We spend our lives reinventing ourselves. As a baby, you first learn your name. When you’re a child you identify yourself as “Daughter”, “Sister”, “Student” and “Friend”. As a young adult your beliefs and your occupations lead the way in helping you develop a sense of self – “Christian”, “Graphic Designer”, “Republican”, “Volunteer”. Getting married gives you the biggest identity change yet – “Wife”. It’s such a radical shift that most women change their name, the name you were born with that first defined you. With this new phase, come expectations from yourself and your spouse as to how you will develop into this role. It was a very difficult time for me. I struggled with how to incorporate the elements from my parents’ marriage that I wanted to emulate with the contrast of my reality as well as what I imagined my husband expected from me. I finally got a good grasp of that piece of my life when the next identity change happened – becoming a mother. And talk about a transformation!
I LOVE being a mom. It’s the most incredible blessing – full of joy, fear, wonder, frustration. It’s made me a better wife, a better worker (ok, except when I’ve been sleep deprived), a better person in general. It has truly changed my identity. My lifestyle changed quite a bit when I got married, but it is much different now. I used to go to happy hour, work late, sleep in on the weekends, take spontaneous trips out of town. When we had our first daughter, I initially felt a little nostalgic when friends would make last minute plans to go to dinner and I would have to decline, but as time went on, it bothered me less. It’s not like I wasn’t still doing fun things without my family (heaven knows I need to have some time away to regroup and replenish), I just had to plan for them, and I didn’t do them as often. And that was perfectly fine. I would reminisce with friends about our crazy single days and I thought of them with fond memories, but that was all.
Then last week, a friend who had been in Mexico two years with the Peace Corps returned home. Plans were made for a night out on the town to welcome him home. The plan was to go on newly available hop-on-hop-off trolley pub crawl around the city. My wonderful husband agreed to stay home with the girls so I could have a night of fun. I was excited to go, but also aware that I wouldn’t really be able to fully enjoy the benefits of this activity since the negatives of doing so far outweighed the positives. If I chose to stay out as late as the trolley ran, I would still have to get up at 6:30am since sleeping in is no longer possible. And while being hungover was never fun, doing so with small children would be torture. Also, I wanted to be home to put the babies to bed so I wouldn’t be able to meet up with everyone at the beginning. These alterations are typical for outings with my single friends, and I never think twice about it.
But Friday night, I was talking with some of the people who were going out on Saturday night, and the strangest thing happened. This group of friends has evolved over the years as people have moved or married or stopped hanging out for some reason and others have been absorbed into the fold. We were going over the details for Saturday, and I said, “Mama Jenn needs a night off. Party Jenn will be there!” One of the girls said, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve met Party Jenn!” I laughed and realized that was probably true. She’d only been a part of the group for a short time….probably around 2004-ish…wait a minute… that’s SIX YEARS. Has Party Jenn really been gone for six whole years?!?!? I was surprised how much this affected me. I was really upset. I started thinking of my single years with more than just a fond remembrance but as a deep loss, as if those were my glory days and the best years of my life had passed. I was determined to show her how fun I could be, consequences be damned.
Saturday night, I went out and truly intended to be home at a reasonable time after a reasonable amount of drinking, but one thing lead to another, and suddenly I realized I’d had too much to drink and would have to stay out longer to sober up so I could drive home. I had a great time seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, catching up, and sharing crazy stories with the newer members of the group. I got home at 3:30am – yikes! Three hours later when my girls woke up, I was so excited to see them that I was not nearly as tired as I should have been. And I realized that those single days were fun, but snuggling with my babies early in the morning was just as much fun, and I didn’t miss going out nearly as much as I miss them when I’m away. Though Party Jenn still exists and will always be part of me, Mama Jenn is in the forefront now, and I’m so thankful to be at this point in my life.
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