Oh, how things change in a few short years. A recent day at the beach had me reminiscing about the "before" and "after" of my life as a mom.
Before kids, I practically lived at the beach. I spent weekends with my convertible top down, laying on the beach, watching surfers and volleyball players, and hanging out on Lahaina's beach-front deck, floating a cup of ice in a pitcher of beer. I chatted up cute lifeguards while eating ice cream - in a bikini - and fully subscribed to the "if you need anything more than a towel and a smile, you're carrying too much to the beach" way of thinking.
After kids, I find myself gawking (wistfully, enviously) at teenage girls and their teeny, tiny bikinis. Sure, I remember perky boobs, a flat stomach (without a c-section scar or stretch marks from carrying 11-lb babies), and a dimple-free butt. What a shame that I didn't fully appreciate it when I had it. Carrying a bag of towels and beach toys, my first aid kit (Epi-Pens for everyone!), a cooler of snacks for the kids, Boogey Boards, and a beach umbrella leaves me gasping for breath and praying for a spot close to the lifeguard tower - so that I can ask him for the time and remember to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. That pitcher of beer on the deck? Now it's Vitamin Water and juice boxes. I'm pretty sure that beer's not even allowed on Children's Beach anyway.
Before kids, a trip to the grocery store used to involve $40 and one hand-held basket of salad stuff, whole bean coffee, fresh flowers, some yogurt. Now? It's $60 in meat alone! Sometimes I can't even fit a week's worth of groceries in one cart. That $12 for flowers? That's a tennis lesson or a package of diapers now. And whole bean coffee? Seriously? Who has time to grind fresh coffee on school days? Besides, it'd probably wake the whole house up. Cranky kids at 6:00 AM? No thanks.
Where I used to be on a first-name basis with bouncers, bartenders, and the hottest DJs in town, now it's pediatricians, teachers, and the cashier at my local Target store. I used to know all the hot clubs, beaches, bars and boutiques. Now I know where to score double coupons, a good deal on tap shoes, the latest releases in children's literature, and the newest line from Gymboree. Waiting in line for concert tickets gave way to waiting in line for soccer sign-ups and preschool registration.
Sometimes I find myself thinking wistfully back to "the good old days", when I could do whatever I wanted on the weekends, when I didn't have to worry about anyone else's needs, when I didn't have to take into account anyone else's schedule or plans. No one made demands on my time. No one needed me to cut up their apples, apply their sunscreen, wash their hair, remember their pacifier or lovey or extra diapers. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to be completely selfish again, to not be worried about anyone or anything else? At least for a little while?
Well, in a word - yes. Or, as my friend Michelle says, "HELL, yes." It's important to remember that we used to put our own needs first and not feel guilty about it. If we never do that, we'll end up resentful, angry, frustrated. And we might take that out on our kids and husbands. That's not good for anyone. We need to find little ways to be single girls again, do things that remind us who we used to be. Every morning after I drop my kids off at school, I listen to a CD that I call "My Single Self Reminisces." It starts with Pink's U + Ur Hand, a song that defines the nightclub experiences of my 20s. Old Madonna, Prince, some raunchy Nickelback, a little Kid Rock. Explicit lyrics, club songs, the music of my single life. Like I'd let my girls listen to THAT. It's no weekend in San Diego, but when I crank that CD, I can almost forget that I'm driving a disco-blue SUV/mom-mobile with booster seats and school spirit magnets instead of my 2-door convertible - red, of course - that could barely seat a couple of my girlfriends and our beach bags.
Yes, life has changed in just a few short years. The weird thing is, I don't mind in the least. I don't actually feel any older than I did 10 years ago. Oh, I LOOK older; there are fine lines that weren't there before; the word "perky" can most assuredly NOT be used to describe any part of my body. Short of surgery, my tummy will never be flat again, and those stretch-mark creams were definitely a waste of money. Sometimes I have the odd ache or pain when I wake up in the morning, and I definitely can't pull all-nighters anymore. But overall, I wouldn't go back. I wouldn't trade a moment of my life as a wife and mother. Well, maybe a moment. Here or there.
Slacker Mom Says...give yourself permission to be selfish and go back to your single-girl days once in awhile. Get out the photo albums, have the girls over for margaritas, reminisce about what life was like when you slept until 10, partied until 3, started Happy Hour promptly at 5. Go away with your husband, your sister, your girlfriends. Renew, recharge, refresh. Remember who you used to be, so that you can enjoy who you are now. Now that I'm a mom - and let's face it, that will forever be my primary title; even when they are grown and gone, I will still be their mom - I can't imagine going back to a time when my girls didn't exist. Having kids requires us to be selfless and tireless and responsible - in short, a Mom, with a capital M. But every now and then, I want to remember who Kelly was, before she was a wife and a mother. And what's wrong with that?