When I was a child, I was SHY. I'm not talking about speaking quietly or offering a small smile to strangers. This was painful shyness, one where if I found out we were going to eat out at a restaurant, I was mortified that people might look at me while I ate. With the last name of Frye, I was casually teased by boys who made me horrified of my last name, and if all possible, I would avoid letting people know it. So when a boy happened to pass me at school wearing my same UGLY blue moon boots, I thought I would die. And when my mom made me wear a plastic bag tied around the cast on my leg. And when I found out we were doing all those physical exercise tests in P.E. the only day I decided to wear my tightest pair of jeans. Yeah. Life was tough for a shy girl. I remember coming home from school one day ecstatic because I actually got in trouble for talking in class. Ecstatic...because I had talked...loudly!
Once I reached junior high/high school age, my self-worth was based off of how many friends I had. On the last day of school, I would seek out as many acquaintances as I could to sign my yearbook, so that maybe, when I was looking back at them fifteen years down the road, I might forget that I really only had like five really good friends. I honestly thought that the more signatures I had, the more my life was worth.
This was also the time period where I thought I was nobody because I didn't have a boyfriend. The only girls whose lives I desperately wanted were those who were going out on dates, kissing boys, or holding hands with boys. Even those girls who simply got asked to dance got my full serving of envy. This identity crisis followed me to college.
I was certain that once I reached college, I would meet the man of my dreams, and get married within a year or two. My new identity was "single." Then, something strange happened. I suddenly turned into the world's biggest flirt. I lost my fear of boys, and shyness flew out the window. When I told people that I used to be shy, their mouths dropped open in disbelief. There was no way this girl was EVER shy! I was now officially "flirt." How many guys I had swarming me was the reason for my self-worth. I was now a dating machine, securing dates nearly every single weekend. If I went two consecutive weeks without a date, I thought my life was over. Who I was depended on how many guys liked me.
The one milestone I had desperately wanted to reach since I was probably 3 years old was getting married. Once I got married, all of my problems would magically vanish. I would be an adult, I could handle anything life threw my way, I would be mature, pretty, friendly, successful, and, of course, envied. So, when I finally got that gorgeous engagement ring, I smugly flaunted my new "engaged" status. I turned my nose up at good-looking single guys, because suddenly, I was better than them. I was going to get married. And they weren't. Those gorgeous, flirty, skinny girls were suddenly beneath me, because I had a shiny diamond on my finger, and they didn't. I relished the dirty looks they gave me, and happily accepted my roommates' sneers as I admired the most coveted item in the "single" world. I couldn't be happier.
Once I was married and home from the honeymoon, "newlywed" status, I learned, wasn't anything great. The family ward my husband and I went to was pretty transient, so you were a nobody unless you were either in the ward for over a year, or you had children. People eagerly wanted to know when we would become parents. Nobody cared anymore about the diamond on my finger.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I was ecstatic. "Pregnant" was awesome! I was on my way to becoming a mother...until I got sick. "Pregnant" was not that great. I gained half a million pounds, and was forced to eat and eat and eat so I wouldn't keep throwing up. My back ached, it was hard to get up and get things, I was tired all the time, and I just wanted to be a mother.
Eight months later, my status changed. Finally. "Mother" was what I had always wanted. I was officially an adult--although, honestly, I didn't feel like it. It took almost an entire year before my son was able to sleep through the night. I was tired, grouchy, didn't want to clean, and because it was so cold outside, was stuck inside my little apartment with a crying baby while my husband ditched me...for work. And then school. I was lonely, bored, stressed, and because I was married, I had no guys to validate my worth. Naps were vital for my baby, and so I gave up spending time with friends. "Mother" stunk!
While I had a hard time adjusting to my new role, I was aware that my status would rise if I had several children. The more children you had, the better/more successful mother it meant you were. So I was happy when I found out I was pregnant with my second child. When I saw pictures of my college friends who were mothers to three, four children, I knew I had to "catch up" to them. Mormon moms needed lots of children. That's just how it was supposed to be.
So, here I am, mom to four little boys, hair graying probably a little faster than it should. I was tired, stressed, and needed a break. I got a great part-time job, because "Mother" just wasn't as glamorous as I was certain it should have been. I wanted another role in life. I was now "contest judge", "employed" and I knew I was finally somebody again. But I felt that ache as I drove to work every day, guilty for leaving my husband home with three young boys and a newborn. I should have been home. I needed to be there, cooking for my family, baking cookies, mopping the floors, folding laundry, instead of sitting at a computer and laughing and loving the silence. I embraced my employment by dressing up, make-up on, earrings matching my necklace, and feeling business-like and sexy. But I still had a newborn to worry about. It's hard feeling sexy walking into your workplace carrying in a bag of milk that you just pumped. Whether I wanted to be it or not, "Mother" was the role I was keeping, and it wouldn't be replaced.
Just like the circle of life, I'm pretty much back to square one. With the craziness of mothering four young, active children, I haven't had much opportunity for friends. That shyness that I kicked out the window about 10 years ago is back in full force, haunting me. Meeting my new neighbors has become terrifying, when just a few years ago, I would have run up to them, anxious to develop a friendship. Several of my good friends I haven't seen in over a year, because I'm bombarded with feedings and nap times and dishes and just plain old exhaustion. My idea of a good time now is eating chocolate and Cheetos and watching a movie at night--uninterrupted by children.
Don't get me wrong. I love being a mother. I love my son's sweet smiles, their fierce embrace before bedtime, the way they play with my hair when I read to them, the way their young, squeaky voices say, "Mom, I love you a hundred million thirteen million five-teen." My husband treats me like I'm sexy, cooks for me when I'm too tired, and lets me take naps in the morning before he has to go to work--tired. But I am still searching for who I am. I miss the spontaneity I used to have, the nights I'd blow $3 to go country dancing until the early morning hours. I miss being in school, and going out with a bunch of friends, and going out for a midnight run to Denny's, just because we could. I miss being able to buy clothes whenever I wanted, and I miss the enjoyment grocery shopping used to bring me. But I suppose that with everything I have achieved in life, I AM more than a mother. I am an adventurer. I have achieved so many identities, and my personality has developed everywhere. I've done things I never thought I'd do in a million years, and I'm living the dream I prayed for for over 20 years. So what if all of my identities aren't perfect? I have everything I've ever wanted, and though I'll probably want something a little bit more, and want to be someone a little bit different, I have lived a great life. And I am happy.