Fifteen years into being a mom, I've had time for a little reflection on this crazy hard job. I've learned to own and accept who I am as a mother, the good parts along with all the not so good. I've finally allowed for unavoidable trial and error, trying my best to reserve self-judgement, not be too hard on myself and continue to work at letting go of the compare and contrast to all the amazing moms around me (this has become easier the older I get). Without a doubt, the mothering role is an endlessly evolving one, I'm not the same mom I was 10, five or even two years ago. My own personal endeavors, explorations and experiences have affected my endlessly changing views on life and motherhood.
I've never wanted to be the mom who lived vicariously through their child; I've always wanted to live vicariously through ME. At times, there's been a bit of mom-guilt that has come along with this need to want more for myself. Shouldn't it be all about THEM? I've dabbled into the "selfless mom" mentality over the years and it never felt good. In fact, the more I obsessed about my mommy role, the more batty I started to feel. I lost a sense of myself, and in doing so, the kids were losing me too. Over time I realized that my own ambitions are as important to my well-being as they are to theirs. Going after my dreams (a new exciting career at 40), taking care of my health (physical and mental), maintaining my relationships (friends, family, spouse) and making space in my life (retreats, vacations, yoga) has allowed me to be a better mom, a better person and a better friend. And I'd like to think by watching me live life to the fullest, as a mom AND as Julie Dermer, I've given my kids permission to do the same when they someday find themselves in the exciting and challenging role as parent.
I can remember back to the peaceful days of nursing an infant, amazing how this little six-pounder would get bigger as I slowly got smaller. It was so symbiotic and obvious how we were changing together, giving and receiving. I want to never stop appreciating that this type of relationship is ongoing, although not physically. Now mom to a tween and a teenager, I feel myself feeding off of them! Carefully listening and watching as their intelligence, creativity and opinions open me up to a different view... daily. I try to stay attentive to it. I can be actually be swayed by their arguments, and I am inspired by their choices and decisions. Witnessing their growth continues to propel my own. I've felt this with my own mom. Recently, we nursed and said goodbye to my amazing grandmother. I found myself soaking up every move my mom made. I watched her face painful decisions, rise to the occasion continue to care for everyone in her life and love as openly as she always has. A mom evolving before my eyes, still.
As a mother, you can't help but feel the important responsibility of raising responsible, caring, independent, compassionate loving creatures who want to contribute to this world. It's a lot! I know I strive to get it right and be successful at it. But fifteen years in, I've finally realized success is different to everyone. It is utterly personal and looks and feels different to every mom. At the moment, if I spend at least 30 solid minutes a day completely engaged with each of my kids, I feel successful. There may be dishes in the sink and laundry not folded, but if I can just get eye-to-eye with each of them, the house is in order! It be on the way to school, over sushi, or snuggled in bed watching Shark Tank, wherever, whenever, I'll take it... I just try my best to make it happen. There are days I fail at this (!!!) and I realize we've texted more than spoken. The next days plans together become more of a priority, and the family trip even more of a necessity. I'm sure my idea of being a successful mom will continue to evolve, it used to be getting them down for a quick nap.
Then there are the mistakes, or are they really mistakes? Maybe just another growth opportunity in the evolution of the Ever-Evolving Mom. There have been so many times I've kicked myself, wished I'd done something differently (not sent little 8-year-old Jack to sleep-away camp for the summer) or wished I'd said it differently, (why did i drop the f-bomb?) These savvy kids have seen me make mistakes, and sometimes felt the repercussions of them, which is heart breaking for any mom. We discuss how it could have been different, and that I don't get it right all the time. They usually like to point this out for me. I do find it immensely valuable that they've seen me (us) survive these not so proud moments. We came out the other side. Often the drama is so extreme, I know they wonder if there even is another side! So maybe they weren't really mistakes, but a teachable moment. All of these experiences fortuitously brought us to right now, and today feels pretty OK. I love Arianna Huffington's new book Thrive, a quote I return to often from it: "Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor - Rumi."
I always like to bring it back to SoulCycle, where I'm an instructor. My life and the lives of the riders are most certainly ever-evolving and riding a bike is just like living life. The most memorable rides contain unexpected jumps, breathless sprints, steep hills and tight corners. The successful rider usually gives more than she thought she could and leaves feeling well worked, exhilarated, curious and excited to get back on the bike to do it all again even better!
That's life as an EVER-EVOLVING MOM!