Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Just a mom

Eight years ago after graduating from BYU and hovering in that space between education and real life, I found myself living a rather charmed life with my friends for a season. In my ward, I was called as the "Publicity Chair", which in a BYU ward was one of those created callings in order to ensure everyone is participating, but it turned out to be fruitful for several reasons. As anyone who attended a BYU singles ward, or any singles ward for that matter, will tell you that there are an abundance of activities and announcements every week, and if we spent our Sunday meeting times going over all of this information, we would do nothing else. Enter Nikki, the Pubicity Chair. I was in charge of a weekly newsletter, fliers, etc. to keep all the ward members informed. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity and magnify my calling.

Every week I designed a newsletter and wrote a little column on the back... thus the very beginning of what would become The Muse. When I moved to Lake Placid for work, I decided I wanted to keep writing, so I wrote a weekly column and sent it to family and friends. It was often forwarded to others and my list of recipients grew and expanded over the years. It was even printed in a small newspaper in Idaho for a while. I wrote pretty faithfully until I got married. One of my best friends growing up collected all the things I had written and made them into a professionally bound book for my wedding, which was probably the best gift I got. I still wrote frequently the first year of our marriage but it has since ceased almost entirely, which makes me a little sad. When JH was born, I found myself constantly updating the blog for family friends, so they wouldn't miss out on the wonder that he is, and it seemed like anything I had to say had to do with him, or parenting, being a mom, my husband. The Muse changed.

It was no longer about dating or the injustices on the subway or my obsession with cookies or running. It was about love, a little boy who changed our world, sleeping troubles, new discoveries and an endless barage of photos. All good things, for sure, and I wouldn't change it. But I often wonder to myself, "Is this all I am? What happened to the fiesty girl, who had something clever and witty to say about almost everything?" Do I no longer have a sense of humor or wit or intelligent commentary on life outside the realm of motherhood?

When my mom asks me what I did this week, I start to replay my week in my mind only to discover I did dishes, made my son laugh, made dinner, did the laundry, cleaned the bathroom, swept the floor a billion times, went grocery shopping, changed a hundred diapers, played with my son, went on walks... you know, the usual. So that is my reply, "The usual. Same old same old." Boring, Nikki. Really? Is that the best you can do? It's not like my life before JH was exciting enough to put me on the list of who to know in NYC. But I admit we did get out more. It was a bit easier to wander this fabulous town we live in after work, try new restaurants, attend outdoor concerts, go to the movies (not that we ever did), walk through the park just for fun. Maybe it's because it's winter. Summer is a different life, and I fully intend on taking advantage of it. And the little man will be older and probably interested in more things. But when someone asks me what I do, why is my response, "I'm just a mom."

It reminds me of the part in Finding Neverland when Peter tells James Barrie that Porthos is just a dog. He replies with, "Just a dog? Porthos dreams of being a bear, and you want to shatter those dreams by saying he's just a dog? What a horrible candle-snuffing word. That's like saying, "He can't climb that mountain, he's just a man", or "That's not a diamond, it's just a rock." Just." There are a great many things I dream of being... a writer, a photographer, a better runner, a personal trainer, a pianist. But at present I am none of these, and I often wonder if I will ever be any of them. But I am not just a mom. I am a mom.

I had picked up renewed zest and momentum before Christmas in studying for my personal trainers license, even reading the entire 600 page textbook. But then there was vacation and interrupted sleep schedules and introduction of solid foods and a new phase in the little man's life that means more playtime for both of us. Suddenly personal training took a backseat, and I think it got tired of being ignored and just got out of the car.

I got some wonderful piano music for Christmas that I am dying to play, but I think I have only played the piano a handful of times without the little guy sitting on my lap piunding on the keys in front of us since returning from vacation because I can't seem to find an appropriate time to play.

I still run although with temperatures in the teens and low 20s it makes it hard for me to take the little guy. And as much as I love pushing that stroller around as an extra workout, it makes doing timed miles and intervals very difficult. But I keep going and know that when I am by myself I am faster thanks to all the times I get to run with the little man.

My friend Rachel designed a Photo Bootcamp for me to help me improve my photography skills, and I had fully intended on starting after Christmas, but again... finding the time to do it without distraction has been difficult.

I don't write as often as I should, which is what started this whole thing.

So what is this all about? Is it about balancing in life? Is it about learning to deal with and embrace the distraction? Is it about dreams? Is it about remembering who you are after you cross the threshold into motherhood? Perhaps it is about all of them. And perhaps every new mother faces these issues and questions at some point in that first year or every year. I am not just a mom. I am Nicole Elise Purdy Kelly, traveling enthusiast, amateur photographer, budding world class runner, awesome cookie maker, concert pianist in the rough, personal trainer with no license, one and only mother to John Henry Kelly who gets the best all-lit-up-inside smiles from the little man, wife to Cameron who is the most kind and loving and funny man, dreamer. I need to remind myself of this list daily, even hourly if necessary and give myself a break.

Barrie didn't write Peter Pan overnight, Rachel wasn't always a fabulous photographer (well, she has been as long as I have known her), and I didn't start running yesterday. I can't expect to conquer the world - my world - in one day, even one week or one year. I just can't stop dreaming or working toward the dream no matter how hard or distracting or time constrained my life becomes. Then my world has conquered me.


Kristyn said...

Wow Nikki...I swear you were in my head! I often tell Dave that I want to be "me" again someday...although I love being a mom, right now I feel that is all I am....Dave's wife and Ashlyn & Avery's mom...Its a hard mental battle that I have yet to conquer.

Rebecca Smylie said...

Life is long. That's what levi keeps telling me.

Sarah said...

I can relate 100%, Nikki. I've written two posts about this subject on my blog. So, yeah, I definitely think it's something you deal with on a continual basis as a mother. It just kind of creeps in every now and then and you really do have to remember that yes, you are a mom, but you're also all those other wonderful "jobs/hobbies/whatever" that you want to be or are. You are also an amazing writer. My girlfriend told me to take the word "just" out of my vocabulary when I kept saying I was "just" a mom.

Emily W said...

Thanks so much. I really really needed this today. I am the mother of 2 and 7.5 months pregnant with my third, and I was feeling like I have lost "me" today, and I really appreciated reading your post.

I can't sum up everything I am feeling, but I just wanted to tell you Thanks, so much for writing this post.

Stephanie Sonksen said...

Beautifully said, Nikki. I never thought you were just anything - except just simply amazing. Love you!