Let me begin by saying all the things that I feel obligated to say—yes, I love my children. Yes, I love being a mom. No, I wouldn’t change my life for anything.
Now let me say all the things that are scary to put into words—no, motherhood wasn’t apart of my plan, ever. Truth is, I was 23 years old when I got pregnant with my first child. Surprised is an understatement, but when I made the decision to keep my baby, I felt ready. Three years later, I can honestly say I wasn’t ready. I was too young. I was barely out of college and only a year into my first “big girl” job. I had only just scratched the surface of finding out who I really was.
Marriage and two kids later, I felt like I had found me. I was a stay-at-home mom whose life revolved around play dates and Mom’s Night Out. I was happy—for the most part, but there was always that nagging feeling like maybe I was missing apart of myself.
When my husband offered to take our kids to his hometown for seven days, I was ecstatic. One whole week without my family. I immediately started making a list in my phone of all the things I was going to get done—finish the baby books, deep clean the house, organize the kids’ clothes. You know, a Mom to-do list.
As I waved good-bye to the minivan as it backed out of the driveway, I was antsy to get started on my list. I walked into the empty house and started picking up the toys scattered throughout. The house was quiet. Nobody needed me. I was peeing in private and suddenly it hit me. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted for the next week.
I pulled up the list I had created in my phone and hit the delete button. For the next seven days, I wasn’t going to be Mom. I was going to be Michelle.
Over the course of that week, I sang karaoke. Got too drunk. Danced on a bar. Went shopping and only brought stuff for myself. Stayed up all night. Slept all day. Spent an entire 24-hours just hanging out with my best friend and watching movies. Drove to Arkansas to see my favorite band. Read a book. Watched a documentary. Wrote. Played with a new hairstyle. Walked around my house naked. Ate raw cookie dough for dinner. Cried. Laughed until I cried.
I had the best seven days I think I’ve ever had. I talked to my kids every day. I knew what they were doing and never once questioned my husband’s ability to handle solo parenting for a week. But if I’m being brutally honest, I didn’t miss them. There is a part of me that still feels like I should have, but I didn’t. I was glad to have them home though. I was so happy to see them and how excited they were to see me and when their little arms wrapped around my neck, I smiled.
My babies were home, but I wasn’t just Mom anymore. Sure, I partied like I was a sorority girl in college again, but when my babies walked through that door, I didn’t feel like being their mother was a burden anymore. I felt ready. I felt like I had bridged the gap between who I was before I gave birth and who I was now.
I don’t know if it was a reset button that needed to be hit or rare peak into life on the other side—you know, the side where you think the grass is always greener—but I know that I found that part of myself that was missing. I can’t pinpoint exactly what that part is, but I feel different. I feel like I know who I am. Yes, I’m a mom to two kids under 4. I organize play dates, can fold laundry while simultaneously building train tracks and can accomplish dinner, bath and bedtime for both kids in 2 hours flat while my husband is traveling. But I’m also Michelle—a beer drinking, tabletop dancing, foul-mouthed twenty-something who isn’t exactly sure what she wants to be when she grows up. And you know what? It’s okay to be both.