When our babies are born, we pour everything into them, more than we ever could’ve imagined we would. We give them everything we have, heart and soul. We rock, we bounce, we nurse and soothe. We do it because we love them and we can’t envision NOT doing it. We give them everything we have because that’s just who we are.
We’ll probably always give them everything we have. There won’t be a time when we won’t pour ourselves out for those babies. But as they grow older, it’s our job to let them go a little bit every day. And it’s hard to do. Loosening that grip will be painful, and we won’t always do it with a lot of grace. Sometimes we’ll want them to stay little forever. But they won’t, and we can’t make them. We have to let them go. And when we do, I hope we don’t find that when we poured everything out, we also wrung ourselves dry – that there’s nothing left for us.
Eventually, we’ll no longer be the center of their worlds. They’ll understand that they are separate people from us, with their own opinions and ideas. They’ll discover other people are actually pretty interesting too, and they’ll prefer the company of others. It will happen inch by inch, moment by moment. A task they needed help with yesterday will be accomplished independently tomorrow.
As our babies grow we can grieve, but we can also rejoice. We can say, “Good, there’s a little more me left for me.” And we can nurture those parts of ourselves that we reclaim bit by bit, day by day. We won’t squander them. We’ll learn to give ourselves over to our families even while reserving a bit of ourselves for ourselves, too. We won’t look to those babies to define us. We’ll hold our families together, but we won’t sacrifice ourselves to do it. “Mama” is a big part of who we are, but it’s not all of who we are. We aren’t required to relinquish our identities to be good mothers. That’s a lie we can choose not to buy.
Someday, when our children are grown, I hope that we won’t look back and wonder what happened to our identities. I hope that instead we will choose to actively reclaim them at each new phase. I hope we’ll love fiercely and then let go as best we can. I hope we’ll know that we’re enough and that we did a damn good job raising the people in our care. They’ll always be our babies, but we’ll allow them to be their own people, too. We’ll be capable of doing that because we’ll be wholly ourselves. And we’ll know that has always been enough.