It was 6:00 p.m. My husband I sat in the nearly empty restaurant and breathed a sigh of relief. Ah! Quiet! No chasing around 4 kids, no cooking or ordering meals that no one ate, then cleaning the mess that comes with infants throwing food from high chairs and toddlers spilling their drinks. No one crawling in our laps while we ate, or calling us from the bathroom to help wiping. No one whining about stomachaches at the table only to ask for dessert five minutes later. No one asking us so many questions that we couldn’t think straight, or fighting over where to sit, or arguing over who gets the pink bowl tonight.
So, you know what my husband and I did after we ordered a drink? We talked about our kids, of course! We discussed where each child was or would be going to school, what new medical issues needed addressing, how our kids were behaving and what each one of them needed in the upcoming week. We tried to make important decisions about where we should be spending and saving our money.
Finally, about an hour into dinner, we relaxed and laughed about life and its constant chaos. Just as we were feeling that warm glow, it was time to pack it in and put 4 tired kids to bed. God forbid we stayed out too late, or enjoyed more than a drink or two, because we knew at least one kid would be up that night and that, at the very least, all of them would be ready to go at 6:00 a.m. the next morning.
I don’t have to tell you that becoming a mom is a huge adjustment. It’s a physical adjustment as your body creates, feeds, and delivers a baby. It’s an emotional adjustment as you realize the intensity of loving and caring for another human being in a way you never have before. It’s a social adjustment as you meet other parents and learn to navigate life as a parent that works outside the home or stays home with your child. It’s a financial adjustment as you not only have a whole new set of expenses, but also need to consider saving for the future.
Each adjustment comes with huge sacrifices…and huge rewards. You lose the way your body used to look, but you learn about strength you never knew you had. You feel so frustrated and overwhelmed by caring for children, but you learn about love and gratitude and putting small problems into perspective. You miss your old social life, but meet new friends and participate in new activities. You might miss an old sense of financial freedom, but become wiser about how you are spending your money and appreciate not cluttering your life with unnecessary things.
And that’s when it hit me. With all of the changes and adjustments that come with motherhood, there is one feeling that I miss the most: the carefree feeling of being independent. It’s a feeling that is actually the flipside of the feeling I cherish the most: that of being truly needed and loved by my family. I know how much of a blessing it is to have my family, and I wouldn’t trade a second of it. But there is no denying the emotional and physical exhaustion of being responsible for the well-being of young children.
I miss being able to get up and go somewhere without first figuring out childcare for 4 kids, timing naps and activities and pick-ups and drop-offs, packing diapers and clothes and backpacks and snacks. I miss being somewhere and not worrying about when I had to get back, making sure I wasn’t taking advantage of caregiver or stressing a child. I miss being out, and not having one half of my brain wondering if my kids were safe and happy without me.
Rationally I know that one day, I’ll go out to dinner with my husband, and it won’t seem like such a big deal. Our kids will be older, maybe even moved out, and we’ll go out when we want and stay as long as we want. We’ll probably still talk about our kids, but our thoughts and opinions won’t hold nearly as much weight. I’ll always worry about them, but they won’t be so intensely dependent on me anymore. It’ll be yet another stage of adjustment in being a mom.
And you know what feeling I’ll probably miss the most then? I’ll miss the constant barrage of questions, the little hands and squirmy bodies squished up against me all the time, the constant onslaught of decisions and hectic schedules. My time will be my own again, and most likely I’ll miss sharing so much of it with everyone else.
Motherhood, and all of life, is a series of adjustments.