For a long time I swore I would never be defined by such simple words—I would be bigger, greater, more significant than just a wife, than just a mom. I wasn’t going to be thrown into that barrel with the minivans, pacifiers, and miracle swaddles. I wouldn’t have strong opinions on the importance of natural birth, breastfeeding, and attachment parenting. I wouldn't pontificate on the superiority of an Ergo vs. a Baby Bjorn. I never wanted to know what an episiotomy was or what a hooter-hider did—and why did hooters have to be hidden anyway? CIO? GTFO. Now these are all things that are part of my daily conversations.
I wake up every morning and see the three most extraordinary people in the world looking to me for sustenance: three meals a day, naps, baths, comfort, an understanding ear.
How was your day, dear?
My truth: I have no idea what I am doing.
I put on a good show. I have a pretty fabulous game face. I walk the walk, I change the diapers, I pack the husband’s lunch, I take the daughter to kindergarten, I push the son on the swings. I go through the motions. I seem like I was born to do this.
Born to do what, exactly?
When I was four, my mother left her three children to live the life she wanted, rather than the life she had. She's been in and out of my world ever since. Some days I wonder if I'm just like her; the urge to run seems to be ingrained in me. On the days where the demands can't be met, the baby won't sleep, the daughter won't cooperate—I want to grab a bag that's not filled with baby wipes and crumbs a la puffs; I want to take a bag and run.
Because honestly honest your honor? I am probably the most selfish person I know.
I have internal battles with my pre-mom and current-mom personas. I want to show off my boobs and NOT have a baby attached to them, smoke my American Spirits, go gallivanting up and down Hollywood Boulevard with the art freaks, stay up all night not because I'm tending to a puking toddler, but because life is happening and sometimes I feel like I'm missing it. Oh yeah—and I want to sleep all. day. long.
Sleep. I think I remember sleep.
It was easier before, wasn't it? I was free. I didn’t have responsibility. I wasn’t bound to three other souls. I didn't worry about teething and social development. I didn't care about impressing the other moms at preschool drop-off or concern myself with calendars and schedules. I could crack inappropriate jokes and not get that look.
Before, I wasn’t important. I didn't matter. What I did, my actions—they didn't affect anyone or anything.
"I wasn't important."
Dr. John Dewey, an American philosopher, says that the deepest urge in human nature is the desire to feel important. Despite my former formidable longing to jump over the line that everybody else seemed to walk, despite my “I’m not apathetic, I just don’t care” attitude, I always needed to feel essential—even if I was the most deplorable girl on your shit list, at least I MADE it on your shit list.
In my mind, I wasn’t supposed to live past the age of 28. There was no possible way that I could survive the depression, the addiction, the perilous lifestyle I was leading. There are parts to my story that no one knows about. Parts that I would like to erase from my memory.
Parts that I will inevitably share.
(Note to self: Experiences are non-refundable.)
Regardless of the fleeting internal desire to cut the cords that bind me to my life today, I can honestly say that throughout my short 35 years, I have been there, done that, wrote the dissertation, don’t want to do it again. That doesn’t mean that the thought doesn’t sound absolutely epic.
But THIS—this mom, wife, respectable lady thing? This is something I have never done.
I look at my children, and all I see is pure innocence. There isn’t a grain of hate, deceit, self-loathing, or spite inside of them. They are blank slates.
I am the pencil. The pen. The permanent marker helping to shade in their lines.
Sure, my daughter might be the angst-ridden teenager that I was. Chances are she’ll drink, experiment with drugs, sneak out of the house. Maybe she’ll be just as strange and unusual as I tried to be. Perhaps my son will opt to play football, and I'll proudly feign interest, or he could easily choose to be that bookworm that hangs in the library. Or they could both completely reinvent the wheel! But the choices they make—at least they will be on their terms, and I'll be right there.
I find solace in knowing that when they look at me, it won’t be as the girl I was.
It will be as the woman I am. The wife I am. The mother I am.
As it turns out, I don't need anything more.
Guest post written by Tamara Buchanan. Tamara aka mom aka ma aka mommy aka HEY! YOU WITH THE BOOBS! is a tragically un-hip mother of two, living in Los Angeles with her one husband, two children, and three cats. (Like I said—tragically un-hip.) When she is not trying to peacefully parent her children into submission, you can find her oversharing at www.junecleaverish.com.
Photo by Melissa Nelson.