It was a bad week. We were having another argument. One where we both thought, “Is this what our relationship is now? What happened to us?”
The only thing people say is “having a baby is hard.” But what I wasn’t prepared for was how it was hard. There’s nothing hard about putting a diaper on Levi or feeding him or even soothing him when he’s crying. What’s hard is entering into a role that you’ve never tried before, never had any training in, all within one life-changing moment.
“The truth is, Markus, I am always mom. When do I get to be Laura? A friend? An employee? A coworker? My roles were stripped from me. All except one: mom.”
Tears streamed down my face as I continued.
“I miss you! I miss being your wife! I miss feeling like myself. Because right now, I live and breathe motherhood. I can’t do this.”
And the truth is, we weren’t meant to. Let me explain.
Let’s go back to my beginning: March 5, 1991, at 7:53 pm. Laura May Imler entered the world. My first role in my life was a daughter and sister. I graduated into the role as friend, then girlfriend, student, employee, coworker, and eventually a wife.
When I gave birth to Levi, my whole world as an individual changed. A role was assigned to me that I had no experience in. A role that I would have for my entire life. So, my priorities shifted, as they should. But what I didn’t realize was how easily motherhood would engulf me.
Imagine a waterfall. Not a trickling, couple drops here and there, waterfall. A waterfall where the water crashes down on the rocks underneath with a roar. I felt like the rock. In the same moment, I felt crushed while gazing up at the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
When I feel the weight of the waterfall, I pick up the phone to call my mom, my best friend in Virginia, my friend from church, anybody … somebody. But before I ever press “call” I put down the phone like I’ve done 100 times before. I desperately want to hear it’s going to be fine. And, at the same time, that’s the last thing I want to hear.
How do I explain to my closest friends how I feel? It doesn’t even make sense to me. How do I explain that at the same exact moment I can feel so much joy and so much emptiness? I see my son and my heart bursts with love. But I also have moments when I see him or change his diaper or feed him and I think, “This is my entire life now.” And, I have a feeling of discontent.
If I never voice my discontent, if I keep a smile on my face at all times, how could I ever find freedom from this crushing feeling? In tears, I finally told Markus what I needed and it has changed everything for the better.
“Markus, I need to do things that make me feel human. I need a few hours a week to be Laura. Not mom, not wife, not friend. Just me.”
Every day, Markus finds a way to give me time by myself. He takes Levi and tells me to go take a hot shower alone, run an errand and blast my country music, step outside and talk on the phone, anything to give me time out of my day for myself.
This is why it’s so important. I beg you to hear me.
I cannot be the best mom to Levi if I set aside “Laura,” the girl who ran off to Hawaii, jumped off cliffs into the Pacific Ocean, explored India, visited her boyfriend in Denmark, and had many more adventures. So, I find a few minutes every day to do something for myself or by myself.
I cannot be the best mom to Levi if I am not the best wife to Markus. Without my marriage to Markus, Levi wouldn’t be here. It is crippling to Levi if I put him before Markus. I would be showing him that he comes before my husband. So, we drop our two month son off at grandmas house and have a date alone.
I cannot be the best mom to Levi if I hold myself to the culture’s expectations of motherhood. I will not look like a supermodel, send Levi to Ivy League daycare centers, feed him organic baby food, or other crushing expectations society has placed on us. So, I purposefully avoid magazines and tv shows that are feeding me lies of what kind of mom I have to be.
Motherhood isn’t everything. And thank God it’s not. Because so much would be lost if that were the case. I’m a mom but also a friend, a sister, a daughter, a wife. And I’ll argue that the hardest part of motherhood is figuring out the balance between those beautiful roles.
So the next time you see a mama with a little one in a car seat, look her in the eyes and ask her how she’s doing as a human being. Not as a mom but as a fellow human. She will so appreciate it.