Hindsight Parenting: Stepping Out of Motherhood and into Yourself
The Woman in Me…
When I mothered my sons, I was consumed by it. It was my job, my calling, my duty. I let everything else go. I became mired down in the details, in doing things right and doing things wrong. Their mistakes were my mistakes. Their mountains were my mountains. Their triumphs were my triumphs. Their sadness, their anger, their tragedies; all mine. I was their mother and that is all. I lost myself. Logan the singer was gone. Logan the writer hadn’t been born. Logan the academic hid her opinions and quest for knowledge. Logan the reader only showed up on a beach in the summer for 30 minutes while the boys were securely and happily playing with their step father. I didn’t even USE my own name. When I spoke it was in the third person. “Mommy will get you a drink.” “Don’t forget, mommy will pick you up at 5.” “Mommy was so proud when you hit that homerun.” The woman in me wanted…longed for SOMETHING, but I thought it was a betrayal to my sons to go out and chase “my dreams.” When I had a chance to work as a staff developer for Columbia Teacher’s College, I turned it down. I couldn’t possibly uproot my boys. When someone asked me to join the community musical and try out for a lead role, I scoffed at the idea. Too much time away from my sons. Who would make them dinner. Who would make sure they did their homework. Who would intervene when the vitriol started between them. I played it safe. I was just their mom, and that’s all they ever saw me as–their mom. As my sons grew, I began to look forward to the day where they didn’t need a mommy as much and perhaps I’d be able to become the woman that was tucked away because of and overruled by the mother in me.
Then I read the book (and watched the movie) by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County. And his words, THESE words struck me, seared me with their hot truths. “When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you’re expected to move only you don’t remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself.” You don’t remember what moves you. No one has asked. Not even yourself. These words gnawed at me, lit a fire in me, nagged me. Did I know what moved me? No one was asking, and if I waited for someone to actually wonder, I might never find out.
So I began to ask myself, and even though I was a new mom again with a little one, I wasn’t going to let that stop me from being someone else besides just mom. I knew that I couldn’t keep going the way I had. I needed to be more than just mom. However, as sure as I was about my decision to grow as a human, there was this nagging doubt and guilt that sometimes shut out Hindsight’s wisdom. Was I shortchanging my daughter by carving out a hour a day for reading and writing. Was I being selfish when she wanted to play, but I had a deadline? The battle between being “just” mom and being BOTH mom AND Logan raged on daily, hourly, minute by minute, second by second.
But the battles became even fiercer these past few months as I often had to travel to Manhattan to rehearse for a little ol’ show called Listen To Your Mother. I was truly living my dream. The show gave my writing more exposure than it has ever had. I was surrounded by humans who got me, got my need to write, appreciated me for it. The freedom feeling of driving down the Thruway away from the small town that sometimes felt like a cage toward the city that I loved was intoxicating. But each time I left, I was always tempered that I was leaving my four year old for the afternoon, for the night, for a couple of days.
On the night of the performance, as I got dressed with the cast in the dressing room, my mind was on my daughter and her day. As I applied makeup to my cheeks and eyes, I guiltily thought of my son driving to see my performance even though he had a college final exam early the next morning. As I approached the stage front and center to perform my story, I couldn’t help but think of the torture that my daughter and her dad must be going through trying to keep her four year old body quiet and still.
But then…then…when it was over…when I sat down in my chair after giving my performance, after reading my story, I looked down into the front row and locked eyes with a sobbing son. The look of pride he had for me left me breathless and I had to will myself not to burst into tears. At the end of the show, as I made my way through the theater, he grabbed me and hugged me hard and whispered, “I am so proud of you, momma. You were so great. I am so proud.” The next morning, driving home with my daughter, I asked her about what she thought about my performance. She answered as a four year old, “I liked it. You looked pretty,” and then, “Why were you up there, mommy?”
I smiled at the question and answered as truthfully as I could, “I was living my dream. I was living my dreams.”
“I’m going to live my dreams too mommy!” she exclaimed. “I’m going to be just like you.”
And just like that…the guilt, the battles, the entire war between mommy and Logan disappeared. The mom in me and the woman in me now walk side by side. Each realized their essentiality in order for me to be a whole and healthy mama and a whole and healthy human.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (cc) Katharina Jung]