You see, before finding my fancy I had to find myself.
When I was asked if I wanted to contribute to this blog I didn't hesitate. I've been wanting to tell this story for a long time. This isn't as light as posts I typically write, and it's a tad long (twss), but here it is:
Before you are a mother you are a women, and finding that woman post baby doesn’t always come easily. What happens, however, when you weren’t a woman before having a baby? How do you discover that woman post baby when you have nothing to go back to? When you have no reference point? I was a baby when I had my first baby. I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. After having my first kiddo I couldn't return to the person I was pre baby. I had been thrust into adulthood and there was no going back.
I spent years trying to prove that I wasn't a complete fuck-up, trying to prove that I was a good mother. It consumed me. Not only did I want to prove that I was a good mother, I also felt compelled to prove that I could do everything - without help. I started university via a few online courses when the kiddo was just 2 weeks old. I juggled a baby (and then a toddler) and school for four years. I didn't complete my first degree because I wanted to, I completed it to prove that I could. I was driven by outside factors. I didn’t want to be a failure - in any aspect of my life. This is when the guilt started. I felt guilty going to school and leaving my child, and I felt guilty when I was home and wasn't studying. Secretly I loved school, but I felt I shouldn't - after all, wasn't it just a way to provide for my child? Instead of enjoying my post-secondary education I felt conflicted. I was also scared - scared of becoming a statistic.
I spent the next few years being mom. I volunteered at the kiddo's school, went on all of the field trips, and filled our weekends with play dates. I was in my element. I had embraced being a mother very quickly, and I was determined to give it my everything. Eventually I started a photography business so that I could work around my kiddo's schedule. I also took on a few contracts for web design and marketing. I enjoyed photography and the marketing world, but I did not love it. These ventures were a way for me to fill a void, although at that time I did not know just what void I was trying to fill. In hindsight I think I was trying to create something that was just for me, but I was limited by the notion that I could not work full time and still be a good mother. I was also not particularly good at working from home, as my roles blurred and therefore left me feeling that I wasn’t doing anything well.
Mom guilt. That’s what it was. I wanted something for myself but I felt guilty. Every time I left my home I felt guilty. I believed that I had missed out on the opportunity to have something for myself because I had a child when I was young. I believed that I had forfeited finding myself in exchange for being a mother, and that I wouldn’t get another chance, that I shouldn’t want another chance, that I had made my choices and my path was already determined. I mean, after all, shouldn’t being a mother make me happy? Shouldn’t it make me feel fulfilled? Why wasn't it enough? How selfish would it be to want more? I
struggled with these questions. I loved being a mother - absolutely loved it - but I felt a twinge of longing, longing for something that I couldn't define. I definitely wasn't feeling the fancy.
I also felt that though no matter what I did I was being judged. Judged for being a young mother, judged for being a stay-at-home-mom, judged for being a working-mom, judged for only working part-time, judged for working at all, judged for going for coffee without my child. Judged - with a big fat capital J. As I grew the judgement affected me less and less, the guilt also lessened - but it didn't disappear.
Fast forward: I wanted another baby. I had a lot of love to give and I had this mom thing down. I had no idea who I was outside of mom, but I was very comfortable and confident in my mom role. My oldest was getting more independent and needed me less, but I wasn't ready to move on to the next phase of my life. I also wanted him to have a sibling.
I remember getting ready to tell people I was pregnant for the second time and having panic attacks. Having a baby so young can really fuck with your head.
I had my second baby when I was 27. The first year was heavenly, and it was also a turning point for me. I met the most wonderful group of LLLadies and I experienced something new with them - acceptance. I was an equal. I was use to being the youngest mother in a group and I still sometimes forget that I was in my late twenties when I had my second child - but I no longer felt judgement from those around me. It was a completely new world for me.
This lack of judgement was one of the things that allowed me to be honest. This like-minded mommy group understood how to find the balance. I watched others carve out lives for themselves outside of their children - and (surprise!) they were still great moms. This wonderful group of ladies encouraged me to find my fancy, but before that they encouraged me to find myself - to figure out who I was, and who I wanted to be. They didn't say: "Jenn, you need to find yourself and then find your fancy." It didn't go down quite like that. Instead they encouraged me through their acceptance. They didn’t scoff at the notion that I wanted something for myself, and they made me believe that being a good mother doesn’t have to mean that I don’t get my own identity. As a mother, I knew who I was - I mean, damn, I rocked the mom role. As a woman, however, I was lost. I had no idea how to balance being a woman and a mother. With the help of these fabulous ladies I began the journey of discovering myself. Their acceptance of me gave me the courage to move forward. I finally realized that what I wanted wasn’t wrong. This moment was empowering.
I became stronger.
At this point I made a number of decisions and my life changed direction. I decided to complete a second degree - one that was of interest to me. I decided to take back control of my personal life and lose the fear I had been living with. I gave myself permission to be happy in things outside of my children and family. I let go of the guilt that consumed me - the guilt that I felt every time I did something just for me. I no longer felt the need to prove myself to anyone. It was invigorating. I did not realize how exhausting it was trying to live up to an imaginary standard until I stopped. I was finally able to ask myself what I wanted, and what I wanted was to find balance. I wanted to be happy in all areas of my life. I wanted to let go of the guilt and enjoy my children. I also wanted to enjoy my time away from them (this admission was quite scary at the time). I wanted my children to grow up happy, and I wanted them to see me happy.
I stopped defending my choices and I started making choices based on what I thought was right for myself and my family. I had found myself and this paved the way for finding my fancy. She came in the form of a tattoo - a gift to myself on my 30th birthday.
What does this tattoo mean? Well, as you know I became a mother at a young age and spent too many years not knowing who I was. I spent a long time being one-dimensional instead of living with balance. My lady on my thigh (as I affectionally call her) reminds me that I'm not one dimensional. She represents the many faucets of being a woman: her confident smile and toned body reminds me that I am strong; her sexy aura reminds me that I can be a woman and all that it entails; her red shoes remind me to have fun; and the mother's knot tattoo on
her arm reminds me that I can be all of this and still be a great mother. Her gun? Well, that reminds me not to put up with any shit.
So back to the fancy - I had finally found my fucking fancy! I know this was the precise moment that I found my fancy, because I felt the fancy feeling when I looked down at my brand new tattoo - that feeling that manifests itself as a smug (albeit goofy) grin.
I started to notice that fancy feeling frequently. I felt the fancy when I bought a shirt that didn't have slits with which to slide my boob through to feed my child. I felt the fancy when I wore jeans with heels. I felt the fancy when I applied make up. I even felt the fancy when I would go through a drive thru in my pj's and order myself a latte for no reason at all. A year or two prior to this I would have felt a twinge of guilt doing any of these things. I am happy to report that the guilt has been replaced with the fancy.
My favourite fancy? Slipping on a pair of red high heels. Red heels always make me feel like a fucking rockstar.
Jenn is a mama of two boys who wears fancy with a grin. She controls her potty mouth while in the classroom but her blog is fair game. If you want to read her ramblings, you can find her personal blog at http://browniestrumpcake.wordpress.com/
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