"Remember, you're still you."
That was the parenting advice I heard given to a mother-to-be last week.
"You're still you."
I loved it. It was perfect. I wished someone had told it to me when I was a new mom. Because in the early days of being a parent, it's easy to forget. And in the not-so-early days of being a parent, it's easy to forget.
Eight years ago when I came home from the hospital with my brand-spanking-new son, I did not remember, "You're still you."
In the time you could say, "Push! Push! One more big push!" I became someone else. I became somebody's mother and life was different. There was the lack of sleep. And lack of showering. There was the new way I ate my meals while standing up. There was the new baby who did not always act -- shocker! -- like a bundle of joy. There was having almost no time for myself but having too much time by myself. There was even my new vocation: all-you-can-eat milk buffet. And, sure, every buffet is all-you-can-eat but you get the point.
My old life and I were a Taylor Swift song. We were never, ever, ever getting back together. I'd go to the bank to deposit a check and by the time I bobbed my way to the front of the line with my son tucked into the Baby Bjorn, I'd forget why I was there. I would go to dinner with friends and struggle to say something interesting and non-baby related. I'd once been a movie buff but watched the Oscars and fell asleep before the award for Best Picture was given out. (OK, I don't blame myself for that one. How hard is it to find a decent host for a show watched by a gazillion people?)
Weeks passed. Months passed. I'm really sorry to say this but years passed. And then, one day and two kids more, I felt like myself again.
But here's the catch: feeling like myself again didn't mean that I was the same person I was before I had kids. I was not. I had changed. Just like I changed when I started high school and college and the day I discovered tweezing my eyebrows. Because we're all constantly changing. And, when we become parents we change a whole hell of a lot. As Taylor Swift once sang, you can't step into the same river twice. (Are you sure she didn't sing that? Well, she should. Those would be great breakup lyrics.)
And even though I've changed since becoming a mother, I feel like myself once again. But better. I'm more patient. I'm calmer. I'm less selfish. I appreciate the little things more. A lot more.
One of the happiest moments I can remember was because of the little things. It was spring, and I was taking my three kids to Dairy Queen. On the drive, I turned up the volume on the radio and sang along. (It was not a Taylor Swift song but don't you wish -- for continuity -- that it had been?)
"I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow."
I sang loud. I sang as loud as I could.
"I love you more today than yesterday. But darling not as much as tomorrow." And as I was driving in my -- yep -- minivan, I thought about how true the lyrics were when it came to my children.
I was so happy on that drive. The weather was beautiful. And so were my kids. And so was life.
Then, two of my three kids started begging me to stop singing. And the only reason my third didn't is because he was a baby and didn't yet talk. "Stop singing! Stop! Stop singing, Mommy!"
It turned out that they too were just being themselves.