There’s a phenomenon that I’ve noticed since becoming a mother.
To some, I have become invisible. Non-existent. Frumpy looking woman + baby in stroller = invisible to many.
I took Nellie to the mall tonight to wander a bit while waiting to pick up Josh from work and I realized that there are pretty much just a few different types of reactions I get from people. They either grin at Nellie or coo at her and comment on how lovely she is, they glance down at her and go about their business without so much as a hint of a smile, or they don’t see us at all. They walk by us, walk around us, or in the case of this evening they wander out of a store single-file, directly in our path to the point where I have to stop with my stroller waiting for them to pass out of my way. This trio walked from the store, looked directly at me, and sauntered one by one to the point where I actually had to come to a stop. There was no getting around them. It was like I didn’t exist in their world. They took their sweet time getting out of our way and I shot them a nasty look once they’d passed.
Before I had a child, I would walk around the mall aware of the other people like me. Women, couples, handsome men. I would wonder how I looked to them. Even though I was happily married, I still hoped that I caught an appreciative glance or two because let’s face it: what woman doesn’t like to be ogled at just a little bit? And now I consider it a good day if I’ve had a shower, and am wearing clothes without baby barf on them.
Those people are on an entirely different planet from me. I may be invisible to them but to me, they are alien. I see the well-dressed, young, carefree girls linked arm-in-arm giggling their way across the mall and I cock my head and watch them as I push my baby daughter in her stroller. I think back on a time where my life revolved around what I was going to do on a weekend night. It was nothing to go out to eat, see a movie, then go to a friend’s house and drink the rest of the evening. To be out until 2 AM was the norm. Now? Home by 7, or all holy hell will break loose because the baby will be too tired.
It’s not a bad thing, it’s just curious to me. I feel like my life before Nellie was lived a thousand years ago and by a different person. Josh and I have discussed this. What in the hell did we do before we became parents? We wasted a lot of money, took a lot of naps, and saw a lot of movies. We had pretty active social lives. Now, we’re usually in bed and asleep by 10 PM.
When I’d see a noisy or screaming kid at the mall in my previous life, I’d shoot the parents an annoyed glance. Now when I see a toddler in mid-tantrum, his parents on either side of him looking desperate and holding out a coat, I shoot them an entirely different look: a look of sympathy. We haven’t reached the tantrum phase but I know what it’s like to wrangle a squirmy, noisy child. I understand how much time an outing takes to plan. I realize now that you have to bring the baby’s entire world when you want to go out for just a few hours. It’s funny to me, sometimes, to see the contrast in the carefree couples flouncing through the mall and the pleading parents of the yowling toddler in such close proximity to one another yet neither really acknowledging the others’ presence other than in a passing glance.
It’s funny when your life changes. When you shift gears. When you become a grown-up… It feels like yesterday that I was celebrating my 21st birthday; taking shots and dancing in a cage at a gay bar. Having children wasn’t even within the realm of feasible to me then. Now, my schedule is determined based on nap time and whether I have enough cereal puffs and juice to last an outing of more than an hour.
It’s not a bad change.. Just sort of surreal. Inside I feel like I always have; young, silly, just me. But outside? I’m a mom. Invisible to some and a reflection of others. A glimpse into the future, or a warning sign of what someone never wants to be.
Really, I’d take the sippy cups over the shots any day of the week.
Most of the time.