I see the slender, in-shape runner, in her early 20's or even early 30's and I think "Man, I used to have a body like that and I used to be able to go run whenever I want. No worries about how long I was gone, no worries about the chores that won't get done while I'm out". I look down at my gravid belly and wonder if my body will ever be slender again, I know it will never be the way it was before after 4 babies...I remember when my hips were lean(er) before they expanded to allow a child to be birthed, my feet were a half size smaller, my legs weren't covered in spider veins and were tone and muscular. I could easily run 7 miles. I remember when my body was my own, before the skin was stretched beyond belief, before my breasts had nursed 3 children, before a cesearean and episiotomy scar left their marks, when I never worried about whether or not my bladder control would be strong enough to withstand a good sneeze. That thin woman running probably never thinks about that. But then I think "She may be in shape, but maybe she won't return home to children waiting with excited faces, waiting to show her their race track they built. She may not have the scars of childbirth, but maybe she wants to more than anything in this world. She may see me outside with my belly full of baby and my 3 children running wild around the yard and think "Man, I wish I had that". My hips may be wider, but they hold a child well. My abdomen will never be quite the same, but it grew to allow a child to develop. I may not have run a marathon, but I have finished the marathon of labor to bring my first child into the world. I successfully completed 3 rounds of pregnancy from start to finish. My breasts may never stand at attention like in my pre-child days, but they nourished 3 children and will do the same for the 4th. I may have scars from childbirth, but I wear those scars with pride...the reminders of what a wonder the womans body is.
After a long night of up and down, little sleep and coaxing a 2 year old back to bed, I long to be able to sleep all night long until I wake up on my own...something I haven't done in years. I wish I could sit on my deck, enjoy my morning Diet Coke before jumping into the day instead of getting up and jumping right into starting breakfast and answering the endless questions that start as soon as my eyes flutter open. I am awakened each morning by little fingers on my face and a small voice saying "Mommy, mommy" and oh!, how I long to be able to sleep in like some of my childless friends and have a full night of blissful sleep without disturbances. But, they wake up to quiet all the time, and they don't know what it's like comfort a scared child in a storm as they snuggle up to you and fall asleep in your arms, or to have 3 little ones climb in bed with you on a cold morning to watch cartoons.
In my shower, what I wouldnt give to be able to stand in the hot water for a long time, take my time, and shower in peace. And to be able to style my hair just right, apply make-up and leave the bathroom ready to go out. Instead, I take the world's fastest shower and still I have to holler at the kids to stop jumping on the bed, to stop hitting each other. I'd love to be able to shower, with the bathroom door closed. Frequently, I am scalded with hot water as one of the kids will sneak into the bathroom and flush the toilet before it's too late for me to realize. But, then again, I could take a long shower without interruption...but then what would I do? No, my hair isn't styled perfectly and my make-up is pretty minimal, my wardrobe, well, lets just say I'm not exactly in style and I usually have stains from little fingers on them by the end of the day. But I have a almost 6 year old that watches me as I get ready and says "Ooo, Mommy, you look so pretty!" and then I realize I don't need all that to be beautiful in my children's eyes.
I also remember the days of shopping for myself, by myself. I could browse the racks, make trips to different stores looking for just the right outfit, or pair of shoes. My underwear and bras matched. My selection of shoes was awesome, and I could peruse at my leisure. These days, my best white bra is an odd shade of gray, thanks to being washed with dark colors. I can't remember the last time my undergarments matched, or when I last cared. I may not have an awesome wardrobe, but my children have a great one. My trips to the store are rushed with children begging for this and that, fighting and running down the aisles. I see that woman about my age, looking at purses and shoes and I think "Man, I wish I could just go shopping alone again, and buy stuff for myself". But then again, that woman may look at my brood and wish she had what I have, that she had other things, like diapers and small clothes to buy.
I haven't read a great book for quite awhile...but I have read the journal of a 6 year old boy, who wrote "Me and Mommy played catch in the yard and then went to the park and it was fun". I may not have great pieces of art or sculptures, but I have crayon colored pictures on my refridgerator that say "Mommy I luv U" and a popsicle tower. My house isn't spotless, in fact, the floors need to be mopped, there are dirty dishes in the sink, laundry to be done, toys everywhere, but what good is a clean house if it is an empty one? While I would LOVE to have a cleaner house, I'd rather play a game with my children than have a spotless house that could pass the white glove test if it was empty. I don't have a flower bed with all kinds of exotic flowers or a vegetable garden with a large variety of plump, juicy produce. But I have a flower pot with a bean plant that we grew from a seed and a pot with a geranium that has a small handprint on the outside, given to me for mother's day. I haven't been to a musical in the city or in a big opera house for a long time, but I have seen some great talent at the 1st grade dinosaur play and spring concert. I haven't been out on the town for drinks at a bar, or to a movie theater or even out to eat at a nice restaurant. But I have snuggled on the couch to watch the latest Disney movie with a bowl of popcorn after a fine meal of pizza with my family.
Every day, I may have moments when I think "Man, I used to be able to do this before I was a mother", but then I look around and you know what? I wouldn't trade this for the world.