Being a parent is HARD. You know this, I know this, everyone knows this. We’ve all heard about the sleepless nights for parents of newborns, the difficulties of finding one’s parenting style (trying to protect your child without becoming a helicopter-parent), the tantrums, the sick days, the anxiety of raising an entire person.
But one thing that isn’t spoken about enough, in my opinion, is the loss of time. When you become a parent, you change the entire content of your household, your life.
When we get married, or even move in with someone, we enter into a contract with that person. An agreement to make adjustments to our own way of living in order to accommodate the other. This could be as simple as changing how we load the dishwasher, or as complicated as changing our style of communication. We make certain sacrifices to shift our way of living to make room for the new partner and their way of living, and they do the same. In a good relationship, those sacrifices are balanced and fair, and both partners are glad to do it in order to reap the joys of the new relationship.
The same goes for parenting. Except you multiply everything by about a thousand. Or million. Or billion.
For me, at least, my entire center of gravity shifted. My main purpose in life was now to be a mother. A GOOD mother.
I didn’t necessarily lose who I was, but who I was shifted. Dramatically. I was a mom first, and everything else second.
This, obviously, put a strain on my marriage. I was a wife, yes, but a mom first. Both my husband and I had to chart new territories. And even though we had been partners for about 15 years before becoming parents, it felt like we were starting from scratch in a lot of ways.
Five years into parenthood and I think we’ve found a better balance, but it was something that we had to learn to do. Something we had to prioritize, otherwise it never would have happened.
But that (my marriage) was just one aspect of myself that I needed to re-discover. I’m still working on the rest.
Pre-mommyhood, I was a writer, a dancer/performer, a softball player, etc. Post-mommyhood, I barely have time to make it to a single softball game during the week, and when I do, it feels like I’m risking all the hard work I’ve put into my relationship and into being a good mother. Dancing and performing? I have tried to do one performance a year, a single-night show with as few rehearsals as possible. I love it, and although I long to perform in an actual show (which usually has a 6-week rehearsal period followed by a 6-week run), I know that is still very far off.
Writing? Well, I’m happy to report that this year I’ve finally managed to squeeze it back in. I picked up a novel that I had started writing before getting pregnant, trying to ignore the last “date modified” entry, which was more than 5 years prior. The first several attempts at “writing” were spent re-reading what I had already created (what felt like) a lifetime ago. Then, I took a deep breath, and started typing.
The wheels that I had feared were rusted from years of disuse slowly but steadily started to turn, and the more I wrote, the faster they spun. I hadn’t lost my ability to tell a story. I hadn’t lost this part of myself. I had just put it in a box for a while, and when I dusted it off and re-opened it, it was still there. I usually only manage to write a few hours a month. But… I’m writing again.
I tell myself that when my daughter is old enough to have her own hobbies, I will have more time for my own again. But in the meantime, I’m going to steal whatever few moments I can. I’ll squeeze in a date three times a month with my husband. I’ll go to weekly softball games in Spring and Summer. I’ll do that one dance show in winter. And I’ll take that 20 minutes at lunch, that 40 minutes on the weekend, that 30 mins after my daughter falls asleep to sit at my computer and write.
Because part of being a good parent is being true to yourself. And this is part of who I am.