compose anything. Writing happens in fits and starts, ideas jotted down on scraps of paper and promptly forgotten about, pushed to the farthest, most cobwebby corners of my too-full brain for someday when I have more time and energy. Someday, someday…
The expected shifts brought with my son’s arrival coincided with other, unexpected, transitions and challenges for our family. Even when I occasionally had time, I was too burned out to do anything with it besides veg out in front of Netflix.
I’ve definitely experienced many morning Mirror Moments, studying my expanding network of grey hairs and my tired eyes, wondering: Where did the person go who had all these dreams and goals, who got so much satisfaction out of creating and sharing? Where is she? And who on Earth is this?
Eventually, as it does, life settled into a more predictable routine. There was more breathing room and I started finding my way back to my artistic self. When my son turned four he attended an outdoor preschool. I used this time for “me” and really began to hit my creative stride again. My first journal entry of 2020 was full of artistic and personal goals that I was excited to strive toward.
And then along came COVID. We opted for distance learning for kindergarten, since we have immunocompromised family members. Homeschool, unexpected though it was, has been a good fit for us, and my son has thrived so much that we’ve decided to keep him enrolled in this option. I’m grateful for our privilege in being able to do it (and the lucky fact that I was a teacher in my previous career!).
However, it also means that the “me” time I was temporarily gifted is gone, at least for a few years until my son becomes more independent with his learning (and can be left to his own devices for more than a few minutes without fear of household disasters and traumatized pets).
But you know what? I’m OK with this.
Every season has different priorities, as well as lessons and opportunities for growth. Possibly due to the roller coaster we went through over the past five-and-a-half years, I’m learning to accept that now is not forever.
When I look in the mirror, even though I don’t immediately see her, I know that Creative Me is still in there, observing, processing, storing, and dreaming. But it’s not her time right now. At the forefront of my reflection is Mama, a strong, resourceful, empathetic, calm (usually) presence who is showing up for her son and family in the best way she can, in this here and now.
I do let Creative Me out to play every now and then. I join my son in journaling each morning, I’m learning violin alongside him, we make up silly songs together in the car, and I do different voices for every single character in my nightly read-aloud of Harry Potter. This is how she manifests right now, and I’m content with that. What I produce has changed, but it’s still an outlet.
There will inevitably come another time when our lives are different, when there are plenty of hours to spend lost in creative flow because my son is off playing with friends, or working, or going to university (gulp) in a post-COVID world. Perhaps I will look back on this season of intensely shared time and space and I will miss it. So I’m soaking it in. This Covid-summer is going to be amazing.