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Monday, November 10, 2008

Taking My Old Self for a Spin

Mr. Mint drives a much, much nicer car than I do.  I don't really mind.  Afterall, I am the one who shuttles the kids around, grocery shops and all those other things that require a minivan.  The truth is I have never really cared that much about the car that I drive.  My (now four year old) minivan is the first brand new car I have ever owned.  I view it as transportation, nothing more.  I'm not defined by the car I drive.

Mr. Mint loves his nice car.  He has worked his @ss off to afford that car and he deserves it.  It's not over the top, just a nice car.  He rarely lets me drive it.  And by rarely, I mean never.  I can't say I really blame him, as driving has never been my forte.  But sometimes it is rather silly.  If I am going to my book club or to run an errand on the weekend, he never, ever offers to let me drive his car instead of my minivan.  Never. Ever.  (But I'm not bitter or anything)

A couple of weeks ago he took the kids to his parents house for the afternoon and I had an event to attend that evening.  I could tell it was painful for him, but it made no sense to put all three car seats in his car.  I can count on one hand the times this has happened in our six years of parenthood... the situations that require him to drive all three kids somewhere and me to be without any kids.  

I did what any mom would do with a couple of hours to herself and an empty house.  I folded laundry, picked up various shoes, toys and snack remnants from around the house, cleaned the kitchen and took a shower.  I took my time getting dressed.  I picked out a cute outfit and even put on some lip gloss.  I got into Mr. Mints nice car and sank into the comfortable seat.  I turned up the radio and cruised down hwy 101 to my destination.   I had a very strange, almost giddy feeling I couldn't quite put my finger on.  Granted I was attending a very mommy-centric event, but what was that look the valet was giving me as I pulled up to the four star hotel in my husband's nice car?  Was he flirting?  

Then it hit me as I was walking into the hotel.  That valet did not see a disheveled mom in a minivan with a potty on the floor of the backseat, fruit snacks smashed into every crevice, a random shoe under the seat and DVD's strewn about the front console.  He saw a smartly dressed, fairly decent looking, relaxed woman.  He saw me.  The un-mommy me.  I almost started crying.  But I didn't.

Instead I had a lovely time getting to know some other smart moms and listening to a UC Berkeley Graduate School professer lead a discussion about reading, education and raising our children to love learning.  It wasn't about potty training, timeouts, meal time or playdates (not that those aren't discussions I have with other smart moms on a daily basis).  

When I got back in Mr. Mint's car to go home.  I savored whatever it was that I was feeling.  I refreshed my lip gloss, even though I was headed home.  I turned up the radio again.  And there it was in a flash.  That feeling I couldn't put my finger on earlier was me feeling like no one's mommy.  No one was asking me to pull over so they could pick up the water bottle they just dropped.  No one was yelling for me to turn up their favorite song at the same time someone else was asking me to turn the music down so they could tell me something.  No one was bickering.  There was no echo of "mommy, mommy, mommy, MOMMY."  There was just me, the radio and the road.  When I got home all I had to unload was myself.   I felt young and refreshed.

Lately I've been thinking about why driving my husband's car was such an intense experience for me.  Have you ever seen that Suave commercial?  This one:

That is totally me.  Except I tried Suave and it didn't really make me beautiful and youthful again.  

I have immersed myself in being the mommy for the past six years and I have lost a little bit of the person I was before.  I still care about my appearance, but it is hard to find the energy some days to really put an effort into it.  Wearing sweats just seems so much more practical and comfortable for days when I will only be dropping off kids here and there and coming home to clean up the breakfast dishes and read blogs.  I do "dress up" for when I am in one of the kids classrooms, have an appointment or plan to meet someone for lunch or coffee.  But my "mom" wardrobe is very different from when I has a full time office job.

Being a stay at home mom has suited me just fine for the most part.  But what I am starting to realize six years in is that motherhood is amazing and wonderful and fulfilling, but is not the end all, be all of life.  And that is OK.  I'm hard on myself as a mother and want to craft a magical childhood for my children.  I enjoy them and I'm nuts about them.  But they also suck the life out of me sometimes.  Why do I need an evening alone and a drive in a nice car to remind me of my old self?  Why does she need to be lost?  She would be a good mother too.

What I have been asking myself is what am I really teaching them by having not much of a life outside of being their mom.   I don't want my girls, or my son for that matter to grow up thinking moms wear sweats everyday and only venture outside the house for groceries, book club and to vote.  I need to find a way to be The Mommy and The Un-Mommy at the same time.  It's a struggle sometimes.

I am making myself sound pretty pathetic, which in reality I am not (I hope).   I don't have all the answers.  I just know that I need to show my kids that there is more to life than listening to Camp Rock songs in the car.    

Perhaps I'll take a class at a community college.  Or maybe I'll just take Mr. Mint's car out for a spin more often.


Marinka said...

You don't sound pathetic at all. I, too, worry about what message I'm sending to my children by working outside of the house. I have a feeling that questioning ourselves is just what we mothers do. Thank goodness that you can do it in a geat car!

PsychMamma said...

I clicked to comment and found that the lovely Marinka stole the thoughts from my brain with her wicked mind-reading skills again. Arrrrgh!

Seriously, I was going to say that, if you worked, you would probably wonder if you were doing enough for your kids at home. It's so hard to find the balance.

You expressed it wonderfully. Thanks for the post.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Your first two commenters have pretty much summed it up. We all worry about the messages we're sending our children. But I think in the end it all boils down to showing yourself as a strong person with opinions and passions and yes - a life outside of mommyhood.

Of course, the little ones don't appreciate that (I remember being a little one and far prefering the days that my mommy wasn't working). There's plenty of time to figure out what you want for yourself. And honestly, I think that as long as you have your eyes open to all possibilities, as your kids become more independent, you'll automatically find yourself doing more things that aren't all about the kids and that your identity is no longer 100% mommy focused.

You're great! I love you. And that's not the 1/2 bottle of wine talking.

Kirsten said...

You guys hit the nail on the head. Working moms worry, non-working moms worry.

I figure no matter what I do, my kids will be a little whacky. Just like me!

Anonymous said...

I feel very much the same way as the others who have commented.

I did want to add, though, that I can completely relate to the "Mommy" and "UnMommy" me. I do so much miss that girl who played the music too loud, slept too late, and only cooked when she felt like it. She spent most of her salary on rent because it landed her a sweet apartment a mile from the beach, which she jogged to daily (Daily exercise?! What's that?!). It's such a trade off, because I wouldn't give up what I have now, either.

Renee said...

That was a lovely post. I agree with the others that we all feel that way. I get a spring in my step when I can roll out the un-mommy me but lately I've been more comfortable in my mommy roll.

bernthis said...

I love nothing more than cruising the highway with the radio blasting. I too, have way to many pairs of sweatpants and "nice" fleece zip up jackets b/c like you, "hey, it's not like i'm going anywhere where they expect to look good". I used to take a lot more time to be with me than I do now. Maybe b/c I had the chance to date, maybe I was too busy grieving the loss of my marriage and needed the time alone, but whatever it is, I choose to be with my kid more and for that there is a small price to pay. I agree though, I need to show her I have more than a life beyond her, however, I remind myself, and you, we are doing the best we can.

baristamomma said...

Yes, yes! I can completely relate! Now that I am working part time (after a very long 6 years of not working), I have discovered a NEW me. I like her a lot and so glad I found her. . .

So, take a class, or whatever it takes for you to nuture you "un mommy"

Anonymous said...

Hey Kir -

You don't sound pathetic at all. I worry sometimes about how pathetic I look being divorced without kids. A freaking cougar in the making. It's all relative.

Speaking of which, did you get the pic of my wasband's new wife?

anymommy said...

You put it into words exactly. I feel exactly like this all of the time. I am so amazed at how I feel when I go somewhere alone in the non-minivan car. I wear my pretty raincoat and I feel, like my own person I guess. Free. I don't want to be free of my kids, usually, but I feel exactly as you wrote.

I'll add another worry of mine, that when I focus on them too much and I'm with them all the time, I'm not really the best mom I can be, I'm a tired, cranky shadow of the mom I want to be. The push/pull never ends.

Melissa said...

It's totally rational to feel this way and any mom who doesn't at some point is lying.

My husband drives a cool car, too and I love to drive it whenever I can. :)

funkimunkii said...

good for you. i feel best when i get up and get dressed. and if i am just wearing jeans and tshirt - i try to put on some jewelry or a little make up.

I'm sure your husband already discovered that "freedom" feeling one gets from driving his nice car (with no kid baggage)- which is probably why he doesn't like to part from it.

I just had a quick stint as a working mom - getting to wear cute clothes and heels. It was fun, for a while. I'm ready to be home again - and dress up for myself, not for the office (school).

EatPlayLove said...

Ok, my first response is that car is 1/2 yours! LOL! I think after being in the motherhood groove for a number of years, you start to hear little whispers. Whispers of things that maybe you may want that you have put on the back burner.

Next time you are cruising, try to hear a whisper!