Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Identity Crisis, Scratch that, I Mean Epic Change

I'm having an identity crisis. Except crisis sounds so dramatic. And my crisis is much more about laundry, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and buying school supplies, and getting big hugs from small arms when I leave in the morning. And it's not a crisis. It's just an enormous shift in every single thing I do, think and feel. See? No crisis. Just change. Because of this little face.

I'm a mom now. And it feels weird still to type that and say it out loud. And it also feels totally normal. And I can't quite wrap my head around all of it yet. I'm sure I'll get there. It's only been a little over three weeks since we met Xavier and he joined our family. But I'm still figuring out who I am now. I haven't had this kind of change in my life in years. Maybe never. Maybe there isn't a bigger change than becoming someone's parent, especially the instant parent of a nine year old. Job changes are big, moving, deaths, illness. All big. Marriage is a huge change. I became Joe's wife, but that didn't feel drastically different than living together or dating. Just more fun, more permanent, more stable, more arguments about dirty dishes, and new words to get used to. Saying "my husband" was so fun those first years, and it's still one of my favorite phrases. But the mom role, it feels different. Bigger. Earthquake level big. I'm responsible for this other small person, completely.

And I feel different. I'm unsure about myself a bit more than I used to be. I'm generally a pretty confident person. I adore my husband. I thoroughly loved our independent life before kids. I like my work so much and so much of my identity comes from the job I go to everyday. I love my hobbies and passions. But it feels different now. And I cannot say exactly what it is. I can't find the right words to describe it, it just is different. It's not just the second guessing myself about whether I'm parenting Xavier well, I'm doing my very best and I'm still constantly second guessing, but it's something deeper in my core than that.

I feel unsettled. I feel unmoored a bit. And yet it's not a bad feeling, just antsy. I feel floaty and outside of myself more often now. Looking in and wondering about how different my life and my priorities, and my sense of myself as a woman have all been adjusted so abruptly. And I think about our son all the time. And I worry more. I'm scared more. So much more. I feel judged more and nervous about other people's opinions more. My heart feels exposed. And bigger. Swelled up with pride and worry and need. There's so much more now.

And my emotions are right on the surface all of the time when I think about him, especially when I'm not with him. But when I'm with him, somehow I feel totally grounded. Totally certain this is where I'm supposed to be, and who I'm supposed to be taking care of every day. He has no idea, but while he's in taking his evening shower, I love turning off his overhead bedroom light, turning on the paper star night light that hangs over his bed, layering the blankets he likes to sleep under, turning down the sheets, and waiting to tuck him into this safe, warm, cozy space when he comes barreling out of the bathroom, still wet, still wild, and totally not sleepy yet. I like folding his little jeans and putting away his laundry. I love figuring out what music he likes and throwing it onto our Xavier playlist on Spotify. I love helping him figure out what he wants for dinner or lunch, because we don't know all the foods he likes yet. Or just snuggling on the couch when our movie night choice gets a little scary. Or watching Xavier and his dad work on Legos for an hour. This all feels right to me. It doesn't feel weird at all. I want to hug and kiss this boy all day long, or at least in the five minute increments he'll allow in the early morning and late at night.

But when I think about how epic the change is to our lives or when I'm back to doing the normal work things or social things or just life things I've always done, they don't feel the same. I'm off kilter. I'm sure that feeling will slowly go away, but it will never feel like it did before. I'll never be the same person I was before. I grieve that a little.

I guess this makes me one of those "mommy bloggers" now.  But that term can be derisive and demeaning so often, and this is important to me. I need an outlet to write and talk about the change, because it makes me feel less alone in it. Because it's weird, isn't it? Becoming a parent? It's the strangest feeling. The best feeling, and one of those experiences that you can't describe to someone else who isn't a parent yet. I used to feel slightly condescended to when my very kind and wonderful friends talked about their own experiences of becoming parents. They didn't intend to be condescending, they were just stating the facts.  Phrases like "you'll understand when you have kids" can sound flippant and patronizing. But damn it, if it isn't true. I'll try my best to not be flippant or patronizing to my friends who don't have kids, just as mine did to me. Because a life with kids or a life without kids, one isn't a superior choice or a better life over the other. Both ways can be amazing and beautiful and hard and exciting if you do it right. So I'll get there. I'm figuring it out as we go. And goodness, if being a mom isn't the best trip I've ever signed up for.