Before I became a stay-at-home mom (who is never actually home), I was living in another state. During the week I was working for an interior designer, spending my late afternoons and evenings cooking, baking, and creating, or I would meet groups of friends for happy hour. I would spend lazy evenings spooning on the couch with my husband, clear up dinner and dishes, and still have time for a little writing before we turned in for the night. Saturday mornings found me at my second job — childcare at a local gym — a job I held for seven years and loved every minute I was there. The rest of the weekend we’d see our families and friends, go to parties, we’d meet people for brunch … we were active and social and productive.
Then the company my husband was working for took a turn, and he was one of the first to abandon ship. In the space of a few months, we went from considering a job switch to quitting all three of our jobs, packing up, and moving across the country. We left our life behind and settled into the suburbs in another state — in another culture. Because we had agreed (well before marriage) that should one of our careers move us out of our state, that person needed to be making enough money that the other didn’t need to find a job before the first box was unpacked. If you can swing this — I highly recommend it; knowing that we had sufficient income to allow me time to find the grocery store before I found a job took a lot of the stress out of the most stressful thing I’d ever done.
Before we knew it, I was pregnant. On top of which, I was on bed rest for the majority of my pregnancy. No job for me. And because we had no laptop — very little writing and very little connection with the outside world. I was practically a shut-in. My husband left every morning after making sure that I would be all right for the day, and he came home and ate his dinner on a tv tray by the bed. It was quiet and peaceful, but if I hadn’t known it was temporary I might have gone mad.
Now, our son is a toddler. I know other moms, and a few not-moms, and I go out … to mommy-and-me classes. To the park. To the Children’s Discovery Museum. I go to lunch at restaurants with kids’ menus and high chairs. I couldn’t tell you where to go for a good happy hour. I didn’t have time to figure it out before “happy hour” became synonymous with “bath time.” I do more laundry than projects. I did laundry before but nothing like the unending cycle of wash, dry, fold that takes up my days now. I spend more time cleaning now than ever before. I often find myself, at the end of the day, so exhausted that writing more than five words feels like an exercise in futility and I should just lay my head down for a minute … not the way to get a novel written, my friend.
Do not misunderstand: I cherish every moment with my son. He was a long time coming (I joke that we had to move across the country to get him), and he is everything. I strive every day to be the most present and loving mama I can.
But … and this is more to do with the abrupt move and the bed rest than with motherhood — I had no transition time. I had no maternity leave from my old life — the babymoon where you find new routine within your old routine. My old routine was back in a place full of haunts and not even remotely applicable to my life in this place. So I try to find the pieces of that old routine and fit it into my new routine. A retrofit to make my new house feel like I’ve lived in it forever.
The most tangible step was finding a yoga class with friends.
I stand in the dim room, at the top of my mat, breathing into Mountain Pose. I inhale and think about all of the places in my soul where I find holes. I exhale and let go of my resentment. Inale and recognize that MamaEmily is where my roots are now. Exhale: MamaEmily is the foundation for growth. Plant my feet, plant my roots. Reach up and grow. Recognize that change propels us into the unknown, and miracles happen there.
As I breathe I feel like the waxing moon: beautiful in my own right, but you know that the shadows will shrink and in a matter of time I will be full and round and whole. I have set my intention, I will reclaim the parts of myself that went missing. I will show my son that you are allowed to have many interests. That, in fact, you are encouraged to have many interests. He will be raised by a mother who is fully present with him because she is feeding her own soul.
Then I relax, and breathe into my beauty.