“Worth it.” It’s one of my favorite mantras. One that I whisper to myself as I justify pulling the trigger on a shiny new pair of shoes. Or egging my friends on when they debate eating their healthy, packed lunch or going out for a splurge. I say it half jokingly, and half-serious—because even though I probably don’t need that last glass of bubbles, I certainly feel like a million bucks (and hence am “worth it” at the time) to soak up some pampering, though I pay the price in a high-roller hangover the next morning.
The truth is we all need—and deserve—a little indulgence here or there to help us get through the drudgery. But sadly, if you’re a mom, those moments of “me time” are few and far between.
I do my best to pull it together: look presentable, accessorize, prioritize, but most often it feels like each day is a whirling mass of semi-organized chaos. Get up. Get dressed. Feed kids. Fill out forms. Pack lunch. Track down hats, gloves, mittens, boots. Go to work. Hop on train. Pick up 1. Hop in car. Pick up 2. Back home. Homework. Make dinner. Eat. Bath. Brush teeth. Tuck in. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
The daily grind is a far cry from the bump ‘n’ grind of life before kids. I think about all the “stuff” I used to buy. All the time I used to have. All the friends I used to see. All the dates we used to make. And try to cobble together bits and pieces of those aspects of life that made me whole.
I have to admit: sometimes the constant struggle to balance it all gets to me. I lose it. When the dervishes are whirling, and the eyes are rolling, and the shoes are stomping, and the bickering turns into full-on brawls, I don’t hesitate to play the tried and true parent card. Given my shoe selection, they most likely wouldn’t buy the “walking barefoot for miles to school” shtick that my mom and dad used on us, but the whole lecture about sacrifice and gratitude…please. “Everything we do is for YOU.” (Queue up Bryan Adams…)
To say it’s being dramatic is simply inaccurate. Every word of the speech is true…but it can also feel like the reverse is true. As a parent, does prioritizing yourself always come last?
One night I was sitting on the couch and I’d just hit a wall. I was done. Dishes in the sink. Laundry in the basket. To-do list left untouched from the day before. From the distance, I could hear the wild elephants approaching.
“Keep it down guys! It’s too loud for the neighbors!” Ugh. “FML.”
The stomping got louder.
“WHAT?” in my mind, I was readying my response, preparing to pull from the repertoire of phrases uttered infinitely throughout the day. “You’re 8, he’s 3. Give it back; we don’t take other people’s things. If you don’t share, you both are going to lose it. Because I said so, that’s why…”
“We have a surprise for you!” An outburst of giggles. Hands behind their backs. Grinning from ear to ear. Before I could even respond, they threw their hands open. “It’s you, mommy!”
In the midst of playing, they made a little LEGO figure of me.
“Look she has blue pants just like you! Blue is your favorite color, right mommy? And see, she has a big bracelet and long hair that’s in a ponytail. She even has a white purse, mommy. That’s YOU!”
Their uncanny attention to accessory details aside(!), I thought “Wow…that’s me”… and I’m also a chair when the little one climbs into my lap. And a measuring stick for the biggie to compare himself to. And a hand holder. And a boo boo blower. And a pasta maker. And a chocolate sharer. And a “fancy shoe” wearer.
They watch. They pay attention. They know your likes and dislikes. They shape you. And they are walking, breathing little pieces of you.
No one’s identity is fixed. And your sense of meaning inevitably changes as you move from one stage in life to the next. Motherhood is not ALL of me. But it is a huge, indelible part. Though sometimes I miss the freedom, simplicity, and yes, even selfishness of those early days, in an instant, I’m reminded why my broken nails, bloodshot eyes, chipped plates, crayon on walls, never-enough-time-for-anything existence is completely and undeniably “worth it.”