I just had a conversation with a friend about her plugged milk duct. That’s right, the one in her boob. At one point, the conversation veered dangerously close to an actual competition about who’d had more plugged ducts in her breastfeeding experience, who’s was more painful and who used the best technique to work them out (feel free to cringe at that thought). I’m shaking my head as I type this, because I know it’s ridiculous. War veterans compare wounds and battle stories. Religious missionaries in foreign lands swap their experiences. But nursing moms going nose-to-nose (or should I say bosom-to-bosom?) in lactating warfare? Now, that’s something I never could have anticipated.
But the thing is, as parents–and as stay-at-home moms, at that–it’s what we know. It’s who we are. What’s unexpected is how quickly the change happens–how rapidly our identities became wrapped up in the families we create. I still feel like I’m only now getting my balance back after being knocked into this whirlwind two and a half years ago. That’s when we had our first daughter, Saoirse (it’s pronounced “SEER-sha.” Yes, I know it’s different.) Two months into my maternity leave, I added stay-at-home parent to my resume (I know, I can’t actually put that on a resume, but danged if my time management and multitasking skills haven’t skyrocketed into awesomeness since I had my girls). All of a sudden, I was wearing Converse and sweats more than stilettos and skirts. I put my gym membership on hold: no more daily kick-boxing classes for me because I spend most of my days weight-lifting car seats and diaper bags. Instead of in-depth conversations with my 10th grade students–psychoanalyzing the characters’ motives in The Lord of the Flies, say–I was listening to friends discuss the latest parenting magazine and recommending online coupon codes.
The biggest shock of all? I was wearing yoga pants. To the mall. Without having actually done yoga first. Oh, I am not proud.
I sometimes feel like I barely remember what that girl (okay, woman. I’ll admit I’m not in my 20s anymore…) was like. The one who spent so many nights and weekends grading papers and writing lesson plans. The one who’d stop by happy hour for a Guinness with friends on her way home on Fridays, or grab tickets to a concert with her husband without having to worry if I had enough breastmilk stocked in the freezer. The girl who never, ever could have anticipated being someone who laughed out loud at a joke told by a two-year-old. Someone who just happily spent an evening hanging out in the “fort” part of a backyard swingset. Someone who works like a clown for her three-month-old just to get her to do that lopsided, dimpled smile that melts my heart. That’s why I’m starting this blog. Because sometimes I feel like I need to reconcile the girl I think I am with the mom I’ve become. That even though, even as I wake up every day to two kids yakking away to themselves in their rooms and am fully aware of the blessing of being able to be at home, sometimes I’d rather poke out my eye than empty one more load of dishes, or pre-treat another load of laundry (which is currently sitting in a pile on the couch, waiting to be folded as I type this). And I worry: what will our children think of this set-up once they’ve grown? Will they be grateful to have had a parent who was home full-time? Or will they wonder why we bothered trying to raise them to be as strong, as powerful, as ambitious as men when their own mother played a traditional family role? Socrates should have tackled that one in his spare time.
And since the best way for me to work out my thoughts is to write, I’ll write. Not in crayon. Not in ColorWonder markers (those things are awesome, by the way. Right? I’d hate to see what our family room carpet would look like without them…). But here. Because I’m sure there’s someone out there who struggles with the same issues I do–all the while wielding a spatula in one hand and baby wipes in the other–while totally realizing how darned lucky she is in the first place. When I was pregnant with Saoirse (her sister is named Quinlan–we call her Quinn. Because when you name the first child Saoirse, you can’t exactly call the next one Jane.), people were always telling me that old cliche–that I’d never remember what life was like before we had kids. But those people were so wrong. You do remember what life was like before you had kids–the thing is, you just don’t understand how anything ever mattered. At least not as much as the little creatures who call you “Mom” or “Daddy” (or in Quinn’s case, “Phbhbhbagoo!”). Just remind me of this the next time I get a plugged duct.