In the years after my three children were born, I lost myself. Slowly and then all at once, the parts of me that I had always held sacred began to slip away.
We aren’t supposed to talk about this loss though, are we? Mothers are to be blissed out in Motherhood, sacrificing all willingly in order to serve our brethren. And, I am blissed out, sometimes. I am grateful to be a mother to the best children on the planet. However, underneath the love and gratitude, aside the constant stream of needs of my three children and husband, and beneath the expectations of what a modern-day mother should be, I was losing myself piece-by-piece. Losing myself so slowly that I did not realize it until the woman that I once was inside was completely gone.
A few years ago I found myself inside a deep depression and was lost for hours each day inside the darkness of contemplation of my life. I realized that I had slowly let go of all of my friendships, so shamed to spend any time away from my children to maintain any semblance of even a solid acquaintanceship with anyone other than those whose circles intersected with my children’s school or other activities. I had stopped writing a decade before and the words that used to spill out of my fingers without heed were now stoppered up somewhere out of my reach. Every moment of my day was about my children, my husband, my patients in my work as a nurse. I was lost inside the rote and rusty movements of service of others, in a pattern so familiar that I no longer had to think much about anything. I felt much like an empty vessel and did not know how to fill myself up again.
At the same time that I was realizing how deeply I was immersed in a sadness and emptiness beyond my own help, a co-worker noted my writing in a presentation that I had given. She asked if I wrote professionally. I had not written more than a professional document in more than ten years. The poetry, short stories and essays that used to spill from my hands unto the page had stopped so long ago that I no longer considered writing to be one of my strengths- my strengths now were all tied up into helping others in a non-creative way. That simple question, however, made me wonder if the words—the words that I used to string together that brought me untold joy—were still somewhere deep inside.
I began to write again, the words rusty and unwieldy at first but slowly coming out of my fingers again like the constant, easy stream that I once remembered. I found myself again on the page. I found that the more I wrote, the freer I felt—unburdened, lighter. I was redeemed slowly, letter-by-letter. With this newfound freedom, I found myself reconnecting with others and burgeoning friendships abounded in my writer’s group and with those that reached out after reading my published work.
My greatest worry—that I would be less of a mother if I spent time away from my children doing things that I love but that did not involve them—were greatly unfounded. On the contrary, I now connect with my children in a more authentic way then ever. I now communicate with them as myself, not the shell of a woman intent on martyrdom of motherhood.
I’m certainly not saying that writing regularly has made motherhood or life simpler in any way. In fact, it is another item that I must find a way to cram into my already frantic schedule. It has not made life perfect in anyway. My children sometimes grumble about me typing away desperately on my computer instead of spending those minutes with them. They also know that Mommy has a passion for writing, a passion for something outside of them.
I am whole again. I no longer feel empty and void of any purpose outside of my work as a nurse and my work as a mother. I am more that any one title that society has slapped on me. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a nurse. I am a writer. I am so many more things than just these labels.
In my actions—in the late night tapping of my keyboard that lulls them to sleep after I have tucked them in, in following my heart, my passions and my dreams—I am reminding myself with each keystroke of who I am and am, hopefully, inspiring my children to live their lives as who they are not as the one dimensional being that society may expect them to be if they choose to be parents themselves. I will always be Mommy first—always. However, I choose be everything else that I am too. I choose to be me.