The sky blackens as the moon glistens white behind trees. The air chills. My skin prickles.
Jason splashes me from afar. The warm water hits my hair, futily ponytailed, and my face, fussily made up. My friend and I laugh, roll our eyes, turn away from our husbands.
I was twenty-six years old, newly married, and a teacher. My friend was already a Mother of three. After dinner and shows, giggles and books, hugs and tuck-ins, the four of us would swim late into the night.
We'd stand and float, commiserate and share.
Summer's almost over! She says.
School just ended! I answer.
As she explained her children’s camps and activities, vacations and plans, I saw summer from her Mothering eyes, at that time a sight still unknown to me.
We pause, breathe in the night, glimpse our husbands' chatter – movies, baseball, work.
I'm thinking about going back to school, She shares.
I smile my approval, so sure of what I know to be true, to be best, as only a twenty-something without children can be.
I probe, I encourage, I say, I'm so excited at the thought of you being “more than just a Mom.”
Today, I write these words having been a Stay at Home Mom—a role and title and privilege that I fought for furiously; one that I still fight for.
Every time bills come in or sports come up, the basement floods or the air conditioning breaks—I fight for it. Jason works impossibly long hours and we still live frugally, because he fights for it too.
So my cheeks flush, my voice catches, and I hesitate as I type.
Realizing what I felt and how I thought makes me cringe. Remembering that I said it all out loud, makes it worse.
It’s so very uncomfortable to break from what we know and to (humbly) look back at the resulting wreckage is, in some ways, even more uncomfortable. But the messy lessons within, are golden.
On that night my friend and I stood still in the warm water.
Our arms, cooling.
Our eyes, calculating.
Our husbands, oblivious.
We stood friend-to-friend, but not eye-to-eye. A shared dance, maneuvering perspectives and experiences, priorities and what's-bests, friendship and choices.
She gracefully spoke of always wanting to be at home, of hoping the same for her own girls.
I took in her serious expression, her earnest eyes, her gentle wording. And I listened—really listened.
From then on, I also watched.
I saw how she loved her children. It was intoxicating; she was full.
And for the first time I understood how Mothering could possibly be enough.
It took many more moonlight dips for me to know whether I wanted to stay at home or work outside of it. But I changed that night.
I gleaned that we fill up differently. That our dark nights and summer plans don't have to look the same. That intoxicating fullness is what matters, not the way that we get there.
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