A few weeks ago, both of my kids went on a winter wonderland trip with my in-laws, which allowed me to head out into the world on my own. I was stroller-free, diaper-bag-free and squeezy-pouch-free for a couple days and it felt pretty liberating, I must say.
I had a strange epiphany of sorts, though, because Heaven forbid I just take it easy for a day or two.
It was chilly on one of those kid-free afternoons as I headed home from the pharmacy. I was wearing my skinny jeans, knee-high boots, tunic top, flannel, a scarf and a slouchy knit hat. With my messenger bag slung across my back, I took a deep breath of winter air and thought, I feel like me.
Now, initially, there's nothing wrong with feeling like myself. Obviously.
On a superficial level, it could've just been the clothes I was wearing, which weren't caked in snot and yogurt and whatever my kids had smeared all over their little bodies. It could've just been the fact I was somewhere outside of my apartment by myself. It could've been the ice-blended, whipped-cream-drenched, quasi-coffee goodness I was slurping.
But it was more than that. It was the solitude and my attitude in that moment. I felt like me, but... I realized I still struggle to identify myself as a mom.
I've been a parent for over two and a half years now, and I still don't identify as a mom. I mean, I know I'm a mom. I have the stretch marks, sippy cups and sleep-addled brain to prove it. But I don't quite feel like me in this new mom skin yet.
There are, of course, moments when I feel like a mom. When my daughter curls up with me on the couch in the morning to drink her milk and watch Sesame Street. When my son grabs my hand and pulls me into the other room to throw a ball with him. When both kids are yelling at me that they're hungry, or when they say, "Love you!" as I kiss them good night.
I feel like a mom in those moments and many others.
But as I walked along the sidewalk in my Pacific Northwest attire, something clicked in me that hadn't clicked in a long time: The absence of my children's presence reminded me of who I am at my core. I can't explain it. It wasn't that I was doing or saying anything extraordinary; it was just a simple, fleeting moment in time when I felt like myself. My old self.
I felt a bit guilty, as though I was cheating on my kids by letting go of my maternal ways for a bit. I felt conflicted as the mom version of me and the non-mom version of me fought in my head and heart. I felt like I was breaking some sort of parental law because I'm a mom -- shouldn't I feel that way all the time? Is there something wrong with me?
I'm not sure when I'll begin to feel like a mom all the time. Maybe I never will. Maybe it's supposed to be that way. Perhaps if all I did was identify as a mom, I'd lose who I am deep down in my soul. Maybe it's a good thing that I can still slip back into those old feelings, nuances and skinny jeans and feel like that pre-kid part of me hasn't died after all.
I don't have any answers to my questions. The whole experience just left me quietly musing, wondering, thinking... like I used to do before I became a mom.