Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Friday, October 4, 2013

Changed For Good: Musings On My First Decade of Motherhood

2013 Goofyfoot Photography

My oldest daughter turns 10 today.  Ten.  Wow, that number blows me away.  I could go on and on about the amazing, beautiful young lady my Gabriela is at ten years old, and the even more amazing, gifted human being I can see her becoming.  As I reflect on all the ways my daughter has grown in the past year and since she was born, I am struck by the realization that today also marks a decade that I have been a mother.

As I take a pause to let that settle in - 10 years of motherhood - I almost gasp at the difference between the person I was then and the woman I am today.  I wanted to be a mom ever since I can remember.  I daydreamed of the Girl Scout meetings I would lead, the birthday parties I would host, and the mommy and me groups my babes and I would join.  I looked forward to planning play dates, packing school lunches, and organizing family trips.  I nurtured fantasies about eating delicious dinners and helping with homework.  I read every parenting book I could get my hands on when I was pregnant.  I had a "baby binder," to organize every piece of information I could possibly need.  I had charts and spreadsheets about how I would organize my new life as working mom.  I had it all under control and I knew it all.  I was wound tight (okay, I still am, but a lot less), a woman on a mission (now on a quest for joyful living vs reaching the next goal), with a plan for everything (I now have surrendered to the fact that there is no such thing).  

Ten years later, as I take stock of where I am today, I realize more than anything, that I never could have anticipated the gifts of self discovery and exploration that motherhood would bring.  I never expected the influence my kids would have on the person I would become.  Ten years ago, motherhood was my destination and finish line.  Today, it is a guiding light on my journey of self discovery that I didn't even realize I was taking.  

When I became a mother, my goals were laid out and I was on track to accomplish them all.  In "Stephanie' World," I could do it all - lead a high power career; be the "perfect" mother who volunteers at school and manages her family effortlessly; be the Martha Stewart wife who has gourmet meals on the table every night.  Over the past ten years, I have tried to do it all - and I did so valiantly for quite some time, until I realized that "living the dream" didn't feel as joyful as it did in my "plans."  Over the past ten years, I have had to simplify, and let go of some things in order to a better person for my family.  I have learned slowly that it is more important (and it is okay) to do the things that bring me joy, as opposed to the things that I thought I was supposed to do in order to embody the unattainable ideal of perfect mother.  I have learned that there is no award for perfect mom.  Instead, my goal is to have loving, happy children who enjoy me and want to spend time with me.  In order to earn that, I have learned that I must slow down, enjoy the present more, and live in the moment.

The past ten years haven't always been pretty, and I have made many mistakes.  I have risen and fallen, held on and let go.  I realize now that it was all necessary to get me to this almost-perfect, never-ending place of "in progress."  Watching mommy figure this all out must not have always been fun for my kids.  I am so grateful for their resilience as they have weathered the storms I have gone through towards becoming my best self and living my best life.  

I wouldn't be half the person I am today without my little munchkins, who have shown me the light in so many ways.  My Gaby, who is my "mini me," has become my mirror.  I cringe sometimes at the things she says or the ways she acts, seeing the ugliest parts of myself, the things I most want to change, as she mimics her "hero."  But then, these moments are special gifts too.  She gives me the nudges I need to check myself and do better.  

Gaby is the reason I am writing again, because she reunited me with my favorite children's books, and reminded me that I love to write and used to write all the time.  She connected me with a children's writing community that I never would have found without her own interest in writing.

I never would have gone down a vegan path if it weren't for my kids - wanting to live better and eat better so our planet and I would be healthy to take care of them for many, many years.   

And I never would have had this dying urge to find the joy and beauty in the everyday, without those three little people inspiring me.  They set me on my journey towards "the good life" and they are the inspiration for this blog.  

There is a song in one of my favorite Broadway musicals, Wicked, called "For Good."  I always fall apart when hearing it, because it makes me think of my kids and their impact on me.  I always thought I would be the one guiding them on their path, but as it turns out, they were the ones guiding me all along.  I think the lyrics say it well.

I've heard it said

That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.

Gaby, I know it is true when I say, "Because of you, I have been changed for good.  Happy birthday, baby."