Every day I wake up and tell myself that today is the day that I make time to look after myself a little bit better. I tell myself I will be having a long bath after the kids go to bed, I will finally get my eyebrows done, seeing as I have been talking about it for a year now (literally), or even I will just get an extra hour of sleep. But every evening I sit down on the couch and exhale, wondering how I will ever find the energy to do all of those things, ever.
I’ve never been what one would call high-maintenance. I would sometimes put a little eye make-up on. I had a love (still do) for pretty dresses coupled with biker boots or Docs. I would go to the hairdressers a couple of times a year, just to layer my hair enough so that it framed my face and wasn’t so heavy. But I always made sure that I practiced self-care – time outs as I would call them. A long, hot bath, a good book, a movie, time away from the outside world (and that included the phone). The world is a very stressful place, especially when you have to spend a lot of time interacting with people in it.
And then I had a child. A child who was so high needs I barely had time to sleep let alone think of taking an hour in the bath or running down to the nail place to get my eyebrows waxed. All of a sudden I felt frumpy – my clothes didn’t fit right anymore, and I couldn’t merge my new body with my personal style. Nothing felt right, I didn’t feel like me anymore, and I was too tired to figure anything out. I had to succeed in being a mother before anything else, even if in the meantime I forgot to be Jade. Who was Jade anyway? Was she the girl serving drinks behind the bar, dancing away to The Cure at 5am, while sweeping the floor of cigarette butts in the haunted building? Was she the girl who was stomping up and down Ludlow St, the life of the party? Was she the girl working 14 hour endless days in the office, working on cost estimates and languages and website launch timelines? Was she the shy girl walking into a kibbutz in Israel and staying there for months? Was she the woman walking around Bushwick in the early morning light, snapping pictures on one of her old Canon SLRs? Was she the rebellious teenager, intent on being herself, even though she didn’t really know who that really was?
As always, ever since I can remember, I wrote down my feelings. I wrote about childbirth and becoming a parent. I wrote about sleepless nights and baby products, about being sober and about how much I absolutely loved my child. I posted a lot of these things on my blog, but not everything. I also took a lot of the darker parts out of anything that I made public, as always afraid of offending others, or afraid of sounding like I was depressed. Or, as usual, afraid of worrying or bothering people. Of course there were dark days, days when I had literally slept 30 minutes, and was holding my screaming three week old, bawling my eyes out because I had no clue what I was doing wrong. But there were many more better days, when I pushed myself to believe in me, to go out into the world and show my child what I loved about it. I wasn’t depressed, I knew that, I was coming to terms with the new part of myself, Jade the mother, and working out how she could fit into all of the other pieces of me. I was still me, but with another role, one that I embraced, no matter how alien it felt. A caregiver, something that I had always yearned to really be. Nurturing.
These days I don’t censor myself as much. I’m a lot less worried about what people might think or say. Those who read my words and wonder who this person is never really knew me in the first place anyway; those who managed to knock down a few brick walls over the years have a special place in my heart and are probably not surprised at where life has lead me. I’m not surprised, even though I honestly never expected it. My first child is still very much high needs, already showing signs of that crippling anxiety I learnt to hide so well. My second is so strong and determined, and my third so calm: all three are these amazing little humans that Cesar and I are hoping to raise as best as we can. These days I have relaxed the brakes a little, I don’t feel as guilty when I get frustrated, I remember to eat when I’m hungry. I think about practicing self-care… I even read a book in less than a week recently.
But I still don’t make enough time to look after myself. I told myself 5 days ago that I would find a nail salon and get my eyebrows done, and I haven’t. Every evening I go to run a bath and use a Lush bath bomb I have had for months, and I stall in front of the mirror, change into pajamas and go back to the couch, reading newspaper articles on my phone. I look at my toe nails and think that a pedicure would be amazing, maybe metallic green nails for autumn, and have no idea when I will get the time to do that. But, at the same time, I am still writing enormous amounts, I am still working, the house is tidy, the kids are fed, dressed, and entertained, and I am still me. I am exhausted, but I am still happy.
Whether you become a parent or not life is a long series of adapting to new situations, of growing, expanding, learning, accepting, and also refusing. I ended up refusing to let motherhood engulf me, but let it become a natural part of my being. I am Jade: a mother, a writer, a girlfriend, a sister, a daughter, a bartender, an account manager, a photographer, a storyteller, a fan of The Cure, a lover of music, sarcastic, funny, silly, full of dreams, and full of ideals. I still love to dance all around my home, singing at the top of my voice, and I still love to cuddle my favorite teddy bear (when the kids haven’t taken him to cuddle), and I still dream of a utopian world. I’ve always found it impossible to be anyone else than me, no matter how many times I wished to be someone else. And in the end I am quite happy to be me, overgrown eyebrows and all. There will always be a darkness, but I know that it will always be surrounded by light, because as my beloved Leonard Cohen so aptly put it: “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.