Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Room of One's Own...

I started to think a bit about how much I've changed over the past seven years--since E. was born.  Two of my very dear dear friends are having their own little girls this month (one of them is here already! M.L.K-W, you know who you are!) and this has prompted a little soul-searching on my own...after seeing a beautiful picture of my friend's babe, I began to look through old pictures of E.  Not all of my reminiscences are comfortable.  Like all parents, probably, I wish I had done some things differently--been a little (okay, a lot) less uptight and anxious, never said a sharp word, weaned a little earlier, and not offered candy ever! For some reason this picture of two-year-old E. brings tears to my eyes:

Especially when I consider the real little girl she's become, and don't think I don't shed a surreptitious tear each time she loses a tooth!

But the single biggest, realest mistake I made as a parent was not to have a room of my own right from the start.  A. and I had planned that I would be a stay-at-home mother, and I was entirely behind that concept.  A. would go to work and I would be with E.  As it turned out, I was with her, all the time.  As in pretty much every second for the first three years.  Sissy and I are always talking about how much we hate the notion that you lose yourself when you become a mother--that "mama" is your new identity, and all other parts of you are negated.  But throughout E.'s baby and toddler years, I think I secretly believed that I would be a bad mother if I wasn't subsumed in motherhood.  If I hired a babysitter, let someone else take over for awhile, I'd be wrong.  I even hurried home from marketing as quickly as possible when she was home with A.  

And you know, I made myself quite miserable this way.   In paradoxical effect, I didn't worry less about E., nor did I feel less guilty.  In fact I still feel guilty in retrospect, because although I was home with her, I feel I didn't enjoy her babyhood as I should have.  Of course I didn't! It was claustrophobic and onerous and lonely.  Don't get me wrong, she was a love--in fact, that's what kills me looking back at pictures of her adorable lovey toddler self.

Now that I'm slowly reclaiming parts of myself long dormant--violin-playing, writing, daydreaming, school--I'm realizing more and more how much this was missing from my life. Maybe this sounds a little like '70s self-actualization crap, not to mention ungrateful, but it couldn't be more true.

Okay, that said, I will abruptly change the subject with a question: if any of you have seen the "Little Bear" cartoon on Noggin, why is it that Mother Bear has apparent boobs like a human? Why is the bear family half-anthropomorphized like that? It's downright disturbing.


CSI Seattle said...

Okay, I don't know about the cartoon you are talking about. So, I will not be able to offer any boob commentary, which is a bit of a disappointment for me. However, I do have something else to share.

As a guy, I am and have been experiencing a similar feeling as you regarding being encased in being a parent. A guy friend of mine, who has two toddlers, referred to the sensation as "being stripped of his identity".

When my son was born, I gave up my "office" room, which became his bedroom. Since then, I have no place in the home for my "stuff". Everyplace in the house that I choose to work, has toys or other reminders of my lack of personal space. Bills, paperwork and projects, which I normally stored behind my closed door is now spread out on the dining table. You get the point.

My wife also has experienced this as well, but came out as frequently being bored. She has forgotten how to have hobbies, be with friends, and have fun. I have to force her to accept invitations from her friends to do anything since she feels guilty leaving for a few hours.

The point is, you are not alone on this. We are actually in the process of looking for a new home, partly so that I can regain an office space. We are beginning to force ourselves to have fun and find our previous lives. I know that we can never be completely independent, nor do we want that. But I do believe that taking care of a child starts with taking care of yourself first.

I just recently figured that out myself.

Leah said...

It's really interesting hearing a dad's perspective--and how remarkably similar it is! And yes, the boredom is really a big feature of parenthood at times...gosh, how I hate to admit that! But my mom always came out with that admission about parenting me and my sister when we were little, so I feel better about it--she was and has always been a loving parent...

And just one last comment on your comment: it's true, you have to force yourself in the beginning to reenter your personal life. And it can be a real effort at first!

Too Little Time said...

A room of my own. Yeah, wish I had one of those. As kids we grow up with our own "space" and than think once we buy a home that its "all ours". I haven't had a room of my own since I left home. Every space now is shared.

Probably best now to dwell too much here. The kids will be gone in 10 years and THAN I'll have that room =) K