In my early twenties I had to take a personality “quiz,” titled “What Color Are You.” The quiz specified to, “Choose the descriptions that describe you right now, not what you would like to be.” Oh I so desperately wanted to be a “blue;” “free-spirited, spontaneous, sedate.” Hence, I was a true “Gold.” “Dependable, organized, scheduled.” However, I spent most of my young adult life feigning “blue,” because I believe (or maybe believed) that a “relaxed” person is a more likeable person.
I made every effort to be the opposite of difficult, borderline indifferent, and isn’t indifference better than demanding? Motherhood has demanded that my energy be directed elsewhere. Also, the older I get, the more I long for authenticity in my personal life and nothing has forced me into self honesty more than motherhood.
Last summer, I was presented with a hard to pass up opportunity. My husband and I, along with our then 18-month old twins, were able to vacation for seven days in Aruba with my sister’s family and my mother. Our first class flight was free, thanks to my husband’s hectic travel and our shared time share room was free, thanks to our generous brother-in-law’s family. Aruba, free, family vacation. Who could say no to that? Me. The real me, should have said no, because I knew I was not ready for that kind of family vacation. In truth, I may never be ready for that kind of family vacation.
I want to say that I learned a few things about myself that week but if I am to be genuine then I know that truly I have known these things for years. I love to travel, this is a truth, but there is a way that I enjoy doing it. As an eager twenty-something I wanted to be the kind of girl who could throw a few items in a backpack and go. I bought a second hand army pack and sweetly slung it over my shoulder, yet all the while I toted a “purse” filled with every toiletry imaginable. The reality is I like to be prepared but I don’t want to look “high maintenance,” while doing so. But really, what is so bad about high maintenance if I am the one doing the maintaining? I didn’t expect someone else to carry my 50 lb bag filled with Advil, seven styles of sunscreen and satsuma lotion. Now, as a mom, I could not even pretend to stuff my entire family’s vacation needs into a ruck sack, so there I was checking in at the Continental counter with a suitcase the size of a small country, paying a fee to have an “overweight” sticker splayed across my super sized suitcase. So much for looking free spirited.
In addition to packing for anything, I know I enjoy clean and ample space. The youth hostels of my youth were fun, but even then I walked tippy toed, not wanting my feet to fully touch any surface. I also drank enough every night to ensure I could pass out without having to think about the ten other people sharing the air around me as I slept. So while I wished we would be fine sharing a fairly decent sized room with my children, I knew that in the back of my mind that the Aruba week may be a sleepless one. Midway through the vacation I was delirious with sleep deprivation, snapping at everyone near me and desperately wanting to go home. Not to say that the vacation was at all a total loss. There were moments of pure bliss. But I like things the way I like them and I just could not adjust in this situation.
I wanted to be the kind of mom that could travel with a baby in a sling, sharing a bed, pulling a scarf out of my teeny backpack and fashioning it into ten different outfits. I wanted to not care about a clean floor. I wanted to be the kind of mom that followed the natural rhythms of her baby rather than a schedule. I now know that I never was that kind of person, and although motherhood changed a lot of things, it wasn’t going to change that.
This summer, we rented a shore house with family. We stuffed our gas guzzling SUV and the Big Mac rack on top with every conceivable item a vacation may demand. I walked barefoot around our four bedroom, two bath townhouse and slept happily in the master bedroom with my husband, a baby monitor close at hand. While I still desire to be more free-spirited, I remind myself that, for me, authenticity is more freeing than a freed up schedule and a footloose look. Indifferent might be better than difficult in some situations, but it is often less interesting. And while I still like to please people, motherhood has taught me that in order to please others, I might want to start with myself.
This is an original JerseyMomsBlog post.