Last summer, driving home from Grandma's one weekend, the boys & I stopped along the way to fill the car with gas. While they lounged in their car seats, enjoying the air-conditioned movie theater on wheels, something happened that has not occurred in many, many, MANY moons... a guy getting gas at the pump behind us asked for my phone number.
My first thought was that perhaps I had forgotten to put one of my boobs away after feeding the baby & was advertising something I didn't mean to. A quick check, and nope, the girls were tucked safely away. My second thought was that this myopic, young man with a large tattoo on his neck must be recently paroled, desperate for female company. Which was quickly followed by my third thought… wondering when exactly had I lost my self-confidence to be so completely surprised when some random guy asks for my phone number? I realized that somewhere along the line I stopped thinking of myself as someone who gets hit-on. Has motherhood totally stolen my mojo?
Over the following months I’ve looked everywhere for said mojo… for that feeling of confidence, sex-appeal, self-assured ease.
So far I can tell you where it’s not…
… in the box of broken crayons that always ends up spilled.
… nestled against the cracked nipples, saggy boobs, or nursing bra.
… in a middle of the night diaper failure blowout.
… in my new (sensible!) shoes one full size larger than pre-babies.
… on the shelf that used to be my stomach.
… in the kids lunches that need packing Every Single Day.
… among the little-plastic-toy rubble that used to be a living room.
… on the time-out bench where I occasionally have to put myself for yelling too much.
… in the sticky underbelly of the mini-van seats
… at the summit of laundry mountain.
… in the valley of dishes.
… in the crescent of the dark moons under my eyes.
I find myself envious of the women who find rapture in childbirth, nursing, crafts, cleaning, cutting crusts off sandwiches. Some women who, at first glance at least, seem to possess an endless well of selfless giving, finding sustenance for their own souls by nurturing other people. Or those elusive creatures… Moms who seem to find a balance between the “me” & “mommy&me” times. I’ve seen them around, at the park, at music class, at school drop offs. I read their blogs online, filled with fun kid times, crafty cuteness and adventures near & far… and can’t help but wonder… how the hell do they do it all and look good too? Is there some trade-off with the dark-side? Or are they just a whole hell of a lot better than me at the balancing act?
As I pulled away from the gas station that day, I felt flattered & horrified in equal measure. Flattered that even in my unkempt state (I was wearing the super-comfy shorts that I may have actually slept in the night before, hair in a messy bun because I couldn't find my hairbrush and a cute-ish tank top that by some miracle had no spit-up on it) someone I don't know, noticed me. And horrified, because hello? Mini-van, three kids, wedding ring... clearly unavailable. And, eeewww... even young, care-free, full-of-mojo me would never give my number out to strangers at the gas station.
Make no mistake, I do love exactly where I am and who I have become, but I struggle with finding a place for “just me” among my many other identities. I miss the easy freedom of my younger days… a time when I didn’t have to worry about the needs, location or bathroom status of anyone but myself. As a mother, it is sometimes hard to express this without feeling selfish or that I am being a whiner. I have no regrets about the choices I have made in my life, but find myself with a melancholic longing for youth, freedom, simplicity. I catch a glimpse of that girl from time to time, a little shy, a lot hopeful, so sure in her sense of the endless possibilities of life. I know she’s in here still, patiently waiting between school runs and swimming lessons. Showing up for a drive alone with loud music and the windows down. Or a solitary movie matinee on a random Tuesday afternoon. Or the grand prize, an evening with women who knew that girl, who have grown along with her, paths crisscrossing on their own journeys in the motherhood, careers and other worldly adventures.
I have a vague, cloudy memory of feeling this way around the time I stopped breastfeeding my second son and have to remind myself that I just* had a baby. (*Just being a relative term… 13 months flew by so fast it really does feel like it just happened.) I know that although I will probably never be one of those “all together mamas” who move with ease from kid/park/chicken nuggets to dress-up/husband/date night, I will eventually find my way back to a better balance and figure out exactly where that darn mojo is hiding.