I promised myself that it would never be me…that I would never become one of “those” moms. The kind of mom that I saw in the grocery store in my pre-baby days and thought, “How does someone let that happen?” The kind of mom who’s greasy hair announces she hasn’t showered for days. The kind of mom who wears yoga pants in hopes that others won’t notice they are also pyjamas. The kind of mom who has dark circles under her eyes and who looks visibility ragged. I swore I would never be the mom who left stacks of dirty dishes in the sink and piles of laundry all over the floor. I promised myself that I would be different. I was going to brush my hair and wear pants made out of something other than lycra.
For a while I thought I was keeping my promise to myself. Then I caught a glimpse of my own reflection in the grocery store window. I felt like I was looking at somebody else. The person staring back at me appeared related to me, yet did not resemble the person I thought I looked like. For the first time in years I saw myself as others did and I struggled to process how quickly my appearance had changed. I stood there frozen, staring at myself like an idiot, hoping the reflection before me would materialize into the self I remembered. But, it never did.
I was a a mess. I was still in yoga pants and a t-shirt, which were nothing more than my glorified pyjamas. The shadows under my eyes let the whole world know that I was sleep deprived. I had not showered and my hair was dirty. I’d like to say that it was pulled back in a ponytail, but that would be lying. It started out as a ponytail when I went to bed and by the time I woke up the rubber band was holding on for dear life to the half that hadn’t fallen out. I was aghast and began to cry right there on the sidewalk. I tried to pull myself together because I had to buy milk and get home. After all, I had dishes in the sink and piles of laundry on the floor waiting for me. But, it was too late. The panic had taken hold and I ran to my car.
I immediately called my husband in tears, “I’ve become one of them,” I sobbed. “When did this happen? When did I let myself go?!” I cried. His response was one of amusement and it surprised me. But what my husband said to me that day has stuck with me. He explained, “You are looking at this all wrong. You have not let yourself go. You have given yourself over.” Now I was getting annoyed, “That’s not better!” I yelled at him. “Yes it is,” he said, “And here is why. When I come home and see you in what you call a disaster state, I see a women doing everything humanly possible to put my kids first. Dark circles mean you were up all night rocking sick babies. Dishes in the sink mean you were spending time with and taking care of the kids. You not showered means you are putting everything the kids’ need above yourself. You have not let yourself go, you have simply given yourself to our family. It means you have prioritized your family over yourself.”
After he hung up the phone, I sat in my car and cried, thinking about what he’d said. Was it true? Was there really a difference between letting yourself go and giving yourself over? Or were they the same thing and he was trying to call it something else to make me feel better. The more I thought about it the more I knew my husband was right. I had given myself over. While I knew that this was not my everyday appearance, there were days and weeks when I looked like this because I didn’t have the capacity to look any other way. I did not have enough time in the day to do more for myself and still do everything that my family needed. I wondered if once I’d given myself over, could I ever get myself back? Was it a gift or was it more of loan? Could I ever be me again?
I didn’t know how I should feel. While I was happy with my life as a stay at home mom, I was unhappy about my general appearance and my inability to properly take care of myself. I did not like that I looked how I felt…a complete mess. I suddenly longed for the organized, put together me of my youth. I missed a clean house and hot meals. I missed makeup and dresses and dinner dates. I missed showers. I sat in my car thinking of all the ways I could get my old self back in my life. But, the very idea of finding the old me left me feeling anxious and conflicted. Did I really want to go back?
I realized in my car that day that every time I gave part of myself to those I loved, I found a new part of myself hidden deep within that I didn’t know existed. In giving myself away, I peeled away all the outer layers of myself and found parts of me that were raw, brave, strong and undiscovered. I liked the me I had uncovered and I liked my life. I also liked the idea that I had given a piece of myself to my kids. So I decided that I should stop searching for the part of me that was gone to the vortex of my family and instead work on the me I had become.
I am a mom. A less than perfect mom. A mom who has gladly given herself to her family. A mom who needs to shower and clean more and wear pyjamas less. A mom who is happy and loves her kids more than life itself. A mom who couldn’t be more proud to have her boys carrying around a pice of her. In giving blindly I became the mom I never thought I would or could be. A mom who is happy in her own skin and who cares more about her family than the opinions of others.
So, to all of “those” moms out there, I’m sorry. I get it now. I feel terrible that I ever judged you…judged my future self. Please forgive me. Now when I see a tired mother, disheveled and running on fumes, I see the beauty and the selflessness that goes into motherhood. I see a women who has given a piece of herself to her children. A women who has prioritized her family over herself. A women who needs a hug rather than judgment from me. I have joined your ranks and I am proud to be one of you. I am proud to be one “those” moms.
(This post originally ran on Raising Dystonia.)
About the author: Originally from the United States, Heather has spent the last 11 years in Canada. Two years ago, after a long search that yielded no answers for the cause of her boys mystery symptoms, she gave up her career to focus on getting her kids the care and treatment they needed. Since then, both of her children have been diagnosed with Dystonia, a little known neurological movement disorder that causes painful twisting and contractions of any voluntary muscle in the body. She has found her voice as an advocate for dystonia through her blog “Raising Dystonia”. www.raisingdystia.wordpress.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Facebook or on Twitter @RaisingDystonia.