Thursday, February 21

what I carried: a story of motherhood told in bags

You can track my evolution as a mother based on what bag I have carried with me at what stage of my son's life. I believe there is an inverse relationship between how confident I have felt as a mother and how big a bag I've felt the need to carry. Not surprisingly, there is a direct correlation between size of bag and age of child; ergo, between mother confidence and age of child. This is all very scientific.

While I was pregnant with Silas, among the many things I fussed and stressed over was the diaper bag. The diaper bag. I was obsessed with the idea of finding the perfect diaper bag. As someone who has a bit of a bag fetish (ahem), finding the perfect bag was of the utmost importance, as if finding the right bag to handle all of the baby gear would magically mean that I could handle the actual baby.

I closely inspected all of my friends' diaper bags, made countless painful trips to Buy Buy Baby to hold and open and sniff and test out all of the bags on the daunting diaper bag wall. I bought and returned at least one, maybe more, bags from Target, before settling on the winner: the Skip Hop Duo in the Wave Dot pattern.

I was happy with this bag. I crammed it full of cloth diapers and wipes and ointment and toys and Aden & Anais blankets and my Moby wrap, and all the extra gear that I felt stood to protect me and my little bundle against calamity. More stuff = heightened sense of safety. Now, who exactly is the security blanket for?

Enter exhibit two: a sweet and roomy bucket bag, snagged on sale at Fossil. I got this one when Silas was about 6 or 7 months old, and definitely sitting up. I was now leaving the house more often and with less stuff, fewer diapers and more rice crackers. I was desperately trying to emerge from the fog of tiny babyhood and to reclaim a little bit of a sense of self--though whose self, I wasn't entirely sure--so it's no wonder I could relate to the pattern of caged birds.

Fast-forward 6 more months or so, and behold the Holy Grail of mamas-of-toddler bags: the Haiku Hobo 2 bag, bought at Whole Earth with tax refund money. A bag so wonderful and efficient and cute that my equally bag-obsessed friend Kathryn took one look at it when I brought it to the coffeeshop for the first time, and promptly went out and bought herself the very same bag, in a different color, the next day. You can tell I'm now the mama of a walker because I need a cross-body shoulder strap (not shown) to carry the bag while I chase my wobbling toddler. (Silas is fearless and would always run as far away from me as he could get in any public place.) This bag also serves a toddler mama well as it is made entirely of recycled bottles, and is thus wipeable and waterproof, which comes in handy while you make that long and frought search for a spill-proof sippy cup. By now the bag is filled almost entirely with boy stuff. I have my phone, wallet, lip balm in there, and ever hopefully, a small Moleskine, but mostly it holds cars and trucks and eleven different kinds of snacks.

Nearly a year later, circa now. I am six months pregnant with my second child, and the era of diaper bags is staring at me in the face again. It's with a mixture of equal parts dread and excitement that I am considering purchasing another diaper bag, one that will better accommodate the needs of two boys of completely different ages. Though I expect to carry WAY less baby stuff this time around (here's a tip: keep lots of spare clothes and extra dipes and wipes in a plastic bin in your car), still three humans' worth of gear is sure to take up some space. I've got my eye on this one.

But that's a few months away still. For now, I am delighting in carrying the smallest possible bag, with the least amount of stuff I can get away with. I've downsized my Moleskine to a slimmer size, use the smallest wallet I have, and seek out tiny snacks for the bear. I keep 2-3 wipes in a small ziplock bag. I take an outsized amount of pleasure in reducing my necessities to the barest minimum. I still have room for a Hot Wheels car and a tiny book in there. I allow space for my pocket Pema book because having it with me makes me feel safe and sane, and that's worth a lot of purse real estate. Silas usually carries his own water bottle around. I rarely have to change him on most trips out, and for when I do, I keep a changing wallet in the car (again: treat your car as if it were one very big purse.) It's so freeing to need so little.

(What I carry: wallet, Moleskine, Post-Its, Muji pen, The Pocket Pema Chodron, hand sanitizer, tiny tube of hand lotion, caramel Hershey's kisses, gum, tiny Cars book, Hot Wheels car, box of raisins, fruit twists. Not shown: wipes in baggy and, and most important, iPhone 4 in Otterbox case.)

Given this set of data, and my current small choice of purse, you might wonder whether I'm feeling confident as a mother these days. I do. While there are definitely challenges big and small each day, I no longer doubt my ability to handle what's thrown at me (literally and figuratively), nor do I doubt my suitability to the task of being Silas' mother. And it may be blind, reckless optimism, but I'm feeling pretty good about adding another little being to the herd. I feel broken in, as it were, as a mother, and better able to expand and embrace more love and more responsibilities.

I don't know. Ask me again in a few months when I'm lugging around an enormous diaper bag.

1 comment:

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