6 years. 72 months. 324 weeks.
That’s how long I’ve been doing this motherhood thing. Six years and 9 months ago, I peed on a stick, stuck it under my bathroom sink, and went back to watching a movie with my husband because there was no way in hell I was pregnant, and the movie was too good to miss an extra three minutes waiting on the results. Two hours and another bathroom break later, I remembered about my little science experiment under the sink and dug it out.
I immediately ran outside and dry heaved repeatedly off my deck (totally normal right?) and my poor husband received the news he was going to be a daddy from a sobbing, hysterical, puke-covered lunatic.
I was never the same person after that day, that hour, that single moment in time when I saw that tiny little plus sign.
The last six years have been some of the best years of my life. I became a mom not just once, but three times. I’ve breastfed, bottle fed, functioned through days on less than four hours of sleep, and changed more diapers than I can even count. I’ve felt more joy than I thought humanly possible, cried a million times over everything I thought I was failing at, and looked into three tiny pairs of blue eyes and literally wondered if my heart could explode with love.
I’ve potty trained, listened to first words, and encouraged first wobbly little baby steps. I’ve taught them to find their independence, rejoiced in their triumphs, and encouraged them through their failures. I’ve been here — every single day for the last 6 years — giving them every ounce of energy and love I can muster after three cups of lukewarm coffee.
And I have to start letting them go.
These last six years have been both the longest and the shortest ones of my life. It feels like just yesterday there were two tiny toddlers with pigtails dancing in my living room, and come this fall, I will wave goodbye to my big girls in the morning and come home with the little guy to a house that will forever feel too quiet when they’re not here.
It’s a strange phenomenon; to encourage these little people — who were once so dependent on me they relied on my body to survive — to walk away from me. Meanwhile, every cell in my body wants to scoop them up and hold them in my arms forever.
But I have, too.
It started started slowly at first, a gradual letting go three times a week as I sent my oldest to preschool last year; and it intensified as I sent her off to kindergarten this year. The first week of school, she came home every day and gave me an hour-by-hour breakdown of her day. By the end of the month, I was lucky to get a glimpse into mere minutes of her day.
As I lay in bed one night, with tears in my eyes, thinking of the tiny, blue-eyed baby I once spent every waking minute with, I realized that I wasn’t just struggling with letting her go.
It was more than that — I was jealous of her.
Jealous she had a life at school that she didn’t need me for. Jealous that her teacher was now giving her the comfort and stability that she once relied on me — and only me — for. And jealous that her life was beginning, while mine was standing still. At the same time she was beginning her journey of figuring out who she is outside of these four walls we call home, I had forgotten who I was.
These years of sending my babies off to school, and letting them go little by little, is their time to begin of their stories; but it’s also time for me to start writing mine again. It’s my time to embark on the journey of figuring out who I am and who I’m going to be as I begin to emerge from the rabbit hole of raising babies and toddlers and transition into raising big kids who have their own lives separate from mine.
It took me a long time to understand that I can be Mom and still be me; still have my own interests outside of them and dreams that are entirely my own. And I’ve realized that it’s okay to whine and complain about them sometimes, because while I think my kids are the most incredible, amazing, perfect beings to ever walk the Earth, sometimes … they just aren’t. They are, and will always be, a huge part of who I am — but they aren’t all I am.
They can’t be.
So now it’s my turn. My turn to spend some of my time and energy on me again, and to figure out who I am and who I want to be, apart from only being Mom. Because as much as I love my kids to death and want to protect them and keep them close to me, I have to start letting go — and find myself again along the way.