You will put on sneakers with a dress. You will do it running late this morning. You will do it for comfort and convenience. You will remember how you used to look at other women on the street wearing this and think, this will never be me. And then you will look down at your own feet as they bump against the hind wheels of the stroller because you hit another divot in the cracked sidewalk, and you will consider how many things you now do that you said you’d never do. How many things you judged so harshly. How many women you judged, only to become them.
Last night, you got home at 10:15 and swore it must be past midnight. You ate week-old slices of pizza and watched something on Netflix you don’t even remember. You went in to your son’s room to watch him son sleep until his eyes cracked open enough to warn you it was time to leave. You were in bed by 11 and having had three gin n’ tonics at the poetry reading that night, you were asleep almost instantly.
That night, you spent 3 whole hours being, or pretending to be, just a poet. You put on some make-up and let your hair run down and wild the way you let your son’s. You spent the whole Lyft ride over to the lounge getting complimented by the driver, who called you a nice lady who isn’t getting creeped out by his compliments—though of course you were. He told you how easy you must have it being so pretty. How people always listen to pretty girls with nice voices. He told you how successful you must be as a poet, looking the way you do. You told him you’re a mom. Told him “pretty” can get you taken less seriously. Told him you don’t remember the last time you went out to a reading like this.
You felt yourself become the person who opens up to a complete stranger, the person you used to pity thinking: don’t they have real friends they could talk to about this? Why would you share personal things with someone who could care less? But now, you were the one doing it and it had nothing to do with the complete stranger. You knew he wasn’t listening. You knew he was likely looking in the rearview to see if your legs were fully crossed. But this kind of talking has nothing to do with the one you’re talking to. It just has to do with you saying, out loud, that you are struggling. It has to do with saying it to someone else. Saying it to someone who, even if they judge or pity you, they will not carry this emotion into your next conversation because that conversation won’t exist. You realized then, there are things reserved only for strangers.
And when you finally got to the poetry reading, you felt like you hardly belonged anymore. You ordered a drink, because that’s the thing to do, and when asked about your how your work was going, your poems and research, all you could think about was the day you spent watching your son paint for the first time at the Messy Stay & Play that Evelyn’s Corner brought to your Fit4Mom Philly class. How he stuck a yellow paintbrush in his mouth, smiled then grimaced, and looked like he had eaten a spoonful of sunlight. How watching him, surrounded by these Mamas and their littles, you forget about not belonging for a short while.
And while talking to a poet friend, you were so distracted by how you should probably text his dad and remind him about the antibiotic your son needs before bed, but you didn’t do it and so who knows if your son got the medicine. And you realized at this moment, you’ve become that woman, the one who can’t stop talking about herself and her family, no matter the context or its relevance to the conversation. You are the woman who can’t separate the world of motherhood from everything else. And you used to judge her, used to think, not everything is about you and your family, except now you know that it is. Everything you did before is still there, still important, only now, it all connects to how you are a mother. Everything you do now reminds you of it, especially the things that seem to have nothing to do with motherhood at all.
And you wake this morning to “Mama, Mama,” and then “Vada” (water), but keep on lying in bed until your son’s calm voice starts to sound desperate and angry at you for ignoring it. And you think, just how much you used to judge the mothers you thought weren’t paying enough attention to their kids, or weren’t responding to them fast enough, or weren’t doing enough in general, according to your non-mother version of what is “enough.”
But now, you are wearing a dress with sneakers and walking your son to daycare. You are letting him eat pretzels for breakfast and wear Mardi Gras beads he found somewhere under the bed. You are singing out loud in Russian because he likes that and you don’t care what those passing by think about your voice. You see another Mama with a screaming toddler and wish you could help instead of thinking how she could be doing more. You know you are every woman you’ve judged. You know you didn’t understand them and maybe still don’t. You know you are more than enough, even if you rarely feel this.