I have been a mom for over a year, and these days, my parental identity is solid and clear. I remember when we first brought Josh home and started introducing him to people, I felt sort of awkward and uncertain. I realized in those moments that other people, even those who knew me well, didn’t know me as a mom, which meant I was introducing them to my 4-year-old son and Parental Karin at the same time. The trouble with that was that I didn’t really know what my identity as a parent looked like yet. For a while, my parental identity seemed to be getting stronger when I was interacting with Josh and establishing our family with my husband, but it seemed confusing and foreign when I was engaging in other aspects of my identity or when I was in “mom-centric” environments where the parental identity of others was in full force and I felt like mine was catching up.
Naturally and gradually, I have grown into my parental identity, and now I have very few days where I experience those out of body “Whose life am I living? How did I get here? This must be a joke” moments. And that feels good. It feels like growth. But as established as I may feel as a parent, I appreciate it when I have new experiences that expand my parental identity, like today. Well, around 2 am this morning to be more precise.
Caution: This next part is not for the weak-stomached.
After a year of parenting, I am finally able to commiserate with parents who say, “I was up half the night with my sick child.” Of course, Josh has been sick before. But this time, he was sick sick. Like puke everywhere kind of sick. His upset tummy turned into a full-blown violent expulsion of his stomach contents, and I was right there in his bed to witness it (and smell it and see it and even hear it). A million thoughts raced through my head, including, “Yuck”, “Poor baby”, “I have to get him to the bathroom”, and “I am going to have to clean this”. Oh, and “I hope it didn’t get in my hair.”
It was a rough night, to say the least. But I have to say, it was a good night, too. Some situations just make me feel more like a mom, and as someone who still feels like I am catching up in the parenting department, clear “mom moments” are encouraging and motivating for me. The image of the throw up all over his bed I could do without, but the image of my son looking at me with upset eyes and a quivering lip, seeking comfort from me, that is lasting and sacred.
After Josh’s hard night, we all woke up feeling dazed and depleted, but unified. We had made it through, together. We had a lot of things planned for the day (t-ball, a brunch, a drive to Orlando for a special bridal shower), but the reality was that all of our plans changed as soon as Josh got sick. Dave and I looked at each other with understanding and contacted the people involved in our plans to let them know we wouldn’t make it. I don’t like to disappoint anyone. Sometimes, that results in my pushing myself too hard or compromising my highest priorities for extra commitments, but not today. Today, I trusted my instinct and snuggled with my son in my pajamas. And it was a really sweet day.
Most days, I feel the strain of balancing family, work, school, and other commitments, but not today. Today, I pressed in to my parental identity and let everything else go. And while he napped, instead of doing schoolwork or making calls, I watched Star Wars and ironed clothes. And this distinction makes me more than a mom. It makes me my mom. 🙂
Life gets busy and full before I even notice it has happened. Sometimes, it takes a force of nature, like a hurricane or projectile vomit, to slow me down and simplify things. As I reflect on the last 24 hours and I think about my son sleeping soundly in his bed (with clean sheets), I feel full. And I realize that I feel a little more like a mom tonight than I did last night.