The hesitation is apparent, as I mull over the question again and again in my head.
Where is your favorite place to shop?
I laugh nervously. The small group of women and mothers I am talking to lean in closer, but my answer never materializes. Instead, I do what I usually do when I am nervous, and brush off the question with humor. “Does Amazon Prime count?” I laugh, and to my relief everyone in the group looks satisfied.
But as I walk away I wonder what else I can’t answer about myself.
One of the definitions for conduit is ‘a means of transmitting or distributing’. An example would be “water flowed along the conduit to the well”. When we become parents, we do, by default, start to become a conduit for our children to experience the world. However, I found that that was all I was becoming; a means for my children to get to soccer, turn in homework, attend cooking class, and on and on. Somewhere between pediatrician appointments and play dates I just stopped connecting with myself.
I stopped doing a lot of what did not have to do with my children or their routines. If my makeup did not get my daughter to school any faster, I ended up skipping it. If a pair of new shoes did not also magically find my car keys to soccer, I didn’t buy them. I became utilitarian in appearance, and in thinking. If I got into the shower that morning I thought, “Well at least I’m clean,” and called it a win. It became obvious that something was not quite right about the “new me,” or lack thereof.
When I did start to identify that I needed to escape this Conduit Parent Trap– it was not an overnight transformation.
I started with baby steps. I gave myself thirty minutes each day to do something that did not involve or impact the kids. Almost immediately I started to pick up reading again, something I had “shelved” while I was in the thick of parenting. After a few days, I noticed I was a better mom for having had a little time to myself and doing something I loved.
Then, I took time at the end of my nights after the kids went to bed to expand my “me time.” I started to light a candle and take a long shower or just don my favorite pajamas and dig into some gelato. Sure, there were nights where my husband and I watched a movie together or one of the kids got up three times to use the restroom. For the most part though, I was able to gain a few moments to myself that also bolstered my view of who I was outside of motherhood. I celebrated these little victories.
I am still driving kids to activities and making last-minute projects with my daughter for school. But, I took back the car radio on errands and shlepping the kids to school. I grabbed my favorite coffee drink while watching my kids soccer practice. I wore my new shoes (that I took time to purchase at a new favorite store I liked) to pick my daughter up from cooking class. I discussed the book I was reading at dinnertime, instead of how grocery shopping went. It became a new and empowering goal of mine to find ways I could insert myself back into the process of “distributing” daily life to my children.
There is a poem I adore by Kahlili Gibran called On Children. One stanza reads;
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
I always interpret the poem as my children being their own person. Ultimately, the same is true of myself. Mother that I may be; I am my own person, lest I forget this and become some kind of autopilot parent that lives for the lives of my children, and only my children.
No, I do not feel I can justify being limited to ‘a means of transmitting or distributing’ my children to the experiences of this life. I would like to stay the course of connecting with myself a little more, and perhaps even be more than capable of answering the question of, “Where is your favorite place to shop?”
By the way, where is your favorite place to shop?