In recent months, I have found myself rebelling. Rebelling against myself – my current self – in trying to become who I used to be before I was a Mom.
I’ve been trying to shed the last few baby pounds by working out intensely and making my diet more healthy. I found a photo of me in my early 20s – thin, tan, blonde, carefree. I’m now thicker, and back to brunette, with my natural paper-white skin, but I still see that 20s version of me as “prettier” even though she really wasn’t if you look beneath the surface.
I’ve been painting again – a hobby I have had for about 20 years, that seems to come and go with creative spurts. I’ve even had a few paying clients. I remember the times that I could paint all day without interruption. Now, I struggle to find a free hour during nap time and one painting can take me months to finish.
I’ve been going out for “me” time and dates with friends and my husband. Dates where we dress up, go to concerts, get pampered – whatever makes me feel young and free.
But the thing is, no matter how much freedom I’ve been trying to give myself to get back to the core of “me,” the truth is, I am forever changed by motherhood, both inside and out.
The moment I leave my children for date night or girls night or a painting workshop, I am thinking of them, talking about them, telling funny stories about them, scrolling through photos of them on my phone, or using them as my inspiration for a painting. They are my Facebook profile picture, and the core of my News Feed. They are inside my head and my heart and there really is no way to go back in time to the person I used to be before they made me, “Mom.”
And that’s okay. The other day, my husband was trying to take a picture of me, dressed up in a new dress, ready to go to a friend’s baby shower. I felt beautiful and healthy and young(ish). I did my hair and makeup and nails and thought about my jewelry and shoes carefully to complete the look.
But then, posing for these photos, I felt awkward and silly. To be the center of attention just wasn’t me anymore. Every day, I give and give some more to my kids, and they are my focus. My 18 month old noticed the attention on me during this little “photo shoot,” and immediately came to my feet, held onto my legs, urging me to pick her up and hold her.
Later,as I looked through the photos on my phone, I did look awkward in those pictures. Being alone and “free” of my kids, even in a picture, seemed fake. But the ones where I smiled down at my toddler were the real keepers. It made me realize, my kids don’t hold me back from being me. They have helped to shape me, strengthen me, test my patience, and make me different than the young woman I once was. They bring out my most natural smile and in many ways, they are the best accessory to the very best version of me.
I’m not going to stop giving myself time to do the things I love. But I’m going to stop striving to go backward to a time when the only person I took care of was me. The baby at my feet or the 3 year old on my hip, or the goofy hug from my 9 year old, are all part of me. They make me beautiful and make me shine the brightest. No matter the dress, the hair, the jewelry, or shoes, the best accessory is a child holding tight to your legs, refusing to let go.