Before I had kids, I felt heard. I could call someone and fall deep into a two-way conversation, free of tiny shrieks, squeals and leg yanks. My days at work were spent in various meetings where contrasting ideas merged into one united goal. Dinner with the husband was spent focused on each other, and evenings were spent catching up intently on all the world happenings.
And on the things that I grew really passionate about, I would loudly broadcast those passions and bury my nose in productive debates, exploring the inevitable differences that arise when you instantly share your thoughts with people by the dozens.
My social circle reflected the openness that you’d expect in your twenties after riding the high of college, where swapping ideas to fine tune your moral compass is just as normal to your day as grabbing a cup of coffee or making your bed.
And then everything changed.
I became a mother, and my no. 1 goal in life shifted inward as my husband and I focused on securing our children’s future. We no longer advocate for things because we want the world to be better off. We advocate for things because we want the world to be better off for our children. It’s a small but enormous shift. It feels like the difference in heart you experience when watching a big-picture documentary showcasing mass numbers and data, and then seeing the same topic through two very specific numbers – your babies’ eyes.
Life became personal – real personal. That’s not to say this shift only happens to parents, more than it is to say it is parenthood that brought on this shift for me.
When I see a school shooting on the news, I don’t see it solely for the statistical significance in that our country is having a hell of a problem right now. I also painfully feel it as a mother and the atrocious, soul-crushing loss that this comes with.
But it so often feels like a mother’s emotional voice as mine falls on deaf ears. That a family burying their own child is just another number to add to our society’s systemic loss. That the humanity and empathy needed to drive real change gets a backseat to the personal biases and fear of change that we as adults are ignorantly vulnerable to.
My social circle has grown more passionate as I have grown more passionate. Suddenly, people seemed to stop fine tuning their moral compasses because that openness to change closes as we get older. We pretend we have all the answers at work as we climb the ladder in our careers to more powerful positions. We pretend we have all the answers at home as we teach our littles the way of the world. And somewhere along the way, we have pretended to have answers for so long that we believe we really do have all the answers, even as the world rapidly changes in front of our eyes.
As a mom, my days are spent splitting my attention seven different ways at any given time. Those attempted phone calls are met with tiny squeals, shrieks and leg yanks. Those dinnertime conversations are cut short to other important lessons like not throwing your food on the floor. My previous evenings spent diving deep into world happenings are now spent watching my tiny loves dream of all the things that should be right in the world. And my once productive Facebook debates have silenced after realizing how counter-productive they usually are.
Is it bad to solidify our beliefs as we age? Only if we convince ourselves that these beliefs will be applicable beyond the test of time. Maybe I’ve grown silent in ways I never was before because I refuse to equate adulthood with all-knowing authority. Maybe it’s because I’ve realized the potential for bringing change is greater within our children than it is within our current leadership..
I never would’ve thought that at age 28 I would feel most heard by my 22-month-old who spends his days proudly roaring back at me. As I struggle with feeling discouraged at just how hard it is to break the status quo, my heart bursts with hope in realizing that at the very least, my babies are listening to me.
Imagine how different our world might be if we kept this front of mind. The least I can do as an adult is to stop pretending that I have all the answers and hold on to that openness that we are all born with and fully capable of maintaining. I owe that to my children. I owe that to myself. And I owe that to the world.