Dear 35-year-old self,
I’m writing to you from a party in Hollywood. I’m dressed in a low-cut black dress, drinking an unpronounceable cocktail, and sharing pleasantries with former super model Julie Anderson. My kids are almost 3,000 miles away, being watched by their dad, or maybe a babysitter…I’m not entirely sure.
I know, I know. You’re having trouble believing this. And if you do believe it, you’re outraged! YOU would never flit off across the country, leave your little ones behind, drink one too many Caipreehoonas… or whatever the hell I’m drinking. YOU would never flirt with the cute young hipsters, take Ubers and stay in an Airbnb tent on a rooftop overlooking the Hollywood sign. In fact, YOU would never be invited to an event like this to begin with.
My dear, you are in the trenches right now. Three little ones under the age of 7, a toddler who has become an accessory to your breasts, and a Dr. Sears book on your bedside table casting disparaging looks every time you pull out the stroller.
You still shower with company, sleep with at least two chubby feet on your stomach, and perish the thought of getting a babysitter.
You’re lonely, too. Despite your best efforts to make friends, you just never fit in with the mom club ladies or preschool mamas. So you turn inward to find the solace that you crave.
Even now, as you cook and nurse and tend to your little ones’ needs, your heart still feels it sometimes… that call of adventure and excitement. That urge to leave all your responsibilities behind and soar through the universe free as a breeze.
But you won’t admit to it. You can’t. Because there are lunches to be made and tushies to wipe and tantrums to quell. The truth is, the cacophony of laughter and tears and little hands banging pots is so loud, it’s rare that anything else makes it past—certainly not something as frivolous as the longings of your heart.
You’re a mom now, a “good one,” and that’s the only thing that really counts.
You tell yourself every day that good mothers don’t leave their kids with babysitters or initiate weaning or encourage their little ones to try and sleep on their own.
In time you’ll learn that “good mothers” don’t have to sacrifice everything for their children.
Don’t be hard on yourself when you realize how judgmental you’ve been. Remember how little sleep you got and how lonely you were.
It will take you years to crawl out of your self-made cocoon of sacrifice and learn these lessons. But, for right now, you feel loved and needed and almost completely complete.
You’ll feed off this sense of completeness for years, until slowly, slowly, there will be less tantrums, less dirty tushies, less hugs. Each time the children take a step forward, you will take a step backwards, into that self you have long neglected.
Then, one day, after it has remained mostly dormant for years, your wild heart will fly up out of its cage and demand to be heard. It will shake and rattle your soul with such urgency and strength that you will have no choice but to listen.
Listen to your body, my love. Just like you did when you ate nothing but tomato soup and crackers for nine months, just like you did when the doctors told you that you were too ill to nurse your son, but you pressed on into wellness, just like you did when everyone warned you about the horrors of co-sleeping and yet you woke with a smile every day to little hands curled in your hair—listen.
Listen to it again when it tells you that you need to take time to yourself—to read, to write, to prowl through the streets of NYC. Listen to it when it tells you to give the kids more time alone with your husband, to hire babysitters, to spend one night, maybe three, all on your own.
Listen to it—without guilt or shame—when it tells you to get on a plane all by yourself and travel way across the country to a party that YOU were invited to for stories that YOU wrote that came straight from that wild heart of yours.
I wonder what your face looks like as you read this letter. Do your cheeks burn in shame at the adventure-seeking woman you’ve become—a far cry from what you believe a “good mom” to be? I hope not. I hope that you’re proud of me, of what I’ve accomplished—of what we’ve accomplished.
Because, my dear, there is no me without you. Without those strong roots you gave our little ones, I would never feel safe to leave them for days at a time. Without those lonely hours you spent daydreaming while the kids played at the park or nursed in the wee hours of the night, I never would have imagined that life could be so full of possibilities.
Without the times you scribbled a few words on the back of the diaper box which turned into paragraphs in a notebook which evolved into stories and essays on laptops, I would never have found my writing voice which has opened so many doors. We are one, you and I.
Thank you, my love, for all that you’ve done for me, for us. I hope I’ll make you proud.
Your 40-year-old self