The most common thing I hear from people who have been parents for awhile (usually with grown kids) is that kids don’t come with an instruction manual. First of all, no shit. Sorry to be blunt, but I never expected a manual to pop out of my vagina following the birth of my children. Secondly, even if there was, I’d have no time to read it. Thirdly and most importantly…
…there are manuals for kids. So many, in fact, that the amount of differing opinions could bury you in paperwork for years.
What there isn’t a manual on is how to become your new identity.
Even though I had nine months to prepare for this and years to get ready to prepare, the identity shift that occurs when your kids are born or you adopt is staggering. When I was pregnant, taking care of my future children meant taking care of me. Now…well, not so much. And, yes, I know, parents should take care of themselves, but if my Keith Urban mullet and unwanted long leg hair is any indication, I have not taken care of myself in a few weeks. The other day I had a bowl of melted mozzarella for lunch because it was the only thing we had that I could quickly make that sounded appealing.
Every life shift comes with these challenges. But parenthood isn’t the only transition that does this. It occurs when we move from childhood to adulthood…sometimes several times. It occurs if we change careers. It occurs if we change cars sometimes. (I still cry a bit at the gas pump with the new minivan.) Parenthood just happens to be the challenge I’m facing now and the one through which I am viewing the challenge of molding a new identity.
What isn’t discussed in any depth is how to transform your identity from childless individual to parent. Last week I read an awesome post about this particular transition from the Renegade Mother. I highly recommend it. Anyone with a child knows the child is worth the hassle, the heartache and the headaches. What is different is the fact that there is not a forum for discussing this transition on a regular basis. We all hide in our own transition, afraid to admit that there are times we want to run for the hills or just live one more day in our childless lives. If we make any commentary about our struggle, we fear being labeled inadequate, unloving or depressed. Maybe some of us are depressed…but anyone who doesn’t face an emotional upheaval at the thought of raising one (or two) human beings who happen to be helpless currently…well, I don’t trust that person one bit. And yes, it’s shallow to want to go to the movies just for the popcorn but dammit, I do…I just know that I’d fall asleep before the previews ended.
Identity is a funny thing. We think we create our own identities, and that’s only somewhat true. Our circumstances do most of the work. We’re lucky if we can catch up.
With every great adventure comes great change to our psyche. We learn to adapt to new surroundings just in time for them to change again. The struggle of the juggle is not just in the details of our daily lives but in finding ourselves amongst them. Maybe not everyone looks that deeply into the eyes of each challenge. I do. It’s a blessing and a curse to live life this way. To be ignorant would be easier, but it would only be partly as beautiful. Beauty comes at a cost.
We have our core selves. For example: I’ll never like getting up in the morning. Once I fall asleep, I’m still a heavy sleeper. The thought of playing Kidz Bop for my kids instead of the real songs makes me cringe. But there are the things I will change and have changed: I will place a baby in a bouncer at the door of the bathroom so I can poop in peace. I will be able to find a solo trip to Target even more enjoyable than before. And for the love of Joe Biden, I have heard myself making ridiculous voices of the cheesiest caliber just to calm a crying baby. (Of course, I have also called out from the other room to tell them that they’re okay and just to calm down…yeah, I’m mother of the year.)
I just think we should all be able to talk about this honestly and stop making everything seem like a Pampers commercial where some lady sings “Silent Night” to the parade of sleeping babies. We all know there’s no such thing as a silent night in these parts of life.
And we all know that with great change comes great responsibility.