Monday, August 22, 2011

When you become a mother...

So as much as I like to make fun of Army Wives, even though I do admittedly tend to burst into tears at least once during every episode, in one of the episodes, one of the wives said something that really clicked with me. She said "when you become a mother, you stop being the picture and start being the frame." That quote really REALLY stuck with me because it truly sums up a lot of what I have been feeling over the last two years. Not that I was much of a picture before I had Jameson, but I was at least the center of my own life. But things are different now.

Before I became a mother, I was an RN. I made decent money and spent it on whatever I felt like. Then I got pregnant, stopped working, had a baby, and now I have to support a family of three on my husband's meager military pay. And that's more of a challenge than you might think. Soldiers aren't well paid. We have a few perks, namely medical care that is 100% paid for. I haven't even seen a doctor/hospital bill since I got married. And considering how many people in our country today either pay an astronomical premium for healthcare insurance, or have none at all, I am very very grateful for that. But because the actual take home pay that I have to pay bills and buy groceries with is so...tight, I typically reserve any extra spending money we might have for buying things for Jameson, and on the rare occasion that I spend money on something frivolous for myself, I tend to suffer from buyer's remorse.

But aside from the "business" part of taking care of a family, I notice how completely non self centric my life is now. And I see those changes in every little detail of my life. Before I was a mother, when I woke up in the morning I ate breakfast. Now when I wake up in the morning (at the beckon call of my son), I make his breakfast, set him up with his oatmeal and milk in his high chair, feed and let out the dog, and then maybe I'll put on a pot of coffee. By the time the coffee is brewing my dog is banging on the door to come inside and my son has inhaled his oatmeal and is ready to get out of his chair and watch his speech therapy video. Once I get the video started, I finally get myself a cup of coffee. And that's about all of the breakfast I get these days. Jameson eats again at 10, then he and the dog eat again at noon, then Jameson goes down for his nap. At this point I MIGHT eat something, or I might do laundry or pay bills or just sit and stare at the wall while I drink my cold cup of coffee and enjoy the peace and quiet for an hour or two. Then he wakes up, and it's rinse and repeat until bedtime.

I used to derive some sense of pride and accomplishment from my job. I felt like I was doing something good and productive with my life. Then I became a mother. Now my sense of pride and accomplishment comes from seeing all of the milestones that my son reaches. When he started babbling, and walking, and now mimicking sign language that he sees on his speech therapy video. When I see him interacting so well with his speech therapist, or using his silverware and feeding himself, or putting on his clothes and his shoes by himself. This is where my sense of pride and accomplishment originates from now.

Before I became a mother, I thought stay at home moms had it easy. I thought "wow, how friggin' easy would that be, to just stay at home and play with your kid all day?" Ha! Boy was I mistaken. I'm 37 years old, and more often than not I feel like I am slowly but surely falling apart. Most of my joints hurt when I wake up in the morning. I look like Quasimodo limping around the house for at least an hour every day. My 20 month old son has exponentially more energy than me. He's like trying to catch a ray of light. And now he's asserting his independence, wanting to do everything himself and push his limits, including not riding in the shopping cart but running around like a loose billy goat in the store, or leaving the back patio to explore the grass before I've had the chance to clean up all the dog poo. He's...exhausting. Adorable, smart, and the light of my life...but exhausting.

But when I heard that quote the other day, it really made me pause. When you become a mother, you stop being the picture, and start being the frame. Maybe I'm not the center of my own universe anymore. Maybe the money all gets spent on Jameson, and maybe my life has become a string of speech therapy appointments and feedings and cleaning food for a three foot radius around the high chair and chasing him around the house while he waves my cell phone in the air and laughs. But I'm proud of the work I'm doing, and I'm certainly where I'm needed most. And one day I will have raised a man that knows beyond a doubt that his mother loves and supports him, and will always be the frame around his picture.


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