I literally never thought about parenting before I had kids. I never gave a single thought to how I wanted to do things, what my values were, what type of mother I wanted to be. I never really thought about kids. It was weird. It is the one thing that I have always known for my entire life beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to do, to have kids, but I never really thought about it in detail and I certainly never particularly liked kids. I was a crap babysitter. I had to watch my younger brother and sister a lot when we were growing up and it is an actual miracle that they made it out unscathed. I certainly don't think that I ever fed them anything. Or read to them. Or played with them. In fact I am pretty sure that I mostly just did my best to corrupt them.
I always knew that I would have kids though. In part, I was raised in that way where that was just the assumption of the natural progression of things. College, marriage, kids. It seems so odd to me now in a way, but it really never occurred to me that I would do things any differently when I was growing up. I was the kid who played with dolls well into puberty to the point of it being a sort of guilty pleasure that lasted through middle school. A secret pastime.
Toward the end of college I lived with a guy who really wasn't sure if he wanted to EVER have kids and despite all of the other things that made the two of us not compatible for the long haul, that piece was above and beyond the most crushing. So when it came to dating Chris, it was clear before we ever even touched that kids were the trajectory. More for me than any other projected path: career, marriage, all of that was some peripheral vapor that lived outside of my desire to be a mother. Getting married was Chris' part of the baby-making bargain... he's a smart man. Or he just knows me really well. Ok, prolly both.
So even though I never thought much about it, when we got pregnant I just knew home birth was right for me. And when Maple was born I just knew that she was going to sleep with us and I knew that I was going to breastfeed on demand. Forever. And ever. Just kidding. But we did co-sleep for like 7 years and I nursed pretty much straight for 6.5 years. Seemed like forever when it was happening- our bedroom was like an asylum- wall to wall mattresses, on the floor of course.
I also knew, that being available to my kids was going to be the most important part of parenting for me. I knew that whatever work that I did separate from them was going to need to take form around that central aspect. I wasn't waiting for them to get bigger so that they could go back to school and I could go back to work. I was never under any illusion that parenting was going to get easier as they got older but instead have acted within the belief that as they grow and develop and become things only become more complicated and nuanced and my ability to be present, physically sure, but emotionally and psychically in particular was going to need to increase in accordance. It is complicated. And there is no one way. And the choices that we have made as a family are in no way the appropriate choices for everyone to make. I know that much of our path has been born out of not just our own sacrifice and compromise, but perhaps most importantly out of our privilege.
The other morning I was catching up with my longtime teacher and friend. She has been quite successful in her career and has recently been making the tremendous transition into shifting the shape of her work to support caring for her aging parents. Her focus and priorities have been changing and the result of that is the unfolding of so much love and the magic of bearing witness to the beauty and grace of holding space with our loved ones. It is the desire to be with my family these many years that has held my own career aspirations at bay. There is ebb and flow for sure, times when I can turn more attention outside of the home and then times when I am called back . My work is in being able to perceive what is being asked of me when....
But here is the big truth for me, the one I have been scratching at for a good long while now: Yoga has not made me a better mom. It is the other way round. Being a mother has made me a better yogi. Mama is the lense through which all other aspects of myself have been transformed. And while it is not all of who I am, it is the part of me that has been the catalyst for most of my growth as a person. Not because it has taught me patience- which it has- or because I have learned to sit with discomfort- which is true. Being a mama has made me a better yogi because it is teaching me to love while letting go. It has been the daily lessons of unconditional love in the face of imperfection and clumsiness, of shortcomings and foibles. Of mine and my kids own human awkwardness. There is that saying that once you become a parent, you transition to having your heart move around outside of your body. That is true in a whole lot of ways, and especially in the sense that your heart has to grow to accommodate that. A lot more than just your own kids get contained in that kind of compassion and love.
While writing this, I have gotten up a dozen times to make breakfast, snuggle, work on math and reading, help feed the bunny, drive to violin lessons, take a walk with my kids, throw frisbee for the dog.... It is how it is. And in the choice to put family before the other stuff a path has been set. For me and my work in particular that translates into this: The experience of my students is not worth the price of my absence. So, if it comes down to that choice, for me it is always clear. I will get my favorite class subbed in order to pick my kid up from her last Wild Harvest group of the season. I will teach less classes a week in order to spend mornings one on one with my boy. I rather be at my kids swim meets and soccer games than doing my other work in the world. Like that. And while these are always more difficult decisions to make than I would hope, they are always clear.