Hops and Skips

The “New Mom” Expiration Date

Our daughter turned two last Sunday, and, as I said at her 1st birthday, her birth simultaneously feels like yesterday and also ten years ago.

I’ve thought a lot about this idea of time and its passage when you have a baby. My blog profile to your right reads “new-ish mother.” But the 1st (and now 2nd) birthday was planned, and the cake was eaten; we counted the months up to 24, and now we just go by years. My grace period is over, and now I’m just “a parent,” expected to function like all the other millions out there, to go back to how I was and worked before this monumental life-changing moment.

It’s a hard realization, sometimes, that, even in the smallest ways that seem to be totally unrelated and unaffected by baby, it’s impossible to “go back.”

One thing about having a child that I wasn’t expecting is the comedown from the “new kid high.” It’s like the post-wedding comedown when the thing you were planning for and looking forward to for so long passes, and you don’t have it to anticipate any longer. With having a baby, you get excitement for months prior to its arrival. Then baby comes and everything is turned upside down. You’re running on excitement and adrenaline; everything is new; you live in a bubble with hardly any responsibility or accountability outside of this new life, and everyone around you treats you that way, too – forgiving of any shortcomings that suddenly appear, and perpetuating the excitement by constantly checking in with interest because they know how different things are now.

But then time passes, and it’s not really “new” anymore, especially not to others. Instead of being viewed with excited care, grace, and forgiveness, we’re now just parents. You can’t pull the “new mom” card a year plus in; I can’t toss around the “I have a 6-week-old!” reasoning to explain away my forgetfulness, exhaustion, sub-par job performance, and/or general aura of chaos or distraction.

But it still feels like a struggle. I still cling to that free pass to screw up because my life is a mess taking care of a still-pretty-new human while having 48329 different emotions running rampant. And I still struggle to cope with my new post-baby “normal,” even though she’s left the baby stage for toddlerhood.

Am I ever going to see myself as just a “mom” and not a new one?

My mom and mother-in-law texted on the morning of the 2nd birthday with pictures of our daughters just minutes-old, saying, “It feels like yesterday!” but I feel like it was FOREVER ago.

Every day, I see bébé as a sponge, soaking in the world around her. As her world changes, so does mine. I learn to see life through her eyes, with her knowledge and awareness. I learn new ways of coping with setbacks and frustrations, hers and especially mine. I learn new limits to my patience, new techniques to communicate with someone with such limitations. Her newborn days have long passed, but it’s all still consistently and perpetually n e w.

I think that’s part of why time seems so much slower to me, living in the middle of it. When you’re growing up, you may live a routine, but so many experiences are new, shaping your worldview. It takes FOREVER to get to Christmas, or your birthday, or summer vacation, or out of middle school, or 16 and driving, or finally done with high school, and finally independent. And then suddenly you’re grown, living with the old cliché of how “time flies.” You hear it all the time as a parent: “They grow up so
fast/before you know it/etc.” Everyone speaks of it with a heartbreaking reluctance or regret – like there’s nothing you can do but accept it and mourn.

Well, I refuse. I think it’s a cliché mindset that parents are almost expected to accept. But to me, the past two years haven’t sped by; they’ve been overwhelmingly full – of life, of struggles, of joys, of failures. Of new experiences. And I think that constant yearning to defy a monotonous routine is what makes the time stay with me – planning trips, exploring new local spots, going out on a weeknight just because we can, driving a new route home. At times I overwhelm myself with this high standard of living I’ve created, one in which we’re constantly out and about, doing and seeing. But, as they say, the years will keep on coming, and I refuse to let them pass me by.

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