As I wrap up my year-long maternity leave, I am working very hard not to count down the days until my return to work. It will come soon enough and when it does, I know I will yearn for my relatively relaxed, pajama-clad mornings (and early afternoons). While I have enjoyed the vast majority of my time with my daughter, there have been moments (and days) when I have yearned for the freedom of my pre-parent, working, and somewhat carefree days. Not simply because it was easier to get out of the house, exercise, eat, go to the bathroom, connect with friends, think, etc., but because I had a fairly clear understanding of who I was.
Since becoming a mother, I have gained a new self, one that is regularly at odds with my former free, fiercely independent, career driven, funny, daring, adventurous, high strung, active, and focused self. This self is now playing second fiddle to a new one – a person I don’t know much about and, at times, don’t particularly like. This new self is chronically tired, unmotivated to exercise, unable to complete tasks in a timely or effective manner, unable to attend professional or personal events with any regularity, has little patience or compassion for the man I care most about, has limited attention span or ability to think critically, is physically limited (well, when I had mastitis and appendicitis) and often housebound to accommodate the infamous nap schedule.
It’s not all bad. My new self comes with a few positive attributes: greater patience (it’s still low, but a lot more than I used to have), new and wonderful friends, a more playful attitude, and more time to spend in pajamas. The greatest and most profound change, however, is the intensity of my love for my little girl. It’s something I could never have fathomed until having a baby. It’s magical. And a little scary.
The good news is the internal war is quieting. With less than a month left of my maternity leave, a peace treaty between my two selves is underway. I feel the clutches of time urging me to live it up, not to wallow in my lack of sleep, and to “get stuck in”, as my Dad would say. Don’t get me wrong, I have been “stuck in” (that sounds somewhat offensive) for the majority of my leave, but I have likely let too many moments and days pass without much ado.
In the time I have, I will savour the moments with my daughter and look for unique ways to enjoy our days together – visit the science centre, zoo (weather permitting) and walk in the mountains. I will schedule time for me – to be with friends, to exercise, to get pampered. And throughout, I will patiently wait to witness the merging of my two independent and inextricably linked selves – the fiercely driven, career-focused woman and the incredibly besotted and ever-vulnerable mother.
I think this new self is going to be pretty incredible when all is said and done. I know my new self will go through more iterations with life experience and change, and again, I will wait patiently to witness the emergence of a new and more powerful self.
To all the moms and dads who are also waging an internal war right now, please give yourself the space and time needed to allow a new and unified self to evolve and emerge. It will feel psychologically and physically painful at times, but it will happen and when it does, damn, it’s going to be awesome.