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That Golden Age

Emily Dean

My friend says, "I went to bed early last night. I got 10 hours."

I give a puffy-eyed smile and congratulate them, thinking how much I’ve missed that. I'm willing to pay to sleep longer than 3 hours at a time. Sighing, I mentally plan to take full advantage of future naps when my baby is a teenager sleeping in.


My single friends have commented that they can't wait until they have what I do: a home, a husband and a precious little baby. They're wanting their golden motherhood dream already, while currently feeling incomplete and lonely.


You know what they say about the grass being greener? I know it so well.  Except I'm measuring myself against my own past, where I felt like I was flourishing.


A couple years ago, after some time as a nanny, I thought the whole motherhood thing would be a piece of cake. Frankly, I didn't know why mothers seemed frazzled or looked like they didn't take care of themselves.

I never would have guessed that I would be home as a full time mama in such a short time.


After moving out of my parents' house, I didn't foresee getting married for a while. I had wanted it, but I hadn’t felt ready. I hadn't experienced all the singleness my married sisters had advised me to cherish. There was so much life - lots of exploring, adventures, and independence I wanted to experience.


But, God knew what He was doing. He opened doors and led me to my husband. I'd sworn I didn't want to marry anyone until I knew them for seven years or more, but I married Andrew less than two years after meeting him. I took off one semester of design school for the wedding but I was still working to help run a church coffeeshop. So naturally, when I found out I was pregnant, I was a little unsure how the following year would unfold.


I still had school left to finish. My baby would be born at the beginning of my final semester. I had freelance design projects piling up. I was hoping to get more hours at work and make coffee my career. The last remnants of my independent life were slipping away and I hadn't even been married two months yet.


When Asher was still growing inside me, I could carry on a lot of the same activities and the same work/school schedule as when I was unmarried. Honestly, the pregnancy was the easiest part.

When he was born, everything changed. After six weeks of sleep-deprived, ibuprofen-popping recovery, where I was pretty much confined to the sofa feeding and changing a little one every few hours, I was back to work and bringing Ash with me.


From day one of being a mama, my days revolved around what time he needed to eat, multiple changings, getting work done during his nap time (if he naps) and oh! that's right, also making sure I was eating too. My body was blown out of shape by hormones and my golly if that didn’t mess with a girl's self-worth then I don’t know what does.


Now, my outings are constrained by Ashers’ naptime, or if the place I'm going has a baby-changing table. My wardrobe is determined by how easily I can nurse in public.  No longer are the days when I can put on a little makeup and a cute little purse and head out the door. There's a stroller, a diaper bag, a wrap to pack and a baby to buckle in.


My mind goes back to the things I could accomplish when I was single, or even just newly married. I probably prided myself in the amount of things I could fit into a day, feeling like a super wife. Working a couple part time jobs and nannying while taking a full load in college. Cramming in homework late at night after visiting with friends at coffee shops. Grocery shopping and batch cooking once a week, working out frequently and always eating clean.


As I sit and nurse the baby for the sixth time today and type this out, I'm still struggling with the thief of joy: comparison.

Comparison to my single, carefree friends; comparison to my single, carefree self. Though, am I really the same anymore?


‘Single me’ never had to go through the waves of all-day nausea while working and going to design school.


Single me never had to be up for what felt like 24 hours a day with a teething baby, with things like going to work or cooking still needing to happen. I could fit all the chores into a day off and still have time to cook and hang out with friends.


Single me didn't have to set self-care aside, even eating regularly, because my little boy was throwing up for days and needed me to nurse him again in between vomiting. I used to do things like sleep in, do an hour of devotions, get a solid workout in, and actually curl my entire head of hair before going out.


Yet, single me didn't know how it feels to have a husband who loves the heck out of me whether or not I've shaved my legs, brushed my teeth, or washed my hair; a husband who held me and coached me through all the embarrassing and body-wracking throes of labor; a husband who gets home from work and knows I had a rough day with the baby and lets me chill. I didn't know he could be so devoted, so loving, even when I feel so unlovable.


And boy, I didn't know what it is like to love a child this much - not someone else's kid, not someone I nanny - my own flesh and blood, looking like my husband, whose feet I could feel from when they were the size of fingers till they were kicking my ribs. I didn’t know the hours of labor would be worth it until I saw my baby's eyes meet mine for the first time. The nights without sleep I still cherish because his little body is curled up against mine, his feet tucked into my middle, with my mama softness clutched in his hands. Even at the end of my strength and willpower, to be able to keep going because of sheer love for this helpless person astounds me.


I can't measure who I am now against that golden age of singleness. I was a different person then.


I vented my feelings of inadequacy to my mother today and she reminded me, "It's your job, not a distraction from your job, to be Asher's mama, and in the end, that will count for so much more."


In the comparison game, the grass isn't actually greener year round for everyone. There are seasons we go through. Before I got married, I was in the season of setting the stage for my life, growing my field of opportunities and honing my craft. Now, I'm in the season of watering the place I've been planted; I'm nourishing and enriching the lives placed under my care. It's unfair, and frankly paralyzing, to try to measure up to how easy my other friends have it, and how I used to be.


I’m not past the feelings. I'm still in this. Mama's or single girls, it's a conscious choice to slow down, to stop comparing and to stop measuring. Be thankful. Appreciate this stage that will be over all too soon.


Be completely in the unique place you're in right now - not like me, comparing myself to other people or my past. You've come so far and you're just in another learning curve. Don't believe that you're not accomplishing all that you could, or that you are missing out on something. You're in a rare golden age that will never happen again. Savor every second of it. 

Words by Rachael Sales | Photography by Hilary Hyland