Moms are People Too

I’m ironically streaming one of comedian Ally Wong’s Netflix specials while writing this. It’s a hidden and well-cultivated talent—multitasking and all. Moms—if you know you know. So, Ally, who is pregnant in this special, starts off talking about returning to the workforce in her chosen profession of stand-up comedy. Of course, even her fellow comics are thrown off course by this woman coming back to a field that appears isn’t always welcoming to working moms with babies at home. But Ally’s explanation to her colleagues is true for a lot of us. After being at home with her infant day and night—with the sleep deprivation, lack of regular showers and meals, you know, the total, laser focus on a small human who commands your every move, Ally said she loved her baby girl more than anything in the whole world. But if she didn’t return to work, she might throw her daughter in the garbage. Before CPS Karens go nuts, Ms. Wong was joking, ok?

Eight weeks of the stay-at-home mom life turned out to be not as ideal as Ally Wong was told it would be. “A job,” she says. “A wack-a** job.” I’m laughing. Because I get it.

I’m way on the other end of those heady new days of mom life, and gratefully so. And while I squeal when colleagues show us their babies on Zoom meetings, and feel my “quickly expiring eggs in their about to retire ovaries” make some weird quivers when I watch baby videos on Tik Tok, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to square one with the motherhood/babyhood days. I think this also means that I’m going to dig the grandma life eventually.

“Grandma: All of the hype, none of the responsibility.” Sounds good to me!

While I have found all the stages my kids have gone through to have had beautiful merits in each one, motherhood has demanded something extraordinarily great of me. Aside from the devotion, anxiety, and the willingness to die for my offspring, it demanded I put the Essence of Wilo in storage for a bit.

I think all you moms can relate. Who was this woman that got this man to pledge his life to her because she was singularly sharp, funny, well-read, compassionate, quirky, interesting, beautiful, spiritual, and fascinating, only to pop a baby in her and have all that wonderfulness compete for surface time for the next 18+ years? For all you chicks like me hovering closer to the empty nest drop zone, the idea that there is this person inside firing up her jets for a quickly approaching take-off is exciting. It’s deserved. It’s time.

Why? Because our kids seem to care not that we existed as human beings with dreams, passions, ideas, goals, daredevil spirits outside of our roles as mothers. Because, and some of these precious souls have had the cojones to remind us of this, they know more than us what motherhood means. They know what a mother is supposed to do. And like many a middle-aged mom (or younger or older), you might have been informed that you’ve missed the mark on several occasions.

If you are in the thick of it in those days of toddlerhood, preschoolhood, elementaryhood—all the hoods—I know you are up to your eyeballs. Especially if you are also juggling a paying gig in or outside of the home (and well, a lot of us have that juggle going in the house right now). I know you were also this great girl that did very cool things—who had a bucket list of places to travel to, or art to develop, maybe political interest, or activism in college or grad school. All of those things are still very much burning inside of you, but you—like all moms—have had to reprioritize. And its sucks at times. But it’s totally fine because your kids are the #1 priority—as they should be. But while you have all this great stuff about you and who you are and what you still have to offer this big world, those fluffy-headed munchkin goofball children are completely and blissfully oblivious.

Then come the teen/college years. Now I’ve seen this go both ways at this stage in life. At some point, your kids see you and your “things” as kind of cool. While they are teens and their need for you becomes less all-consuming, thus allowing you to delve into reclaiming some parts of yourself, they will indulge you, support you even. As long as you don’t embarrass them in any way shape or form (like blogging or podcasting, for example), you can continue with your cute new hobbies. Then there is the other side where your almost grown children want nothing to do with this story of who their mother was and what she is still becoming. They want you to stay in your lane, which must never veer into their lanes, while supposedly welcoming them when they try to swerve into your lane, a lane that is none of their dang business.

Moms, we are so much more than the uteruses that brought our offspring forth, or the bodies that fed them and fret over them still. We still have these sides of us that have lain dormant for years that deserve to awaken. We still have growing of our own to do. New things to discover, new accomplishments to add, new ways of thinking and being.

My daughter, at the age of 6, asked me if I’d be dead when she went to college. I was 30. When she did go to college, I was 43 and very much not dead. She’ll graduate next year, and my son will be off this fall as a college freshman. So, what does that mean? At the age of 46, I still have 20 years (as I project it) for my day job and all this other time for whatever the heck I want. And that will be an ever-evolving pursuit.

My point in all this is that ladies, I know the raising of our babies puts a lot of things in a different order than we might have wanted. But advocate for yourself to be true to yourself. Does that make sense? Along the journey of raising your families, you’ll find spaces to tap into the part of you that has nothing to do with who you are as a spouse, parent, friend, or daughter. Give an ear to those things and cultivate what they are saying. And if you get pushback, take the sage advice my mother-in-law gave me on what to do when your kids are being total, ungrateful pills (at any age): ignore them!

We were once these very cool people. Newsflash: we still are.

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

A Motherhood Tale

For Women’s History Month, I’m devoting all my posts to things for women, about women, and spotlighting women. As motherhood is a unique experience commonly associated with womanhood and one that certainly defines a lot of things for anyone identifying as female, I thought I’d start here.

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I was never one of those people that considered being childless by choice—except for that one phase in college when I was pretty sure I should be a nun, and I’m not Catholic. I’d always seen my life as pretty standard—married, children, job. In high school, (you know because 30 seems elderly when you are 16) I had this idea that I should marry at 20 and have a baby by 23 so I could be a young and cool mom. Funny how things turn out.

When I did not have a serious boyfriend to accomplish lofty goals with by age 21, the aforementioned plan was laid aside to die. Many would argue that marrying young and committing to that life is a lot to ask of a young woman who could be doing so many other things, but that was really what I wanted. I’ve never been one to want a field of boyfriends; my easily wounded (and slow to heal) heart just wanted it’s one person—my lobster (thank you Phoebe Buffay).

But life has a funny way of taking our best laid plans and turning them upside down while God chuckles on the side. So short story—met husband at 21. Engaged at 22. Married at 23. Mother at 24. Second child at 27. Mortgage at 28. The end.  Well clearly not the end, but as you can see, things went some kind of way and yet I wouldn’t change a thing, even if my 20s were entirely spent in a state of being overwhelmed and shell shocked.

I remember watching this show about babies and giving birth on TLC (before its content got all gypsy weddings, sister wives, and Duggars). It was about six weeks after our late November wedding; I was new to the area and sending out resumés. Instead of watching the show and wondering “if,” the idea was framed with a solid “when.” I thought we had a good three to four years before such things, though I remember kind of wishing our time was now. Because all that stuff was high theoretical that point in time.

Well….by the middle of March I was feeling like I was going die because something was definitely off. I was convinced there was no way I could be pregnant (hey kids—birth control is most effective when used 100% of the time. Ok? 100%), so surely, I had contracted something that was slowly killing me from the inside. I’d never skipped my period. Ever. But you know, I still didn’t believe pregnancy was a possibility (denial, denial).

My friend was about four months along in her own pregnancy and when I told her things had gone wonky in my world, she gave me a leftover unused prego test. I took it one fateful morning, and after the recommended time needed for the results to reveal themselves, I looked. I believe I was looking for a + sign. But I could only make out what I was certain was a – sign. So, I left the test in the bathroom and went about my business certain that maybe newlywedhood had just thrown me off temporarily. Ha ha ha.

When I went to throw away the test, I looked and saw a faint + sign. But somehow in my mind that registered as, “well it’s been sitting here a while, so the pee has seeped in and changed the sign to positive.” But still, I wasn’t pregnant. (Oh, sheesh girl, what I would tell that silly bride today).

Another month rolls by and another test is taken, which actually is negative again. Meanwhile I start a new job that I absolutely loathe, start feeling worse and worse (crying on the metro, dry heaving from the smells of the people on the metro). Finally, I decide to see an OB/GYN, because why not?

I cried in the waiting room while they got my paperwork together. When I sat down, my giddy husband asked what the doctor said, and when the words “She says I’m most likely pregnant,” tumbled out, so did the tears—from terror. He on the other hand was very pleased—with himself and the world.

We weren’t ready for this. Bleh apartment in a sketchy neighborhood, a job I hated and wanted to get out of but now felt trapped in, still adjusting to life in a new place I wasn’t sold on yet; and now we were going to be parents.

I was nearly 11 weeks along when I got my first ultrasound. All of the sudden the screen lit up with this image of a bouncy alien baby with E.T. eyes and a giant noggin. She was hyper—using my uterus as a trampoline and waving arm “nubbins” to say hello. The E.T. eyes were looking right at us as if to say, “Yeah, I’m real. See you soon suckas!”

Nausea, migraines, a gestational diabetes scare (I like that super sweet orange soda they give to be honest), horrific stretch marks, a whole lot of swelling, and husband that was so weirdly confident in our parenting abilities he said we didn’t need the birthing classes.

So, on November 6, 1999, I aced the birthing test without studying. But with drugs. And the drugs were good.

I wish I could say motherhood washed over me and made me whole the moment my child took leave of my body. The love was there. The pride that we made this pretty little thing was there. The sense of doing everything that needed to be done to care for her was there. I would feed, change, bathe, sleep, repeat.

But the ensuing 21 years of raising said child and the brother that followed have exposed my weaknesses. Anxiety and worry have always won out over reveling in the present. Motherhood opens you up and leaves you raw and exposed, and yet you don’t always know. And yes, the life of a child goes by very, very fast.

But motherhood—as it is brought to you through your own womb or that of someone else—is otherworldly. You look back at a grown child and think, “my word, this child has survived under my care.” And that’s where you come face to face with the grace of God. This job of bringing a life to the world through your own. This is the unexpected journey of twists and turns, boring stretches of the mundane; anger and sadness, hollowness and fullness and eventually the wistfulness that settles in when they finally walk toward a dorm building and so very, very far away from you.

It is all of it then. All of it now. All of what is still yet to come.

This post and exclusive content is also available on my podcast The WiloPod on Spotify.