“If you could go back 10 years and advise your younger self, what would you say?”
As much as I hate this question because of the impossibility of the phenomenon ever taking place and therefore for the insatiable craving it creates, I find myself pondering and eventually answering it. If I could go back 10 years and advise 27 year old Malaka, I wouldn’t be sitting here tapping furiously away on this busted Gateway in my granny panties talking about the changes I’d make to my life. I’d actually be on a yacht tapping furiously on a sleek Mac in lime green bikini, watching dolphins moonwalk for my pleasure.
My life would look completely different if I’d had the foresight to avoid two people in particular at that critical juncture in my life. But this is my life now, and daggonit, I just have to live it such as it is. So do you. You have to live your life, such as it is. We all have to come to terms with and accept the life events that have shaped who we are and our present circumstances.
The biggest life event(s) I’ve had to date would be the births of my children. I always knew I would have kids, but I never considered exactly how I would raise them or what that process would entail. So when I found myself pregnant with my first baby unplanned and ahead of schedule, I went online in search of guidance. I spent hours on Babycenter.com and several “Mommy blogs”. It was from them that I learned what motherhood ought to look like: what feelings I ought to be feeling; what achievements and goals I ought to be setting up for myself; whether I should breast or bottle feed; if going back to work would make me a bad mom; what my future in general as a mother ought to look like. Most of these centered around feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and a life of sacrifice. And oh, was I a good pupil! I would feel more guilty and inadequate than any mother before me and I would sacrifice harder than I’d ever sacrificed before. I committed myself to the humblebrag misery of 21st century motherhood.
Yeah…I wish I hadn’t done that. It’s taken me 11 years to realize I never should have done that. I never should have subscribed to the idea that I was only doing the mommy thing right if I was feeling bad about it. You know what’s worse? I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own. This was not an epiphany I woke up with one day. As they often do, it was my own kid who showed me how wrong I’ve been mothering all these years.
The MOM Squad knows what type of person I am, so none of you will take offense when I say what I’m about to say in the way I am about to say it. (You Random Readers, however. Oooo weee! Just save it.)
I have been DESPERATELY looking forward to the day when my kids grow up and leave so I get my life back. I feel like these last 11 years and the 13 more I have to go feel like a prison sentence, and I can’t wait to break free. Why? Because I have made my life’s work about making my children happy. I take on extra hours at work so I can buy them new gadgets or enroll them in clubs. We take day trips to North Georgia and neighboring states so that they experience what it’s like to be in a different aquarium/zoo or navigate a corn maze in a new city. I don’t want to work extra hours, and I don’t necessarily want to spend half the day driving with four bickering kids in the back seat, but I’ve done it anyway because it made them happy.
Mind you, none of these are particularly damaging pursuits, except for one thing: they meant me giving up time for my passions and my interests for the benefit of theirs. The only thing I’ve kept intact from my life prior to motherhood is writing. Everything else withered and died. And I have been a very unhappy person AND mother for it. Again, it was my oldest – who of all my children is singularly adept at conveying truth in the most subtle, yet gut punching way – who made me realize how foolish I have been for this.
A few weeks ago our school celebrated Teacher Appreciation week. I always do my best to get meaningful gifts for our teachers and admins because consistently they do a fantastic job with our kids. Nadjah’s math teacher this year is a gamer and a geek with GQ swag, so finding his gift was proving particularly hard. I could only think of one place source something appropriate for him: Little Five Points.
L5P is a district in Atlanta where creativity feeds on steroids and Jamba Juice. You can literally walk around it all day and never uncover all the visual (and culinary) surprises that are lurking behind doors painted in blue, purple and azure. Once upon a time, I could recommend a shop or three to pick up odd and exotic knickknacks. But now? Not so much. Until the weekend in question, I hadn’t been to L5P since 2005, and believe it or not, I’d even forgotten HOW to get there. After querying a maintenance man and a tattoo artist, we found our way to Junkman’s Daughter, a store that is a treasure trove for the sexually depraved and the chaste alike. I know, it’s weird. And yes, I took all four of my kids in the store with me.
Nadjah was elated by the trinketry for sale. There were amulets, wizard hats, Star Trek paraphernalia (other paraphernalia) all over the store. Finally, she found an Adventure Time themed gift for her teacher which she deemed “perfect”.
“Mr. Nguyen came dressed up as Finn for our Character Day. I think he’d like this.”
We put it in the bag and that solved our gift idea dilemma. Of course, Nadjah wanted to know why we’d never been to this particular (so awesome, Mommy!) store before.
“You like Star Trek n’ stuff, Mommy. Aren’t you a geek? How come you don’t come here more often?”
“I used to be a geek,” I mused, (my sister and husband will dispute this) “but I became a mom instead.”
Nadjah bristled. “Just because you became a mom doesn’t mean you had to stop being a geek.”
Well daggonit if she wasn’t right. Suddenly, all those years and hours wasted on pursuits that were near tortuous for me seemed like a waste. I had wasted the first half of my motherhood experience for nothing. I could have been happy…and that would have made my children happier. (‘Happier’ because I defy these Negroes to tell me I haven’t provided them a delightful existence thus far!)
A few days ago, my younger cousin Nikki posted this picture on her social media page. She and her mother have a great relationship, primarily because they love each other so much. You know how some parent-child relationships only thrive because the child turned out exactly way the parent wanted? It’s not like that with these two. They love one another down to their warts. Look at this:
I’ve been doing it wrong all these years! Message received. From now it, it will be different.
If you’re reading this, and you’re thinking about how much being a mother sucks just go on and admit it to yourself. Then change your perspective. Then choose your own happiness. Your kids will thank you in the long run.
…Of course, as long as that happiness does not entail you trading them for meth or stealing from their piggy bank to fund your gambling habits. That would make you a despicable human being. If that’s you, ‘sacrifice and guilt’ is your best course of action until they turn 18.