I look at the clock. 6:50am. The baby's voice is coming through the monitor, whining but not urgent. I figure she is ok to hang out in her crib for another 3 minutes. I close my eyes and roll back over.
7:03. The voice over the monitor is cooing. I open my eyes, take in the sun while I stare at the ceiling and make a battle plan for the day. You can do this, I encourage myself. Fighting gravity, I force my torso up and swing my legs over the side of the bed. Putting weight on my feet, I amble, bleary-eyed, down the stairs to the baby's room. She is on her tummy, almost in a crawling position. When she hears the door creak open, her head bounces up and a big smile forms between her rosy cheeks. I wonder if there is any better way to be greeted first thing in the morning?
We head downstairs to the family room where I nurse her. I push some buttons on my phone, simultaneously checking my email and browsing my favorite website. What a spoiled contemporary mom I am. The few minutes that I am feeding my daughter are the calmest moments of my day.
After the last burp, I head to the kitchen to start Chores. While the baby observes from a purple Bumbo seat, I unload the dish washer methodically, taking out items by cabinet category: cups, coffee mugs, plates, bowls, spoons and silverware. Interspersed between grabbing some pans and putting away cutting boards, I fill the 3 year old's cup with juice so that it's ready for when she wakes up. I know as soon as she bounds down the stairs, a drink will be the first thing she asks for. Better to think a head than be taken off guard.
As I continue to multi-task, I grab the 3 year old's cereal out of the pantry, and put oatmeal into a bowl for the baby. I look at the clock. 7:35. 3 year old will be up any minute, and I turn my attention to the dishes in the sink. After quickly rinsing off remaining food scraps, the dishes are placed in the dishwasher for safe keeping. As I am bent grabbing the door to the dishwasher, I notice splotches of...stuff...on the counter. And I take a mental note to clean them after breakfast.
I hear the 3 year old jumping out of bed, and I take that chance to survey the dining room. I notice dried yogurt leftover from the 3 year old's
A voice in the back of my head nags me. Why bother cleaning that up when in 5 minutes she is only going to messily eat from her
Why am I doing this? I ask myself.
And I'm not sure.
As I scrub the crusted drops, I know I bother for the same reason I monotonously go through the same motions of cleaning spills, folding laundry, running errands, wiping tears, putting dinner on the table, changing diapers and stumbling in the dark at 2am to a crying child.
It gives me purpose.
Like some mommy Sisyphus, these daily exercises are my Boulder. Day after day, I roll them, toil over them, struggle to make them move. Will my daughter notice the clean table? Probably not. Will anyone ever see the clothes that are folded in the drawers? I doubt it.
But it defines me.
And everything screams in me that I am more than Chores. More than this.
I notice it most when I am around non-parent friends. Amidst the din and chatter of work happenings and social scene stories, someone will inevitably turn their attention to me. There is a pause, and I can see in their eyes they are attempting to form a question worth asking. After wracking their brain for discussion fodder, they realize they are not sure what to ask me. Like I am some strange animal or non-native speaking foreign visitor. What do I ask her? they wonder. What meals she's cooked recently? How many diapers she's changed today?
I want to save them the despair. I want them to know there is so much more to me than my Boulder of Motherhood. I have dreams! I want to shout. I have desires! I have thoughts, opinions, ideas and beliefs. Just ask me! I am more than the way I spend my day. I am more than a caretaker and diaper changer. I am an activist. A philosopher. A teacher. An explorer. A writer. A rock-star wannabe.
But, inevitably, after an uncomfortable silence, they will ask about the kids, and I will share some story of my latest parenting mishap. And after polite conversation, they will move on to the next guest. And I can't help but believe the lies forming in my head that any other guest would be more interesting to talk to than me. A mom.
I feel so small sometimes.
While I may not want to be pegged as simply a Mom, while I do not want it to solely define me, it is an undeniable part of who I am. For years I've resisted embracing the aspects of motherhood as my new identity. I did not want to simply relinquish my old life, my former joys and desires and hopes and dreams. I did not want to trade sharp suits and brand-name clothes for frumpy house frock and unkempt hair. I did not want to lose my Voice as a woman, as a person.
Yet, I have the privilege of waking up every day to 2 smiling faces, snuggling with 2 warm little bodies, and the frightening responsibility of shaping these girls into the women who they will become. I get to hear every giggle, watch every step, and relish every moment of their small lives.
And that is what makes moving this Boulder worth it.
So, yes. I may not go to an office every day or attend Happy Hour. Some days I may not even speak to another adult. But I believe in the ability to be a mom and simultaneously be exciting, interesting and relevant. There does not have to be one instead of the other. I can be all-encompassing and complicated. I have confidence that my dreams and desires have substance. My ideas and opinions have weight. My emotions have meaning.
And as I head back to the kitchen to wipe the...stuff...off the counter while my little ones eat their breakfast, I know my life has purpose.