Identity Crisis

I didn’t know it was going to be this hard and I can’t run away.

My two year old’s first sentence every morning begins with “I want,” and he finishes that way too. The demands are unrelenting and are not couched in nicety. He never says “Can I have more milk please mommy?” It’s “I want.”

“I want.”

“I want.”

He doesn’t understand the nuances of the language, right? He’s two. And he’s learning. At least he can articulate his wants, which is more than I can say for myself.

Before I had children I was a poet. I wasn’t a Pulitzer Prize winning poet but I was authentic and interested in expression and love looked so different in those days, so much more attainable. So much less complicated.

But I was missing my brood. I wanted a baby more than I wanted anything.

When I got pregnant with my first baby, I stopped writing. Liz says probably my creativity was all used up because my body was building a soul. Beth told me I should imagine the baby as the best poem I ever wrote. I did not enjoy my pregnancy. I could not imagine that.

Since then, I have tried to choose poetry again and again but my chores and my children always win. The urge to engage with texts and stories seems trivial. It mocks me.

For reasons unknown to me, poetry feels like home. Living without it, I can’t settle. I can’t rest. There’s a vague but ever-present nausea sitting on my neck. I am not comfortable in this new skin. I don’t know this woman. I can’t hear her.

“I want.”

“I want.”

“I want.”

And I don’t know how to get to know this new person. This person who doesn’t write poems. This person who wipes bottoms and cuts the tops of strawberries and picks up train pieces and buys milk every day.

For me, the hardest part of parenthood is the identity crisis.

“At some point you will have more time,” they tell me. “You will look back on these days and you won’t remember how they got so big.”

Maybe. Probably they are right. They have walked down this path. They have watched children grow. They have more time now. I can see it. Those are not helpful words, however, because I am not there. I am here. And I vaguely feel like I’m going to puke.

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Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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