Mr. Mint loves his nice car. He has worked his @ss off to afford that car and he deserves it. It's not over the top, just a nice car. He rarely lets me drive it. And by rarely, I mean never. I can't say I really blame him, as driving has never been my forte. But sometimes it is rather silly. If I am going to my book club or to run an errand on the weekend, he never, ever offers to let me drive his car instead of my minivan. Never. Ever. (But I'm not bitter or anything)
A couple of weeks ago he took the kids to his parents house for the afternoon and I had an event to attend that evening. I could tell it was painful for him, but it made no sense to put all three car seats in his car. I can count on one hand the times this has happened in our six years of parenthood... the situations that require him to drive all three kids somewhere and me to be without any kids.
I did what any mom would do with a couple of hours to herself and an empty house. I folded laundry, picked up various shoes, toys and snack remnants from around the house, cleaned the kitchen and took a shower. I took my time getting dressed. I picked out a cute outfit and even put on some lip gloss. I got into Mr. Mints nice car and sank into the comfortable seat. I turned up the radio and cruised down hwy 101 to my destination. I had a very strange, almost giddy feeling I couldn't quite put my finger on. Granted I was attending a very mommy-centric event, but what was that look the valet was giving me as I pulled up to the four star hotel in my husband's nice car? Was he flirting?
Then it hit me as I was walking into the hotel. That valet did not see a disheveled mom in a minivan with a potty on the floor of the backseat, fruit snacks smashed into every crevice, a random shoe under the seat and DVD's strewn about the front console. He saw a smartly dressed, fairly decent looking, relaxed woman. He saw me. The un-mommy me. I almost started crying. But I didn't.
Instead I had a lovely time getting to know some other smart moms and listening to a UC Berkeley Graduate School professer lead a discussion about reading, education and raising our children to love learning. It wasn't about potty training, timeouts, meal time or playdates (not that those aren't discussions I have with other smart moms on a daily basis).
When I got back in Mr. Mint's car to go home. I savored whatever it was that I was feeling. I refreshed my lip gloss, even though I was headed home. I turned up the radio again. And there it was in a flash. That feeling I couldn't put my finger on earlier was me feeling like no one's mommy. No one was asking me to pull over so they could pick up the water bottle they just dropped. No one was yelling for me to turn up their favorite song at the same time someone else was asking me to turn the music down so they could tell me something. No one was bickering. There was no echo of "mommy, mommy, mommy, MOMMY." There was just me, the radio and the road. When I got home all I had to unload was myself. I felt young and refreshed.
Lately I've been thinking about why driving my husband's car was such an intense experience for me. Have you ever seen that Suave commercial? This one:
That is totally me. Except I tried Suave and it didn't really make me beautiful and youthful again.
I have immersed myself in being the mommy for the past six years and I have lost a little bit of the person I was before. I still care about my appearance, but it is hard to find the energy some days to really put an effort into it. Wearing sweats just seems so much more practical and comfortable for days when I will only be dropping off kids here and there and coming home to clean up the breakfast dishes and read blogs. I do "dress up" for when I am in one of the kids classrooms, have an appointment or plan to meet someone for lunch or coffee. But my "mom" wardrobe is very different from when I has a full time office job.
Being a stay at home mom has suited me just fine for the most part. But what I am starting to realize six years in is that motherhood is amazing and wonderful and fulfilling, but is not the end all, be all of life. And that is OK. I'm hard on myself as a mother and want to craft a magical childhood for my children. I enjoy them and I'm nuts about them. But they also suck the life out of me sometimes. Why do I need an evening alone and a drive in a nice car to remind me of my old self? Why does she need to be lost? She would be a good mother too.
What I have been asking myself is what am I really teaching them by having not much of a life outside of being their mom. I don't want my girls, or my son for that matter to grow up thinking moms wear sweats everyday and only venture outside the house for groceries, book club and to vote. I need to find a way to be The Mommy and The Un-Mommy at the same time. It's a struggle sometimes.
I am making myself sound pretty pathetic, which in reality I am not (I hope). I don't have all the answers. I just know that I need to show my kids that there is more to life than listening to Camp Rock songs in the car.
Perhaps I'll take a class at a community college. Or maybe I'll just take Mr. Mint's car out for a spin more often.