Monday, October 5, 2009

The Pendulum Shifts

Until this summer, I felt as though the parts of me unrelated to my relatively new role as Mommy had gone dormant, like they had hunkered down deep somewhere inside where they could wait for the all-consuming chaos and storms--and joys--of infants and babies and toddlers learning to master the basic eating, sleeping, communicating, and pottying functions of this world to pass, or at least to settle down into a recognizable rhythm, a semblance of calm, a relative stasis.

During this time, my days were filled with sustaining life. This is no small task when it comes to two entirely dependent little people and leaves little time for the simple pleasure of productivity. All ambitions related to my own life were shelved in order to mark the hours and days and months and years of my babies as they grew like wildflowers and transformed before my eyes and accomplished astonishing feats of childhood.

Without my conscious awareness, it was, as I suppose it must be, a refining process for me, chipping away at my selfishness with every diaper to be changed and meal to be prepared; sanding away my judgments of them and me and others with the revelation of the temperaments and dispositions and personalities of my loves both because of and in spite of me; reforming my heart as I experienced the sincerest delight and fear and compassion which comes only from loving someone as deeply as I love my children; and ultimately revealing the truer shape of me, even as it seemed to bury me.

It was a time of little balance, for what does an overwhelmed newborn thrust into this bright, noisy, unfamiliar world or a frustrated toddler or a sick child know of taking turns? There is no trade-off of time--time for you and time for me--as with adults. For a little person still developing a sense of "others," everything is an immediate and essential need.

Which is why nap time is such a blessing--and necessity--for all of us: two precious hours of uninterrupted, quiet, alone time to think about something other than them.

I should say that I know this time has afforded me opportunities I would not have had were I "working" in the traditional sense of the word. I've enjoyed play dates and spin classes and farmers markets and long conversations on the phone with friends near and far. I've enjoyed the sun on my face and impromptu walks around the lake and tasty lunches at the Indian buffet in the company of the munchkins.

Life is all about trade-offs. Opportunity costs. We sacrifice one set of pleasures to enjoy a different set. We assume a new set of responsibilities while relinquishing others.

For some reason, this summer marked the advent of another season, a season wherein the kids, now more independent and self-sufficient even at the tender ages of four and two, no longer require every ounce of energy I can muster in a day (well, sometimes). I have discovered I have some energy left over for other pursuits. Like cycling. And writing. And photography. Those parts of me unrelated to my role as Mommy are venturing out into the world again--though I'm discovering that they are utterly colored and informed by the perspective of motherhood. It is as though they were cocooned for this time, and now something new, even in the old pursuits, is emerging.

It's thrilling.

But I also find myself walking an increasingly fine line as I try to balance these new endeavors and opportunities with the responsibility I believe is most important: loving the kids, playing with them on the floor, listening to their stories, responding to their requests for help.

I slide Abby's butterfly wings onto her arms in the space between the last paragraph and this.

The two hours of nap time is becoming too short. My time is leaking into their time. But the cost of their childhood is not a price I'm willing to pay, so I'm figuring out how to be more efficient, how to steal minutes that don't matter, and recognizing that a little imbalance in my favor is okay every once in a while. Sometimes, it's even a good thing.

It's novel to be on this side of the fulcrum, to have the balance swinging in my direction for once. I feel full of hope and excitement and renewed enthusiasm for all of my roles, including, or most especially, motherhood. Balance is still elusive, but this is the closest I've been in a long while. And I'm not wasting any time worrying about perfection. I'll do what I can because it is what is, and there's too much joy to be had in the nooks and crannies of our imperfect lives together.

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