Rallying Cry to Moms: Embrace Yourself
In my mid-fifties, I decided I needed to celebrate where I have landed in life. Even that came at an incredibly challenging time for me. I was about to release my memoir, and my nest was officially totally empty. I felt excited about the book but a considerable void about life without my kids around. I used the need for book promotion to do what I never do: put myself front and center of the camera – without my children as props. I played dress-up for a few hours. I had my makeup done, which I had never done before (except when my daughters would do it for me). I am a mascara and lip gloss girl. I am that hat that says, "All I need is mascara and coffee." And to be honest, most days with kids, the coffee took precedence. I have always liked to keep it simple when it comes to superficial things. So embracing a version of me that I was unfamiliar with was awkward, clumsy (sneakers are my go-to, not heels), and weird. But it was also exhilarating to unearth this side of me.
I spent my children's lives as the photographer. If I was in a picture, I usually had to ask to have the photo taken, and my children were always my props. Pictures of me without them are virtually non-existent. As the designated photographer, I was the one capturing the moments as they happened. Paying someone to take my picture was never a thought that crossed my mind until last summer.
Then there were the voices. You know how you can look in the mirror and catch yourself in a particular light and think, "Wow, I actually look sort of pretty"? And then you turn your head a certain way and think, "God, what was I thinking?" That is how my mind worked growing up. And it is how it has worked most of my life. I don't believe that beauty is the be-all-end-all. But it is nice. And trying to see a little of it in me has always been a struggle. It doesn't matter if people tell me otherwise. It has always been hard to see myself as anything short of my own expectations. Maybe that is why I relegated myself to be behind the camera or only in front with my children by my side as my props. It has been hard for me to embrace the me that stands solo in front of the camera. But I am trying to continue to be that inspiration, role model, whatever I somehow find myself being at times. I am proud of where I am, that I am not afraid to try new things, or old ones and be less good at them, or to put myself out there for the world to critique. I am genuinely trying to embrace and celebrate where I have landed in life. However, I believe that is not fully established yet either and still evolving.
It is sometimes hard as moms to step back and look at ourselves as women independent of the children we bore and raised/are raising. For me, mom was how I defined myself for the twenty-plus years before I officially became an empty nester. I love/d being a mom. I was lucky to get to be home with my kids. I left the gung-ho, ambitious, aspirational corporate climber behind to be the go-to sleeve for wiping noses and mouths. My son gave me my first performance review when he was two, proudly announcing to his dad, "Mommy did a good job today." There was no pay raise or accolades beyond that proclamation. Since that first job review, my grown children have all told me how lucky they felt that I was always there for them growing up. I'm grateful they recognized it. But now they are gone. I am coming to terms with who I am without them as my "props." I get to be whatever I want to be. I call it version 3.0. This version has no limits and is not set by the expectations of others. That's what I keep telling myself, at least.
I recently spent the weekend in Nashville. Half the time, I felt like a million dollars in my cowboy boots, frill jacket, jean shorts, and newly acquired hat. I looked and felt the part. Then, this part of me said, "WTF are you doing? You're fifty-four years old. You are dressed like these twenty-somethings. Stop!" I try to embrace the mantra that age is just a number, and if you feel good in what you're wearing, who cares? But then there are the voices. I am sure not many people would look at me and say I should not wear that. I get it. But it doesn't mean the inner battle doesn't exist. I am trying to embrace aging gracefully. And, as for sexy, it is not a label I put on myself. But I am trying to find her in there somewhere too. My daughter took a candid of me on that trip, capturing a version of me I didn't recognize. For a few seconds, I bought the narrative that I could look sexy even at my age.
Lastly, sigh, here is my bold confession. The hard part to admit. The part where the ego can be crushed or just reminded. I did that photoshoot. Got so many compliments. I was told I was a natural in front of the camera. So I sent my photos to a few modeling agencies specializing in "mature" over fifty models. I honestly did not expect anyone to jump up and down to have me join their modeling team. And guess what? They didn't. But I put myself out there. Because, as I have told my kids their entire lives, the worst thing that anyone can ever say to you is "no." Or, in this case, be silent with an implied rejection. I never want to be that person that sits idly by wondering what if when I have the power to try. It is why I send letters to publishers for my books, but I self-publish anyways. I am used to those no responses by now. My skin is thick. My ego is no worse for wear. Ultimately, I am my own worst critic, like most of us. In the end, I hope that my words as a writer appeal to enough people to make the stories worth telling. And that maybe I can be an inspiration to a larger sphere of women than just my immediate inner circle.
How does this relate to being a sports mom? Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe it relates in that we are so often defined by our children we forget to be ourselves or at least remember that part. That becomes glaringly apparent when the nest empties and our roles as moms change, leaving us to define it however we see fit. But we have to embrace it, hard as that may be at times.
Why do I write this in my "Diary of a Sport's Mom" blog? Because I know based on conversations with friends that so many of us fail to embrace multi-dimensional parts of ourselves. Regardless of our age or status, we still want to be seen as more than the human snot rag, helicopter parent, school organizer, or team mom, among a plethora of other possible titles. We want to be seen as sexy, pretty, sophisticated women. Although we might have to dig deep to find that person again, that desire never disappears. Embrace her. Channel her. Find her. And do yourself and your children a favor, photograph her in all her splendor so that they too can remember the amazing woman you are independent of them.