Currently I’m reading the book “The Aviator’s Wife,” by Melanie Benjamin, for my book club. It’s an intriguing story from the perspective of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of the famous pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh.
A specific passage from the book has really stuck with me. Anne’s daughter one day finds her mothers pilot’s license tucked away in a file cabinet. She asks her mother about it, and when she’s told that indeed, her mother is a pilot as well, equally as record breaking as her father, her young daughter’s reply is simply: “It’s still pretty strange, though. I mean, it must have been so long ago. Because you’re just a mom now, and that’s all I can imagine you as. That’s all.”
Just a mom. How many days do I too get sucked into that mindset, labeling myself solely with that title? Maybe it’s been after days of nursing sick little toddlers through hand, foot and mouth disease. Or perhaps after a tiring vacation of making sure everyone enjoyed themselves yet also had clean underwear each day and snacks when requested. Or maybe after triumphantly folding every piece of laundry only to find a stash of dirty socks wedged under the backseat of the van.
The author of the book put it poignantly when she wrote:
“But before that, I had been a pilot. An adventurer. I had broken records – but I had forgotten about them. I had steered aircraft – but I didn’t think I would know how to anymore… Yet motherhood had brought me down to earth with a thud, and kept me there with tentacles made of diapers and tears and lullabies and phone calls and car pools and the sticky residue of hair spray and Barbasol all over the bathroom counter. Would I ever be able to soar again? Would I ever have the courage? Did any woman?”
I should clarify that I love motherhood. No matter how many times I get clobbered in the face by a tiny flailing fist or have to wipe boogers or clean puke out of my hair, these children have my heart now and forever. I’m talking about those days when you kind of forget who you are. I would assume this goes for stay-at-home moms as well as career moms. Because it doesn’t really matter whether you went off to work and saved someone’s life, put out a house fire or served coffee all day, when you get home those little eyes just see Mom. And that’s okay! What isn’t okay for me is when that’s all I see when I look in the mirror.
I certainly was no aviatrix before entering the land of diapers, but I’ve certainly had some adventures. I don’t downplay what “just a mom” does all day and night. My encouraging supportive husband reminds me often that raising children is not for the faint of heart. I would actually consider it my biggest adventure yet. So how do we keep ourselves from letting the title of mom define us?
Well for me, it is deciding to keep little pieces of the day just for myself. Maybe it’s a time that I spend leading a dance fitness class, or writing silly musings for a mommy blog. Maybe it’s putting art to paper or music to piano. Maybe it’s building something with my husband or running a marathon with a friend. Whatever it is, it’s something only I could do, and hopefully one day my children will see it or hear about it and realize that all that time I was being “just a mom” for them, I was also something more.
I hope it inspires them.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.