Dear Mom at the swimming pool with your young children,
I see you.
And I vividly remember when I was you, struggling with the demands of motherhood.
The pool was an escape for getting out of the house and mingling with other moms. But, just when a conversation started, you get interrupted with “Mommy, will you catch me?” or “Come watch me swim!”
While those pool time milestones with your little ones are precious, it’s hard to ignore the struggles of motherhood; the ache of loneliness, feeling inadequate, wanting out. It’s no wonder you find yourself wishing you could trade places with the middle-aged lady you spotted lounging poolside, reading her book without a care in the world.
She looks so free. So unencumbered. You can’t help but wonder what it’s like to be her.
It just so happens, I am her.
And, to some degree you’re right about me.
I do enjoy a certain amount of freedom, simplicity, and ease in this stage of life. (You have that to look forward to.) But, while I may look completely carefree and relaxed, I’m actually distracted.
I couldn’t help but notice you hanging out in the shallow end of the pool with your children.
You remind me of when I was at this same pool with my little girl, carrying her in the water, catching her when she jumped in, and beaming with pride as she learned to swim. The memories are bittersweet. My heart aches to be with that little girl again, but remembering also makes me smile. Especially my thoughts drift to her now, living in another city and studying to be a nurse.
“How did the days go so fast?” I wonder. Those same days that feel so long and slow to you right now. In that sense, we’re a lot alike. Both of our hearts long for another place in time.
Eventually, we both snap back to the present, me finding my place in my book, and you returning your attention to the kids. Then, we hear that nagging reprimand in our minds to be thankful for where we are in life right now.
And we are.
But one lesson I’ve learned in this stage of life is there’s room for both/and. We can be grateful for the here and now, while also appreciating the past, or looking forward to the future. In fact, it’s far easier to embrace the precious moments of early childhood when your kids are older.
For now, we make an unspoken plan to keep coming back to the pool where we will see each other again. And every time I get to watch you and remember, my memories are gradually redeemed from self-condemnation. (A remnant left from the days of feeling inadequate as a mom.)
I share that because you need to know just by showing up to the pool with your kids, you’re helping me cope with motherhood as an empty nester.
I hope I can do the same for you.
So, every time you notice me lounging on the other side of the pool, know I’m cheering you on and rooting for you. Because I know struggling with the demands of motherhood is real.
I’m in it with you.
See you at the pool,