Sometimes, when I think about the woman I was before motherhood, I get a little sad. I used to be such a free spirit, you know? I was the girl who was always up for an adventure. If you offered me a plane ticket, I’d be there—without thought or hesitation. The same was true for drinks, a chance to try something new, or an open body of water to jump into.
I said “yes” so much more often than I ever said “no.” And while I still worked, went to school, paid my bills and maintained my responsibilities—I was also always just ready to go. I happily sacrificed sleep, money and society's expectations of who I was supposed to be, because I was far more concerned with living a happy and fulfilled life as the woman I wanted to be.
I was far more concerned with being able to say I had seen and done it all.
I made a lot of mistakes, don’t get me wrong. But looking back, my biggest regrets all revolve around the things I didn’t do, not the times I leapt before I looked.
What if you get too caught up in chasing happiness, and then before you know it, you’ve just forgotten all about the little one you’ve promised to protect?
I’m not really like that anymore. And I haven’t been in a long time. Becoming a mother changed me in a lot of ways. Because I couldn’t just leap with my little girl; I had her to think about in every decision I made. I needed to be better, smarter, more calculated in my choices… for her.
I used to be a "bloom where she's planted" kind of girl. I was always moving, always exploring, always fervently seeking out the next adventure. The last few years, though, I've lost that. I've been tethered, orbiting my little girl and afraid to let that wild heart of mine be too free... Afraid that with that freedom, I might forget about her. And my responsibility to her. Afraid that I might disappear on her, just like my own mother did on me. Because the curse of being a child of abandonment is that that fear is always there; could I ever be capable of doing what was done to me?
I’d like to think the answer is no, that I could never forget my little girl in the pursuit of my own bliss… but what if it happens without your even realizing it? What if you get too caught up in chasing happiness, and then before you know it, you’ve just forgotten all about the little one you promised to protect?
I’ve never wanted that to happen to me. And so, I’ve quieted some of my adventurous soul… not wanting that woman I was to get in the way of my ability to love my little girl today.
The result is that I've been an incredibly devoted mother, more in love with my little girl than I ever would have thought possible. I’ve become a bit of a perfectionist, in fact, wanting to do everything right so that my daughter one day feels confident in declaring she had the best mom any little girl could ever ask for.
But I've also become muted in that motherhood. My light, my spark, whatever you want to call it ... it's dimmed. I've let it dim. And in that dimming, I've grown tired and consumed and maybe even a little bit crazy eyed. I've lost sight of who I am outside of motherhood. And upon reflection, I'm not sure that's actually served my daughter well at all. I'm not sure I want her growing up with a role model so ready and willing to mute herself. I'm not sure I want to be so mutable.
Over the last few months, a lot of things happened that suddenly had me questioning my own mutability. I lost someone I cared about, and I struggled with the grief and confusion of that. I got a much-needed kid-free vacation, and realized how much more like me I felt after just those three days away. I met someone new, who reminded me a bit of the person I used to be. And suddenly, I began to realize, I don't have to let go of that old version of myself in order to thrive as the mother I want to be. And I don't have to fail at motherhood just because I choose to hold onto some of the woman I've always been.
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Since that realization hit, I’ve been on a mission. My daughter is 3 1/2 years old, and I’ve decided I need to start making time for me again. I want to be someone who seeks out adventure as I once so often did, bringing my girl with me when I can, but no longer using her as an excuse not to breathe when I can't. I want to run until my lungs burn, climb every mountain I come across, see everything life provides me the opportunity to see, and maybe even chase a little love—with no more fear or regrets.
I want my daughter to grow up knowing that woman, just as much as she knows the one who loves her and will always be there for her.
I'm still not entirely sure how to combine the woman I was before motherhood and the woman I am now. But I'm determined to start trying a whole lot harder to figure that out. Because I think she's somebody I'd like to know... I think she's somebody I'd like to be.
And I don’t want to be muted anymore.
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Image via Leah Campbell