I just came back to resurrect my blog – and found this in the drafts folder. Apparently I never got around to publishing it 5 years ago, so I’m publishing it now! More to come soon.
Just like that, summer – and my maternity leave – is almost over. I have one full week left before little guy goes to daycare, I start my eighth year of teaching, and we settle into a rhythm that we haven’t had to deal with yet. I’m not ready, but then again, I wasn’t ready for little guy to arrive in April, either, and that turned out just fine.
It will be an adjustment, but adjust we will. When school starts, I will get the inevitable question, “Did you do anything fun this summer?” In the past, my answers would have included adventurous things like a trip with girlfriends to Ireland and Scotland, backpacking in Glacier, or a last-minute vacation to Boston with the hubby. This summer, my answer is pretty tame. We went to Minnesota for a week and to South Dakota for a friend’s wedding, but mostly, I was a mom for the first time.
Which got me thinking. While I was pregnant, I heard so many things like, “Enjoy your freedom now, because those days will soon be over!” Was my freedom this summer indeed over? Well, yes, in many ways it was. I couldn’t jump in a car like I used to, and it’s a lot harder to get any work done around here. When little guy takes his one guaranteed nap every morning, I have a decision to make: Should I shower and get ready? Make myself a tasty breakfast? Do a few minutes of uninterrupted housework? or learn how to use that new vinyl machine I’ve been meaning to use all summer? (Breakfast usually wins, FYI.)
Here’s the thing: I can’t complain at all. I love being a mom. I love being married. And before that, I loved being a non-mom and non-married. The most important thing, whether you are a new parent, single with no kids, married with 3 dogs, or retired with 35 grandchildren: Just do you! I spent most of my twenties unmarried and didn’t have my first baby until I was 31. And it worked for me. And if you got married at 21 and already have 8 kids at age 31, and that works for you, great! I have found that in the world of parenting, a lot of comments get thrown around. Too many parents tell non-parents how good they have it, how much “freedom” they have. Too many single people tell married people how good they have it. Too many mothers of two tell mothers of one how much harder life will be when they have two, and too many mothers of three tell mothers of two how much harder life will be when they have three, and so on, and so on.
When I tell people how easy my baby has been, and how he sleeps through the night, I get more scoffs: “Just wait until your next one!” or “Your second one will probably be awake all night every night.” How do they know?
Here’s the thing: We all are where we all are. We don’t know all the details of other people’s backstories. What if we didn’t tell others that life is about to get worse? What if we acknowledged that every phase of life has joys and challenges alike? What if we let people be happy where they are right now?
We have a sign in our son’s bedroom that says, “You are our greatest adventure.” Previously, I might have defined adventure as going on an exciting trip to try exciting new things. Now, an adventure is taking my baby to town and scoping out a new walking path for us and the stroller. I’m sure some non-parents might roll their eyes at this definition of “adventure,” and some parents of four might roll their eyes at the idea that just one baby is an adventure – “one baby is so easy” after all, right? But really, adventure is just taking a step into the unknown – like moving away from home for the first time. Joining a college team. Getting that first job. Refusing to get a job right out of college. Having a first baby. Having a fourth baby. Adopting a baby. Traveling the world. Really, adventure is anything that scares us just a little bit – but we do it anyway. And when we find out it’s ok, after all, we deserve to be happy that we took that step.
My summer adventure of learning to be a mom, while different than my past summer adventures, has been a great one. My little guy and I won’t be spending as much time together after next week, but that will be an adventure too. And if your adventure this summer was a camping trip, good for you. If it was traveling to China, good for you. If it was adopting a puppy or moving or having a third baby or finally tackling that house remodel or buying a pop-up camper, good for you. Let’s let each other be happy and proud, wherever we are at.