No one would know it by looking at me now, but I used to be kind of cool. At least I used to think that I was. I would fly around the college campus in my black vintage '78 280-Z with personalized plates, wayfarers on and Bob Marley wailing in the wind. Now, I lope around Jackson in a maroon mini-van with a roll of paper towels in my cup holder, my Walgreen's $6 shades, Barney songs blaring from the back speakers, and enough Goldfish and Teddy Grahams lodged in the seat crevices to live on for weeks if we ever happen to be stranded in a blizzard.
Motherhood, the "great leveler," is solely responsible for transporting me to my present dilapidated state and, cool or uncool, I could not be happier. All the time, money and energy I spent being a self-obsessed, trend-setting hipster when I was younger I no longer have. With children, my focus has shifted, and it has been the most liberating thing to happen in my life thus far. There's nothing more freeing than walking through Kroger with whining kids in tow, no make-up, and dried baby spit-up down the back of your black "Hanes Just My Size" T-shirt, and not giving a second thought to stopping to chat with your college boyfriend's best friend, who you know is going straight home to call your old flame to say, " Man, you ought to be sooo glad you didn't end up with her." OK, that last part does kind of churn my stomach a bit, but not enough to make me put on mascara to buy pampers and kitty litter.
Having children gives you no choice but to go with the flow and to give up the control you may have worked so hard to gain through degrees, jobs and even marriages. You are likely to have a nervous breakdown within the first few weeks of giving birth if you don't embrace the basic principle of becoming a mother; that is, your life is no longer your own (at least until car keys and college come along, and even then I'm not so sure).
"Motherhood, what a wonderful lesson in giving," I remind myself as I lock the bathroom for a few precious minutes of privacy while my 2-year-old and 6-year-old bang away and shove Hot Wheels under the door for my attention. "Mama will be right out, I need some privacy," I say reassuringly as I flip through my latest New Yorker while perched on the bathtub's edge. Two inches of pressed plywood separate us, but in their eyes it may as well be the Grand Canyon. They know it is the only room in the house where my solitude is allowed, and it drives them crazy.
Being a mother forces you to give of yourself in ways you didn't know you could, like enduring 20 hours of drug-free natural childbirth or resisting the urge to eat the last ice cream sandwich your kid has been saving for after school. And there are days when running away to join the circus sounds like a good idea, but for now motherhood is my career of choice. I get the opportunity to discover daily the world again through my child's eyes, and it is a gift deserving of all the time and energy I can muster.
Nothing can compare to waking your son up with hot chocolate and blankets to watch his first meteor shower in the middle of the night, or having your toddler reach up to touch your cheek softly when asked what he thinks a cloud must feel like. I know it won't last, but right now in their eyes I'm about as cool as it gets.