What Happened to my Soul?
While I readily identify with being a Mother (I usually have a small person skipping around me asking me for stuff, and behaviour like that is generally frowned upon unless you belong to/emerged from someone) I don’t feel as confident about being a ‘person’ as I used to. My children have my heart, but I’m not sure what happened to my soul.
I don’t know what to say when asked what I do or what I like: ‘My interests revolve around encouraging my children to watch Masha and the Bear so I can eat lunch, and finding the line between the super fun nom-nom-nom-I-eat-you-up game and potentially encouraging cannibalism’ (my daughter has been spotted sidling up to other children with an open mouth and a glint in her eye).
I also spend my time waiting for them to fall asleep and asking my husband awkward questions like ‘if there was a plane crash, would you rather we both died? Or just me?’ He loves that shit.
My expectations for this period of my life were different. I anticipated fulfillment, like, loads of it. I imagined I would practically float I’d be so damn fulfilled.
How could there be anything more meaningful than raising children?
There are parts of it that are stunning – watching my son put gumboots on his sister’s feet, the feeling of little arms wrapped around my neck and the way they hug me so tight.
Those things make my heart race like it will burst with love.
Motherhood is complex.
Nighttime arrives, and with sleeping children, my own weariness sets in. I don’t get the rush of productivity or creativity that I want, instead I get a blanket and a cup of tea. Which is alright, but still mildly unsettling.
I don’t daydream about exotic locations. My idea of perfection now is eating a sandwich in bed with Dirty Dancing and no interruptions. Where is the soul in that? Or the alcohol? (I’m kidding, of course there is often alcohol).
I try to absorb my children’s world: I read Thomas the Tank Engine books and develop elaborate actions for I’m a Little Teapot, but the Fat Controller is an asshole and I was starting to develop a crush on that guy from Play School. You know the one I mean. (Yes, you do).
My family and I went to look at a house we were interested in buying. It was meant to be just a drive-by, a glance. The house was clearly empty though and a bit of anarchy pulsed in my blood. ‘Lets go look!’ I said. The latch to the backyard gate was too high for me, so I called my husband over to open it. He refused.
Why? Because ‘Mothers don’t trespass!’
I was devastated. The tiny bit of myself that I wanted to pull into the present, the person who totally would have trespassed and probably even waved to the neighbours as she did so; that person wasn’t part of this world anymore.
This was when I realised what I was missing.
I had been waiting for someone to give me permission to be myself again.
I was waiting for the ‘proper’ mothering bits to be done so that I could be a bit closer to who I used to be. I had to remember the bits of myself that made me, me. They weren’t activities that I did, or places I went, they were characteristics. I’d abandoned adventure because adventuring with babies is hard, and I’d abandoned laughter because I was very, very tired.
I watched my children, these ratbags/cherubs who taught me how to mother would undoubtedly help me expand that definition. They did, I found myself in them. I saw their focus and their passion – things they’d inherited from me.
I watched my daughter spend an afternoon with a stick she’d decided was a horse (but still named ‘Sticky’ because she’s three) and remembered the hours I’d spent myself as a child pretending to ride around on a tree branch.
I saw my son chatting to his toys, his voice dropped to a whisper as I drew closer; he’s telling secrets and I am not invited to this particular game. These two small people I get to call mine, they led me back through my own memory to the girl I’d forgotten about in my hurry to grow up and look like I had my shit together (which, hilariously, I completely failed to do).
I can’t find the beauty in every part of raising my children, but I can find the soul. I can find the moments to be myself, to dance around the house instead of washing up, to go shopping in costume and to giggle with my son as we hide Daddy’s shoes.
I hide around the corner from my kids as they clatter down the hallway, feeling the same anxiousness and delight I felt as a 5 year old. Wanting the surprise to work, but with an added element of hoping no-one literally wees on themselves. I jump out and ROAR! They stumble back and dissolve into laughter, doing that wriggly thing kids do when they’re excited. Later, I take them for a walk, girl up on my back and boy holding my hand as we make our way through the long grass.
Mothers don’t trespass, my ass.
I still don’t have a great answer when asked what I do: ‘My interests include carbs at nighttime, mild anarchy and scaring the crap out of my children.’ But, it has soul in it.
(This article first appeared in its original form on Playing With Fireworks)