Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Shift

The Brand New (And Improved?) Randi

Tonight, I started rehearsals for my show, Expressing Motherhood. I ran out of the apartment the minute Dave entered, descending into the subway at the moment most people were exiting, coming home from their days at work. I settled into my seat, read for a bit, and engaged in some prime people-watching.

When people looked at me, I found myself wondering, as I often do, "can they tell I'm a mom?" Stella is such an enormous part of my life now that I often assume people can see her imprint on me, even when we're apart. I almost feel offended if people assume I don't have a kid, like they're assuming I can't read or something.

I remember reading an article in New York Magazine a few years ago about how being in different economic brackets can destroy a friendship. For example if you become friends with someone while you're both broke college grads, your bond may not survive it if that friend goes on to make a robust six figures at his job if you're still barely making five. You eat at different restaurants, use different forms of transportation, perhaps even have different priorities and values. How much in common can you really have if your lives are that startlingly different?

Now that I'm a mom I'm finding that the same can be true if one member of a friendship is a parent while the other isn't. Of course there are exceptions: my two best friends in the world are both currently childless. However one definitely wants kids one day and the other one adores them and is great with them, even if she's not sure if she plans on sprouting one of her own. This makes it easier to stay close with them, despite this major difference in our lives.

But what of the other friendships?

Before I had kids, I swore that parenthood wouldn't change me. I'd still be funky, I'd still love going out all the time, I wouldn't view my kid as the Messiah to whom others had to bow down. I knew I'd love my offspring, but I didn't want to alter the entire order of my life. I kind of assumed everything would stay in its place and I'd just squeeze this new addition into my structured life, like a new book that you add onto your crowded bookshelf.

But parenthood never goes as you plan. Stella completely shook the foundation of my life, reordering everything, eliminating some priorities altogether, inflating others to monstrous proportions. My life barely resembles the life I had before her. It is, in many ways, much more strenuous and exhausting than before.

It is also better that it ever was. And it honestly gets better every day.

The love I have for Stella is so intense I can feel it in my muscles. It's almost an ache, almost painful, but also ragingly sweet. She surprises and delights me daily. I think about her almost every moment I'm not with her. I crave her.

Which is not to say I don't value my time alone. No, I'm still a separate person with a brain, and I still like being Randi. Randi who's a good, dedicated teacher. Randi who is a raging, outspoken Democrat. Randi who is an irreverent goofball. Randi who is a writer and performer. Not just that woman at the playground, what's her name?, you know -- Stella's mom.

But I have almost nothing in common with people who don't have kids, don't want them, and don't necessarily like them. I know there used to be a Randi in this world who could have had a beer with those people, laughed and joked with them, made a plan to have a meal at the new Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. But this Randi just can't do that. Because this Randi can't get over the fact that this person doesn't see the miracle that is my daughter. Because this person lumps the child I adore beyond measure with a group of nameless, faceless, snotty masses of whining and tears.

So, yeah, maybe friendships can't survive this huge a lifestyle gap. And although I'd planned on staying the same old Randi, just with a mini-me, that's simply not what happened. I'm a completely different Randi.

And that's just fine by me.

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