I thought that, as soon as someone handed me a newborn, I would magically transform into everything my child would ever need and more.
Standing in the kitchen, praying for naptime as my son asks me to fix a truck, get him juice, and let him mix the cake, all simultaneously, I realized that my reality looks somewhat different from my vision.
Based on the vast knowledge I obtained from books, television, and movies, I naturally assumed that I would meet the love of my life in college. We would marry soon after and settle down in our historic, two-story home. We would have several kids and Golden Retrievers. The dappled light would play across the hardwood floors, as the sound of my kids and the dogs playing together echoed through the house.
Dating in college led me to precisely one on-again-off-again relationship that never had a label, and I graduated eager to start a new chapter. The new chapter led to dead-end jobs with long commutes, a strange six-month stint in Boston, a move back in with my parents and watching my friends settle down, start grad school, and move on with their lives.
The books lied to me.
Contrary to all the young adult-novels I read, I met my husband at 25, started a post-grad school career that I hated, and finally (or so it felt to the girl who thought she’d have this all locked down by 24) got married, went to grad school again, started yet another career (luckily, this one seems to have stuck), obtained a Miniature Australian Shepherd, bought a house, and had some kids. It looked and felt different than the vision, but I still waited for the healthy dose of Magic Mommy Dust to coat me with perfection.
No Magic Mommy Dust
My newborn son looked exactly like I thought he would. I couldn’t have described what I expected, but I can tell you, he’s it.
The boy slept. He nursed like a champ. He loved me best of all.
And then I went back to work.
Screeech. Put on those breaks. Work? Where’s my stay-at-home-mom-baking-cookies-and-frolicking-in-my sunshiny-house-with-the-Golden Retrievers-life?
That life? It doesn’t exist.
Instead, I fell right into the pattern of other exhausted moms, pumping all day at work. I hurried home to see my kiddo with a mix of guilt that I hadn’t done my job well and wouldn’t do any better with my second shift, either. Reality almost crushed me.
That Magic Mommy Dust I expected to pour all over me must have expired by the time I had my son at 31.
It had downright disappeared by the time I had my daughter at 34.
Not a Drop-Everything Mommy
I envisioned myself dropping anything, anything at all, to sit and play with my kids.
That vision looked pretty, as pretty as the vision I had of myself with half-a-dozen kids until I realized that half-a-dozen kids would probably do me in.
Maybe it’s the lingering effects of being an only child. Maybe it’s my ongoing desire to do more, more, more (I’m working on it). But I don’t only crave time to myself, I need it to function. For some reason, I didn’t see that coming.
I have made adjustments to my vision in my actual life (or “for real life,” as my son likes to say). I pull my son on my lap and let him sit with me while I write or edit photos. I pop my daughter in the carrier and take her for a walk so Mommy can get some exercise. I let my kids peek into my identity as Sarah, rather than only letting them see me as Mommy.
Real Life Mom
When I stop and think about the picture in my head, I realize I left out something crucial: me.
I didn’t just expect to learn how to mom perfectly. I expected to become an entirely different person. But my kids don’t need a different person. They need me.
The picture looks different, but I still have hardwood floors that sparkle in the dappled light as my son stomps across the floor in his cowboy boots shouting about Monster Trucks and Hulk Smash, my daughter runs around the house yelling, “USSSSHHHH” and grabs every brush in the house to use on her baby dolls, and the tiny dog can’t help but get right in the mix, hoping someone will drop a Cheerio.
The reality looks 1,000 times better than any vision I ever had. Better yet, I get to live the reality, rather than only daydream.