Very recently I was at a pool party with another mom and our sons. This was not a kiddy-party, but the hosts graciously welcomed our kiddos to the crowd. We had been there for a little while when a girl drifted over on her enormous pink flamingo pool float and proclaimed that my friend and I were "two seriously hot mamas."
If you've ever wrangled a toddler in the middle of a young, relatively kid-less crowd (in a bikini no less) you can probably guess that "hot" was not how I necessarily felt in the moment. Maybe it was silly, but her comment felt really good.
Over the next few days, I found myself repeatedly thinking of the scene, and I couldn't quite figure out why. Of course it's nice to be called hot, but I don't think it was about that. This girl saw me as an individual, even in the midst of my mom duties. There was something very meaningful about that.
Being a mother can be overwhelming. On some days I find it all encompassing — though please don't misunderstand: I love it, and I think my kid is about the best thing ever. That said, I sometimes feel profoundly unseen.
Having a child at 33 meant I spent more than a decade evolving as an adult individual before I became a mother. Successful career(s), financial independence, education, travel, adventures, loves and lovers — a myriad experiences that make up the whole of who I have become. And these are elements of the woman I am as a mother, even if they aren't always apparent.
Though it's tough, because so many elements of my identity seem to fragment and disappear when they feel unrelated to the task at hand. It feels like something is lost in the process, and loss is certainly not something you want to feel when growing into your identity as a mother.
From the very first moment of holding my son, my focus was fixed firmly on the needs of this tiny being who had just miraculously landed on my chest. Of course it was! Like with any new love, it's easy to become lost in the experience of falling in love with your child. But at some point, the intensity of these feelings stabilizes a bit, leaving you room to think about the self you used to know. Where is she exactly?
I think the question for our generation is how to bridge this gap between "before" and "after" motherhood. How do I bring together who I was before giving birth and who I am now, as a mother and more?
In the throes of everyday life, it's not always easy. We need mirrors, like that girl at the pool party, to remind us to remember who we are! I am encouraging myself to open up to compliments, whether from besties, my partner, my (soul) sisters — and yes, strangers too. In fact, I'm thinking we should all get in the habit of telling moms they're hot.
And more, I think we should work to acknowledge things about a mom we love, or even a mom we've just met, that let her know SHE is seen. To celebrate those spectacular elements of her that we appreciate the most. Things she might see as completely unrelated to her daily routine, but things we recognize as central to the woman she brings to mothering.
It doesn't have to be some grand statement, delivered perfectly. One heartfelt sentence, delivered in the moment, or just something sweet shared for all to see.