When you become a parent, a gradual, but distinct chasm develops in your identity: Pre-kids-you and post-kids-you. Now, I’m not saying it is like marriage and you get to change your name (thank God, who wants to stand in line at social security again?) Nor am I saying you go off and start wearing horrific mom jeans (please don’t do this for the love of humanity). I’m simply saying, after you become a parent in any capacity, you are never, ever the same again.
That’s why it’s OK to admit that sometimes there are moments where we ever-so briefly miss that pre-kids old self. Our old self that had less responsibility, our old self that had notions of grandeur beyond going to the grocery store alone, our old self with glamorous dreams of being an astronaut/famous author/political powerhouse/a-list celebrity/etc., even our old self that showered every day!
I was missing my old self last week. Just for a moment. But, nonetheless, I was missing her. I was in the Sioux Falls airport with my two-year old daughter. And before I tell you what happened, I must tell you that my daughter eats like a large grazing animal all day, everyday. The requests for “snack” never end. Thus, on this day at the airport, she tasted something that made her gag, and up came everything.
Needless to say, there was more vomit than in all the prairie.
I got looks and stares of horror and disbelief from innocent bystanders that were held captive by the disgustingness that catapulted out of the small child. I rushed her to the restroom where I began the task of trying to clean the uncleanable. I took my heels off (this means business), scrubbed with all my might, all the while holding the likes of a writhing, screaming alien.
In that short instant, I missed my old self. I found myself thinking, “Is that really you Tracy? In Sioux Falls? Cleaning up vomit? What happened to you?” I glanced up and caught a glimpse of my horribly disheveled self. Wow, it was me. So much for glamour, sister.
Then, in that split poor-me-I-miss-my-pre-kids-self instance, my daughter whimpered and reached up and said in the saddest voice “Mama … help.” And my heart broke in pieces. Here she is, helpless and all her trust is in me to help and I’m having a mini pity party. I came rushing back to reality. I comforted and cleaned her up, put her in a new pink sparkly outfit, and off she went asking for a “snack” from Daddy.
I realized right then, this was a golden teaching moment for myself. Yes, its OK to admit we miss our old self before kids from time to time, but it’s another to dwell in it. Sure, there is nothing glamorous about cleaning up any bodily fluid. And there is absolutely nothing glamorous in constantly serving another over yourself. But in that moment when I saw how much my daughter needed me, a realization occurred: Who needs glamour, recognition, accolades, or the razzle-dazzle of pre-kids self when there is something extraordinarily beautiful and world-changing in loving and shaping a real human being’s life today, in this very moment.
Quite the epiphany to have in a dirty airport bathroom, huh?
Being a parent does, no matter how you swing it, change you. Many may argue and crucify me for even hinting at the cardinal sin in parenting jargon of “losing yourself”. And it may feel like we are in the trenches taking grenades to our identity, but really parenting is less about making sure we don’t lose ourselves and more about allowing post-kids-self to discover new layers to us we didn’t even know existed or were possible.