The other day, my youngest child announced that he did not think we needed the bath toys anymore, "y'know, Mummy, they are like for babies and I'm a big kid now."
He's right, he is. He is six, no longer a baby who needs baths, but rather a big kid who prefers showers. I would love to write that my heart was broken because I was ending an era of my life of bathtub bubbles and wet cuddles. I would love to write that I longed for just one more child to fulfill a gaping hole since my baby was no longer a baby. But, alas, I felt none of those things.
What did I feel? Initially, I reveled in the fact that I no longer had to clean the darn toys or move the basket when I mopped the bathroom. One less thing on my interminable chore list. I promise I'm not a cold hearted lady, honest. I love being a mother, it is the best work I've done yet, I do find fulfillment in it, and it has saved me from myself. But, its hard. Its thankless at times. Its monotonous. Its draining.
Let me back up a bit. I've wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. When I was nine years old, my mother brought me to a wedding in Las Vegas and I insisted on taking my doll because I could not possibly leave her behind. Knowing my mother was not going to win that battle, she begrudingly loaded my doll stroller, baby bag, and car seat carrier into our tiny car for the road trip. I carried that doll everywhere, through the casinos, on the Las Vegas strip, and to the fancy restaurant we went to. Ladies chain smoking at the slot machines smiled at me, obese old mobsters winked at me at the Black Jack tables. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always "a mom first, then whatever makes me happy." Yes, I was cheeky and precoscious. My point is: I've loved motherhood, really and truly but I've also loved regaining my sense of self as my children grow.
I have an 11, 10 and 6 year old and none of them want my help anymore. At first, I sulked and sauntered around the house misplaced. But then, I began to write more, read more, and squeeze in some more time for myself. I found that although I was indeed the same person, my interests, my passions, my person morphed, just like the size of my kids' feet. As they grew, so did my zest for change, learning, expanding myself.
Does this make me a selfish mom? This is the question I had as I stood over my trash can when I dumped the bath toys in. Was I any less of a mother because I loved watching my kids grow rather than drown in nostalgia for little footprints? Did I resemble Mommy Dearest chucking out the moldy bathtub mementos? Of course it does not. The pressure in our culture to be a super parent is a force to be reckoned with. I used to strive to fulfill that unattainable ideal, but realized it was slowly killing me inside. In the effort to reach a ridiculous expectation, I beat myself up about every tantrum, every tear, every battle I did not win, every battle I did. I lost myself to mothering.
Throwing those bath toys away reminded me, just as I support my children's growth, I need to support my own. As they tower above me, I need to stay tall in my worth as a woman, not just as a mother. Yes, Mummy is a huge part of my identity, but there is more to me, too. As my kids grow, I'm growing, too. Like I'm encouraging their development, I'm trying to eek out my own. I want my kids to understand my life did not end when I had them, but rather, it began. Their zest for life, courage in adversity, and constant drive and determination have inspired me to do things not only for them, but for myself. It's okay to want these stages to progress, it's okay to not drown in nostalgia, and it's okay to throw away the bath toys without tears.