I’m sure you’ve notice those year-end photo montages going around on Facebook this past week.
You know, the ones that generically start with, “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being part of it.” And end with the optimistic, “See you next year!”
Today, as I was scrolling through my newsfeed, I noticed that one of my friends posted one that was quite different from the rest. She had changed hers to start off with the words, “Recently all I did was have a baby. That’s depressing.” I continued through the slideshow. It started off the beginning of the year with the amazing fiber art she is well known for, narrated with, “Pre-baby: I made things.” The rest of the photos from the year were all of her little guy with captions like, “Baby,” and “More baby,” and finally just, “Meh.” Yes, she was right. The whole thing looked just like she had become a mother, but hadn’t really done anything else.
In a comment she explained her thinking behind the captions and said she had chosen the word depressing, not about the baby, but because the Facebook algorithm had only chosen photos of her baby to represent her life in 2014, forcing anything creative or non-baby related to take a back seat. She speculated that perhaps the photos had been chosen by number of likes, but in the end she was disappointed that it made it look like her life had been usurped or replaced when her little one popped onto the scene. As if her only worth now was being a mother, not a full person. And wow, if there is anything I can relate to, it is certainly that feeling.
The same thing happened to me when Wolfy was little but it wasn’t through an algorithm, it really was my whole life. Our family photo album for the year I became a mother starts with Wolfy’s birth and ends when he turns one year old. It doesn’t have any pictures of my husband and I posing as a couple and of course neither of us is ever alone in a picture doing something that we used to love. When I look back on that year, there really wasn’t much time spent in this way and even on those extremely rare occasions when we did go out for our anniversary or with friends, those sparse hours just seemed like a footnote to this other big ongoing event.
Like my Facebook friend, I also feel like my life was usurped when my little guy came onto the scene.
If you read this blog at all, you know that I feel extremely lucky to get to be Wolfy’s mother, but I also know that I’ve lost myself in the process. For example, creating, maintaining, and writing this blog is the only thing I’ve done since I became a mother that is simply for my own pleasure. And like my friend on Facebook, I used to, “make stuff,’ and it is only now, when I’m expecting another baby, that I’m finally working on a piece of fiber art – as a gift for the new little one. In fact, expecting another little baby has illustrated to me how much of myself I’ve lost. I’m currently six weeks away from my due date and scrambling to see friends I haven’t spent one-on-one time with in the past three years. I’m frantically trying to schedule blog posts far in advance and hoping to finish my taxes early because I have more than a tiny little inkling of what’s ahead and I know you might as well say goodbye to yourself that first year.
The image I associate with these young years is a big swimming pool. And I’ve jumped off into the deep end and I’m just trying to tread water. Someday that pool won’t really exist. My little boy and new baby girl will grow up. They won’t need me. Little feet won’t kick me in bed and no one will ask for my help with a 24-piece puzzle. I won’t fold someone else’s tiny laundry or cut up someone else’s food into tiny bites. And while sometimes that all becomes a little overwhelming, and treading water starts to feel more like drowning, I remember that I will actually miss all of this. A lot. Especially when some teenage boy is hiding behind the closed door of his bedroom or I’m lucky if I get a call from him on a weekly basis. I know that there is a future ahead of me when I will feel special to get a fleeting hug. And on a day in the not-so-distant-future, I will miss the feeling of burying my nose in the warm, clean smell of my boy’s neck.
You can tell me it doesn’t have to be this way or that it isn’t like this for you and I will not think you are a selfish person. Maybe you are a very sensible, healthy person. And I don’t know if my friend on Facebook would agree that this is how motherhood feels for her and either way, I think she is a great parent. Posting what she did took an enormous amount of honesty and bravery. But this is how being a mother has worked for me so far. This is the experience with motherhood that I have chosen. I am living my life in the deep end of the pool. I tell myself, “Enjoy the deep end now – there will be time for that other stuff later.”