Last night my son got up at 4:30 am. I’m not exactly sure why, he doesn’t usually wake up during the night and he didn’t seem scared or sick. Perhaps the time change is still messing around with his rhythm… either way, he got me up and I went in his room to lull him back to sleep with some back rubs. After about 15 mins I went back to my bed to go to sleep when who decides to wake up? The unborn child. She starts rolling and kicking inside of me as if to say “oh, you’re awake? I’m awake too!”. In a moment I had a flash of what life with two kids will be like. One second I’ll be asleep, the next I’ll be nursing the baby, and the next I’ll be convincing my light sleeping toddler to go back to bed.
Which is why this post is titled FREEDOM. Its supply is dwindling over here and to be honest, has probably my single biggest gripe with motherhood. From the moment of conception, freedom begins to fly out the window. Suddenly you can’t eat this, do that, wear this, drink that. Then you have the child and life contracts further. You’re left homebound, often alone, and stuck to a schedule that is not your own.
Then they get older. You start to go out with friends, you gather a list of trusty babysitters, possibly leave overnight for work or play, pursue interests, and regain some identity outside of the bounds of motherhood.
Until you get pregnant again and the contraction back to the home front begins again. And while I fully understand that this issue is cyclical and temporary, my drive for more freedom is a struggle I wrestle with pretty frequently. And let’s be honest, when you’re deep in the weeds of parenting, it’s hard to see how transient these days are. The demands of motherhood are constantly morphing which gives me little time to keep my perspective in, well, perspective. In the beginning I was responsible for EVERYTHING; growing the human, birthing the human, feeding the human, etc. Now my three year old basically grows by himself, he sleeps by himself, he goes to school a couple of days a week, almost anyone can feed him (almost…), heck sometimes he just comes in the kitchen and grabs his own food. However, he still needs me to drive him, pay for things, teach him lessons, watch carefully as he rides his bike in our urban area, cut his strawberries. You know, parenting.
All this to say, I’ve spent this last year (and maybe the last two years) really embracing freedom where I can find it. I’ve obtained some new certifications, attended seminars, picked up a new profession, gone on weekends away, even a long trip or two. During my 24th week of pregnancy I actually got away for an entire week. No agenda. No purpose other than to explore and really dive headfirst into an opportunity for freedom. With my husband’s prodding I went to Austin, Texas with a mind set on wandering, eating, drinking coffee, and exploring somewhere new and foreign.
It was, in a word, fantastic. I met a dear friend there for a few days and we enjoyed the hours of childless (and husband-less) possibilities (to be clear, the G-rated kind of possibilities- well maybe except for that new J.Lo. movie. It was not G-rated). No bedtime books to read, faces to wipe, nap-times to juggle, or questions to answer. Just some good ol’ girlfriend time. Shopping, walking, eating, laughing, and deep thoughts, all the good stuff for the soul. I also met up with an old friend who now has a family of his own. I’ve known this man for about 20 years. For many of those years, we had countless conversations about finding “the One”, when we will have kids, what we want to do with our lives, and here we are 20 years later living those lives with the spouses we wanted, the family we desired, not to mention bills, houses, careers, and all the challenges that we had no idea were waiting on the other side of our young adult dreams. It’s important to have friends like that. Friends who knew you then, and know you now. I walked away grateful.
My final day and a half was spent alone. Totally alone (minus the baby in my body, but let’s be real, she had no input).
It was great and also somewhat somber. In those moments of total freedom, complete autonomy over my day, my agenda, my choices, I found myself wanting my people back. I wanted to share the river walk (and subsequent turtle sighting) with my son, I wanted to pass my appetizer to my husband to see what he thought of the sauce, I wanted my girlfriend’s opinion on this souvenir over that souvenir.
My time in Austin afforded me a great paradigm shift. Life is not about finding total freedom. Life is relational and meant to be shared. Unfortunately (or fortunately) that means that we can’t just do whatever we want, when we want. But after getting 5 days of the “whatever, whenever” life I see how completely overrated that desire is. Downtime is nice, a break from responsibility is necessary, and some solitude is absolutely good for the soul. But as I anticipate all the ways my life is about to change – adding more responsibility and thereby removing more of my freedom – I see that I am blessed to be able to intimately share my life with more people, not less. I was also able to recognize how naturally the seasons of demand and rest ebb and flow. I will get more chances to be by myself, share experiences, and establish my personhood across many domains including my family, my work, my friends, and my interests.
If you’re pregnant, newly married, or even still living with your parents and feeling like the demands of those relationships are “getting in the way” of who you are, what you want to do, and where you want to go, be encouraged. You are enjoying the benefit of a life shared. You can still do things that support your personhood, your individual identity. But what I’ve been learning recently is that we aren’t really a world full of individuals – we are a network of relationships, each relationship forming us and moving us closer or farther away from growing into a person of substance, service, and wisdom. Choose your relationships wisely, but choose relationships. Honestly, nothing that great happens when you’re always by yourself.