Right now, I am in the midst of finishing rehearsals for a show that includes a children's chorus. The kids range in age from around five years old to a couple of middle schoolers. So, unable to keep my mouth shut for any appreciable length of time, I've chatted with some of the other parents as I wait to be needed for whatever number.
One mom comes with a small child who is probably two and a half, unlike my small children, he is capable of sitting quietly and watching the musical unfold. I think his sister is in the show, and his mom looks to be in my general age range.
"So you have three kids?" she asked me one day recently.
"I do," I confirmed.
"And they're how old?" This is not uncharted territory for me. I look younger than I actually am. When Mary was born, the nurses treated me like I was on the show "16 and Pregnant," addressing questions to my mother or mother in law instead of the woman in bed holding the baby. I think they reviewed diaper changing 101 with me each time Mary required it. So I smiled and rattled off their ages once more.
"Almost five, just turned three, and almost one," I said.
"And you're in this show? How do you do it? I haven't gotten time to myself in years. How do you get away all by yourself?"
The question wasn't rhetorical. She actually wanted to know. The sarcastic answer: "Well, I'm actually in three shows right now and I'll probably be divorced by Thanksgiving" seemed too flip. The obvious answer: "I have a very supportive and loving husband," seemed too simplistic, though it's completely true. I couldn't pursue any of these hobbies like I do without Tim, who works his butt off to allow me to be a stay at home mom and who also supports a lifestyle that pretty much means Mommy exists only in theory during tech weeks.
But the long answer is much more complicated than that. I do it because I need to. I do it because after a long day, I need a break from being Mommy. I need to do something that reminds me of the person I was before deciding to become a parent, that thing that was part of me before kids, before marriage, the thing that helped define me. I'm a different person now, but one day, my kids will be different people, too. They'll be more independent, have different interests, and, as hard as this can be to contemplate on some days, will eventually move out and have their own lives. Maybe it makes me selfish, but I can't define myself only as "Mary, Anna and Lily's mom" because they will never define themselves solely as "Kim's daughters."
When I was at my baby shower for Mary, the guests were asked to write down some parental advice on an index card. Some were silly: Tim's grandmother advised me to "give her whatever she wants." (That's your job, Nana. My job is to raise her to not be a jerk.) Others reminded me of the importance of a healthy church upbringing. (Note to self: You are failing in this department and don't really want to be, so get on that.) But the one that stuck with me was from a woman who, instead of something off my registry, gave me a silky, pretty bathrobe for the hospital and some really nice, scented body lotion.
"Make sure to take time for yourself."
As a fairly self centered person by nature, that didn't strike me as radical advice, but it wasn't until I was knee-deep in Mommyland that I realized just how important it was to follow. For three years I did the Mommy thing all day, worked at night, and came home in time to fall into bed. Then I quit, and got pregnant. When I could finally leave the baby and audition for a musical, I was so ready it was almost painful. Getting back on that stage reconnected me to something I had lost, and even Tim noticed how much happier I seemed.
So when I was at a baby shower this past spring for one of my best friends, and the advice book circulated, I glanced at the other tips. "Relax." "Read to your baby." "Take lots of pictures, it flies by." All excellent advice. And then I added my own.
"Remember at least one thing that you enjoyed before you became a mom. Find a way to make time for it."
It doesn't have to be big, or expensive, or time consuming, or even the same thing every time, but it should be something.
How do I do it? I don't know, exactly. But I do it because I have to.