Tomorrow will be 6 months to the day that The Bambina created our family. So much has changed: I am definitely getting by on less sleep, definitely eating a lot more tater tots, definitely getting my quota of Wiggles. But beyond these obvious things, I have been thinking about the significant ways in which being a mother has changed me for the better.
A lot of things used to matter to me. A lot of things used to seem important. And then I became a mother. Nothing ratchets down your sense of self-importance, your tolerance for personal drama and your penchant for fastidiousness than becoming a parent.
For example, I used to obsess about my weight and appearance.
Okay, I still do. Especially with meds whose primary side effects are acne and weight gain in the form of an ever-growing “back porch”…
But they don’t infect my daily thoughts like they used to. I’m too busy trying to get my act together so I don’t inadvertently give my daughter the same body image issues I—and many of my friends--have wrestled with, both as a fat kid and an all-too-often thin-but-hungry young woman. I am learning—gasp!--that there are worse things in life than not being 104 pounds (like having no food at all or losing everything you own in a hurricane or having your child killed in Iraq or being thin from an illness), and that the selfish myopia necessary to maintaining such a “perfect” weight is unbecoming in an adult woman with a child.
I used to worry about my likeability. Was I well-thought of by others? Would my boyfriend’s mom entrust her son’s happiness to me? Would people like me if I didn’t always agree with them?
Okay, I still do.
But I am busy giving my daughter an emotional and social foundation from which she will never (or at least, no more than the average person) give a rat’s ass whether someone likes her. I want her to be authentically and comfortably herself, whomever that person happens to be. I want her to feel accepted at home, loved for who she is—although challenged to be all she can be. I don’t want her to look for that love and acceptance somewhere else. I went to school with too many girls who tried to find the Daddy Love through controlling, abusive boyfriends. I know too many people—male and female—who, as a result of their “approval addictions,” are emotionally retarded in ways that prevent them from openly giving and receiving love from one special person. They can’t commit to one person because they can’t believe that one person can love them enough. They need the constant high of empty approval from people who shouldn’t matter to them.
I will consider myself a failed parent should my daughter ever end up in that place. Similar to the Baby Daddy who, paraphrasing Chris Rock, says that his primary job as a father is to Keep Her Off The Pole, ie, “if your daughter is a stripper, you have done something really wrong as a father.” I think our differing representations are the Mars/Venus versions of the same idea: that you want your daughter to respect herself, like herself and know to her core that she deserves to be loved by people who matter…a group that does not include skeevy dudes with dollar bills.
As I am writing this and seeing it devolve into stripper poles, I have begun trying to figure out what is driving my introspection, beyond tomorrow's big day, and I think I have figured it out: The Bambina has had a stomach virus for two full weeks now, and today was her first, good, meaty poop in almost 15 days. As I changed her diaper, I felt a wave of relief wash over me and realized that I had been living and dying each day by what was in her diaper, worried that the 7-day virus had been taking twice as long to depart. I laughed out loud as I mentally summarized my life today compared with my life pre-Bambina. In short, I used to be concerned with so many meaningless things that seemed important. Now, I am concerned with so many important things that would appear to others to be meaningless but that make my life full and rich and fragrant.
You know--kind of like a healthy baby’s diaper.