She once had a little speedboat that she traded in for an ocean liner. Some days she really missed how that little boat could skip along like a rock on a still pond, but she fell in love with the people she met onboard that great big ship. She figured that regardless of the boat she was sailing on she was still out on the water, and that was freedom.
A few days ago a dear friend described how fractured and confining her life felt trying to balance professional life, motherhood, and her own personal desires. The balancing act sounded very familiar to me especially when she lamented that doing anything with a young child requires an insane amount of planning. An arrow straight to my heart. My life before children was much like that agile little speedboat. I was fortunate to have the freedom to do pretty much anything I wanted, when I wanted. Want to go out to the pub for dinner? Sure. Itching to hit the road? No problem, saddle up partner. Those days were pretty footloose and are a stark contrast to life with children, however I never wish for the time before children…unless I am trying to go to the bathroom. For me, life with children is like the ocean liner, it equally carries a ton of responsibility and wonder, it is an island oasis in the midst of an unforgiving environment and it can’t corner for crap.
The first several months with twin infants were all about survival. My husband and I were both sleep deprived but I was especially exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. I needed my body to be in top physical form, but it was in desperate need of healing from the ordeal of gestating and birthing two baby boys within eleven minutes of each other. My boys were born 6 weeks early and were hospitalized in the NICU for 3 weeks. I took it all in stride but my brand new mama-heart began to heavily doubt my ability to care for them because what parent in their right mind could leave their precious babies alone in a strange place with strange people and go home and sleep in their own bed at night? The beginning of motherhood was tumultuous and the four walls of my home closed in on me big time.
Enough was enough, “I’m not going to hold myself prisoner in my own house.” I summoned all my courage to get out of the house by myself with my two tiny babies, even though it would have been entirely easier to just stay at home and wait for the coveted help of my husband. I exchanged the spontaneity that I once enjoyed, for preparedness. My bottom line became “Do what you can to set your family up for success.” Every endeavor came on the heels of tactical planning, envisioning every conceivable scenario I would encounter and making sure to have a plan and supplies in place. A bucket-style infant car seat in the crook of each arm and a diaper bag slung across my back, as crazy as it looked it was easier than carrying one at a time because of the balance.
Preparedness brought balance to those early days of motherhood. I have emerged from those desert days with confidence that I can handle anything that comes my way. I am different now that I am a mother and I am also the same as that footloose young woman and her speed boat. The spontaneity of her youth gave birth to her adventurous heart. The experience that came with having her children required preparedness so that they could taste adventure too.
Maybe you are a mama who is missing her speedboat. Maybe you wonder if it is possible to still be that young woman, the one who wore the flirtatious fragrance of spontaneity, even though you are a mom now and your fragrance is more Eau De Spit-Up. Who says there are no surprises on an ocean liner; no magic in the steady forward momentum of a mama still chasing adventure while her little ones are along for the ride? You have traded speed and agility for endurance and strength. Your ocean liner is built to handle adversity while providing comfort for all aboard and you can go farther into the vast sea than that little speedboat ever dreamed of. The woman you “once were” is still you, she will always be you. There may be more souls on board but you are still the captain of your ship and you are still sailing. The boat does not make the woman.
Jennifer Van Winkle lives in Seattle with her husband and three children (twin boys and a baby girl). She is a teacher, musician, and currently a stay-at-home mom. She loves fueling the imaginations of her children with creativity, songs, all things science, good food and lots of play indoors and out. She blogs at Pepper Sprout Home and you can also find her on Instagram.