When Motherhood Feels Like a Dress Rehearsal for the Real Thing


It occurs to me sometimes that I am meandering through life still trying to figure things out in my mid-thirties, the age at which I had always assumed I would be finished with figuring out all the things. It pains me, at these times, to consider the fact that I am dragging my poor kids with me, step by step, as I stumble my way through. It’s like going for a hike with the family, but instead of taking the nicely worn dirt path free of shrubs and rocks, I am wielding a bush knife and cutting through the tangled overgrowth before us as I pull my children through with me, wide-eyed and disbelieving, into the wilderness. Or something like that. I don’t hike, so I have no idea if tangled overgrowth is normally involved or what.


Is this close?
Is this close?

Is it just normal to feel this way? It could be that I spent most of my life being hopelessly naïve about what adulthood is supposed to feel like, but I still am not sure that I really get it. I am a little disturbed that life doesn’t feel, I don’t know … settled, comfortable, easy. My vision of this decade of my life was one of security and steadiness. I always saw the role of “mom”—maybe not any mother in particular, but the cultural “mom” figure—as occupied by this wise, saintly lady, not old enough to be mistaken for grandma, but certainly not young enough to still be figuring out where to go with her career or what kind of person she wants to be. The cultural “mom” is ageless, timeless, and perfect; she has no dreams or aspirations, because her time to dream has passed, and the things she once aspired to have either been fully realized or can be accepted as childhood whims. The cultural “mom” is pretty one-dimensional, now that I think about it.

I don’t know why I ever wanted to fit that definition of mom.

So maybe the fact that I feel like an overgrown woman-child who spends all day playing house (or playing work, then house, more accurately) should not be seen as a flaw in the design of my aspiration to perfect parenthood. And instead of waiting to wake up one day and say that I feel like an adult, I can just say that I feel like a mom. Not that I fit the image of motherhood I once held, but that I feel like someone’s mom, my kids’ mom. Who cares if I sing along in the car with my kids to Demi Lovato and still don’t understand what a pot roast is? Pot roast is not important, but my kids are—to me, their mom. Not the mom I thought I should be, but the mom I simply became.


image: Wikimedia Commons


7 comments on “When Motherhood Feels Like a Dress Rehearsal for the Real Thing”

  1. On a related note, I’m realizing that there is no magic age at which you become thoroughly competent at and knowledgeable about life. You just get to the point where people assume this is the case for you.

  2. Best quote ever: “I am wielding a bush knife and cutting through the tangled overgrowth before us as I pull my children through with me…” Yep, seems like you’ve got it all figured out to me!

  3. Wow, I JUST had this very same conversation with someone last night. Then this popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. How timely! Thank you for sharing b/c I feel so alone sometimes with these thoughts!!

  4. Melanie, you perfectly described my life. I always thought I’d have things “figured out” by this age, but now I see that I’m just walking all over the unbeaten path (sometimes in circles, it seems), and that maybe life will just always be this way. I still don’t even feel like the adult sometimes, lol. But I think our kids will be all the better for it because they will learn that life is a journey and to just enjoy the ride as much as possible. You rock mama!

  5. I am always surprised that I’m no longer 22 because I certainly don’t feel like I’m in my mid-thirties. I feel much the same – ” I am wielding a bush knife and cutting through the tangled overgrowth before us as I pull my children through with me…” Thank you!

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