The thought of pregnancy, carrying my own child, giving birth and breastfeeding simultaneously gives me chills and brings the kind of tears that form unexpectedly. Physically speaking, I can’t imagine the burden of dependence while suffering the loss of independence. The mere thought of leaving my career to become a full-time, at-home mom terrifies me; I have vision of lost patience and boredom. On top of all of this, a baby would undoubtedly be a huge kink in my relationship given my relentless need for equity in my marriage. A good friend recently described me as a restless spirit, which as he put it, makes me a “powerful force in the world, but a challenge for those who need time to be idle.” Babies need time to be idle. While having a baby isn’t on my bucket list, I’ve never questioned my desire to be a mom. And, now that I I’ve earned my mom badge, I have a newfound understanding of how badass the women around me are, especially my mom and my sister. They are both badass moms.
First, we should start with the seven unspoken rules of being a badass:
- First rule of being a badass. A badass does not talk about being a badass. Period.
- A badass does not try to be a badass or look tough. A badass simply is a badass.
- A badass stays true to themselves, always.
- A badass does not give up. Badasses will always push themselves for the better, no matter how hard it gets.
- A badass is not a jerk. A badass does not prey on the weak, and shows kindness in return to those who are kind.
- A badass knows his/her limits.
- A badass does not make enemies or go looking for fights.
Now to the badass moms part.
During the early years of my life my mom stayed at home with me and my sister while my dad worked odd shifts. As little kids, Kara and I would run through the house yelling, fighting and screaming while she was tasked with keeping us quiet so my dad could sleep. I don’t think any pair of siblings fought like we did. We’d scream-fight for days, which I now realize was worse than a quick hit or punch. As we got older, things didn’t get much better. Kara would steal my clothes and I’d leave late for school just to make her tardy. Through all of our screaming, bantering and sneaking around my mom managed to teach us a thing or two.
If you were to meet mom, you’d think, “She’s a really nice lady.” My friends often say things like, “I love your mom!” But, let me tell you that Nancy Handy is a badass. She can coax a 3 year old into doing whatever that thing is he absolutely wasn’t going to do; grow anything under the sun (or rain in our case); act as commander and chief of a large childcare center; and keep me and my sister in line – even now. She has embraced Justin as part of my world and embraced his crazy-ass ideas and adventures as things that are normal and endearing in a Justin-kind-of-way. When P came home from India, it was as if he was always meant to be part of her world. Spoiled can’t even touch what goes on when they’re palling around. It’s not uncommon for Parks to retort from the backseat that he, “misses his grandma” when he just saw her thirty minutes before. Her magical touch with children has translated perfectly into grandmahood.
My mom taught Kara and I that we can be firm, independent and creative without sacrificing kindness, patience and intelligence. We learned how to be married to men that are of strong moral character, but who test our patience with strong opinions and high standards. But, most importantly, we learned how to be mothers. I learned that love and consequences go hand-in-hand; that being a mom means sacrificing for your family (even though I clearly tried to avoid that); that children should be helped along the way, but remain independent; and that being a mom is the best thing I will ever do in this life.
While I learned to be a woman from my mom and she is the foundation of who I am as a mom, my sister’s badassness has also had an impact on me. Over the past five months, Kara and her husband, Colin, have been wading their way through learning to care for a medically fragile infant while parenting Asher, who just turned two. It’s been the sweetest hell you can ever imagine. Due to Ayla’s medical condition, she has to eat every hour and a half, or she could die. They navigate her feeding tubes, food intolerances and lack of sleep day in and day out. A few weeks ago I was visiting for the weekend and watched as Kara and Colin had to reinsert Ayla’s nasal feeding (NG) tube after she had ripped it out for the umpteenth time. It took them multiple attempts to get it down her throat after initially placing it incorrectly. She screamed the entire time. I’m not easily phased by pain, injuries or medical emergencies, but I don’t know if I could handle it on the daily, but my sister just rolls with it.
Ayla is stabilized now and a happy, roly-poly little thing, but she’ll be faced with a lifetime of feeding tubes, blood work and uncertainty as her body ages. I have no doubt that my sister will continue to roll with it. Ayla’s health has made life challenging, but pair this with Asher and his needs (which are all-boy) and my sister doesn’t have a down minute. She stays at home with her kids, but her days are busier than mine even though I work full-time, coach and try to squeeze non-profit work in the cracks. My sister, who I dismantled one tardy at a time in high school, is kicking my ass when it comes to being a badass mom. Not that it was ever a competition, but she’s clearly winning.
On Friday I went to a Mother’s Day program at P’s school. There was singing followed by gifts, but the highlight came at the top of the hour. Each child lined up and introduced himself and what he loved about his mom. P very clearly and slowly said, “Good morning, my name is P. I love my mom because she is so beautiful.” I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean that I’m physically beautiful. He meant that it’s beautiful that we ride bikes, swim, do homework, read and play together. These are all things I learned to make a priority from my mom and learned to appreciate from my sister.
To my favorite badass moms, happy, happy Mother’s Day and I love you both!