I first noticed it when I was group texting with a few of my college friends that live nearby:
“I’m so excited you guys can come over tonight! We can throw something together for dinner and have a few drinky-poos!”
“That sounds great, but did you just say ‘drinky-poos’? You seriously need some adult time!”
This message from my loveably honest friend hit me like a building block to the forehead. It had finally happened. I don’t know when it began, but my cool had been entirely overcome by (insert scary music) MOMMYDUM (GASP!).
“Holy moly, you’re right!” I admitted to my friend. “You see? I just did it again! Who says ‘holy moly’? Shit”. I always swore I would stay cool no matter how old I got or how my life changed. I had watched as friends and relatives around me lost traits of themselves that were then replaced with obscure, unfamiliar acts. The popular drug dealer who lived across the street from me in college began posting professional portraits on Facebook of himself and his girlfriend wearing matching shirts! The people around me on a daily basis discussed the latest PTA meeting instead of where they were going out that weekend. When I tried to change the Laurie Berkner CD while riding in my friend’s car (with no children present), she made me wait until the song was over! I observed in curious panic as my surroundings and the people in them transformed.
At this moment, you are no doubt picturing an episode of The Walking Dead: Cool, fresh, hip people becoming twisted, gnarled shells of themselves when they start a family, then infecting everyone around them. This may be a good time to throw in a disclaimer. Please do not mistake the stories I tell and the pictures I paint to mean that I am not grateful for all that I have. I planned on being a wife and mother, and I knew it would be a life, game, and perception changer. I love my life dearly and find great joy in reading bedtime stories to the kids (and sometimes my husband who falls asleep first), knowing all of the words to the Frozen soundtrack (and singing them in harmony with my daughter), and sharing ordinary, everyday experiences with them in a way that makes them not so ordinary.
Are we good? Everyone settled down? OK, great- now that I’ve stated the obvious, we can get back to the reality of it all: I love my life, but where and how can I fit in the real me? The familiar “me” with whom I am comfortable, happy, and relaxed spending time? The one who, at the very least, does not say “poo” as a suffix?
I’ve previously mentioned my theory on adult life: In short, we all have multiple pieces on a proverbial game board that we are required to play, and The Self is the piece that is most likely to get benched. All of the pieces that we play for the various motivations and excuses that we give are loud, demanding, and domineering while our “Self” pieces wait patiently until we can tend to them again. This is dangerous, for due to the necessity of the other roles we play, Mother and Wife being at the forefront, it is very easy, common, and sometimes seemingly expected of us by society to retire this piece all together.
What does it mean if I don’t want to retire this piece and forget about her? Am I selfish for keeping tabs on my Self? Many from the “Mad Men” generation (a.k.a. The Stone Age) would argue that by recognizing and taking time for our own, personal well beings, we are skewing our priorities and selfishly putting ourselves ahead of being mothers and wives. From the trenches that smell of dirty laundry and sour milk where I sit bedecked in poop, tears, crusty banana, and toilet bowl cleaner, I say to these dinosaurs, “Kindly shove that shit into the Diaper Genie.” My priorities are straight, and it is the failure to put The Self on the list of priorities that is skewed.
That being said, there is no denying that our lives are changing. It is an inevitable and not entirely terrible truth. If I still drank like I did ten years ago, my life expectancy would be much shorter. If I kept my sleep schedule from even five years ago, I would be a zombie with an ulcer from my excessive need for copious amounts of coffee and Five Hour Energy to get through the day (has that crap been banned yet? Seriously, it can’t be good for the body!). If I hadn’t decided to change, I would not have grown wiser and more experienced (and increasingly humble, clearly!) with each new phase of life. There are worse experiences than having more fun than my children at Disney on Ice, getting excited when a new Team Umi Zumi records on the DVR, or realizing that baby talk has taken over my typical jargon… I think.
However, there is no shame in finding a way to fit your Self into your present day life. My Self has done a lot for me over the years. My man and I met, fell in love, got married, and lived in our first house together over the course of eight years of just our Selves. If being a good wife is a priority, it helps immensely to have a good marriage. To keep a good marriage (even to sustain one, for that matter), it is just as important to foster who the two of you were as a couple in the easy years by putting time and effort into your Selves as it is to complete typical “wifely” duties (There is that dinosaur talking again!) like laundry and keeping the house and everyone’s schedules in order.
The actions I take as a wife and mother are to ensure the safety, well being, and happiness of my family and those around me. I’m happy when I see that I have made the ones I love happy. This does not change the fact that I must tend to my other roles. All of my pieces must have time on the board for the game to run smoothly. There is a balance that must be decided in order to prevent fatigue and to ensure that all pieces remain relevant and “in shape” for their tasks.
Never forget that you are the glue that holds your life together. Take pride in your “mommydum” and all of the pieces on your board, but do what you must to make sure your Self gets some playing time. “Happy wife, happy life,” “When mommy is happy, life isn’t crappy”. No matter what you portray on Facebook, your life can’t be picture perfect until your best self is in the picture. Now, go rinse out last night’s wine glass in the sink and pour a nice-sized drinky-poo. All of your pieces will thank you.