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When I became a mom I was surprised by quite a few things. For instance, I was surprised that I could still function enough to walk down the aisles of Target on just 30 minutes of sleep. Of course, I didn’t remember why I was there or how I got there, but I was there, nonetheless. Another surprise: how much poop could come out of a tiny, adorable baby body. You know the chocolate fountain at Golden Corral? Yeah… it’s like that. But with poo. Exploding poo. However, nothing surprised me as much as waking up from a years’ long parenting-induced fog, realizing that my whole identity had to be rediscovered and redefined.
My Name Is…
I didn’t lose myself over night. Like the proverbial frog in hot water, my sense of identity died a slow, sneaky death. I used to know exactly who I was and what I wanted out of life. I mean… I was ERICA! Short in stature, tall in sarcasm, with the misplaced attack instincts of a chihuahua. I was the same Erica who did exactly what was expected of me until my first abnormally large tramp stamp tattoo at the age of 21. The same Erica who moved to Italy by myself for the summer after I graduated from college because the idea of going back to my hometown made me feel like I was suffocating. The same Erica wanted nothing more out of life than to make everyone laugh.
Who Am I?
Yet, there I was, holding my new baby boy, my three-year-old little girlie by my side, a supportive husband, and I had no idea who I was anymore. My confidence was gone. I felt like an empty shell. Nothing that I used to enjoy made me happy anymore. One day I stopped singing in the car at the top of my lungs. One day I stopped watching Napoleon Dynamite on loop. Don’t get me wrong: I adored being a mom and still do. But in my mind, I was not good enough at it. Good moms spend every waking moment with their babies. I had to leave my babies every day. I had to pay my bills. I had obligations. I had to go to work. The career I used to be so proud of now made me cringe like the creepy guy in high school who followed me around trying to smell my hair. The career I worked so hard to build was now making me deeply and painfully resentful and I didn’t know how to fix it.
A switch flipped. The demands of my new family construct AND trying to excel in my career were suddenly overwhelming. I was no longer the person who I used to know so assuredly that I was. I couldn’t manage the simplest tasks without crushing exhaustion. I just wanted to close myself in a room with my babies and lock out the world.
Who was I? A mom? A wife? I was a person without a first name. I was no longer Erica. I was Roman’s mom. I was Bella’s mom. I was Rick’s wife. Erica was invisible. If I happened to have five minutes to myself, what would I do? Scrap book? NO! Cry in my closet. That’s what. I had no hobbies. Outside of my daily routine I was lost. How long had I been like this? I felt like I’d been in a time-warping fog and now the fog was lifting and I had to reorient myself to my surroundings like an alien abductee dropped in a crop circle naked and afraid.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was at a crossroads. I could have stayed in my fog, accepted it as my new life, and moved on without my sparkle. I could have wanted to change but done nothing about it and become bitter and mad. Or I could have done what I DID. I took a step. Then another. Over the next seven years I just took steps. From the outside looking in I’m sure I looked like I was grasping at straws. I wasn’t. I was on a quest.
I opened an Etsy shop making jewelry. Had I ever had any jewelry training? NO! Was I terrible at it? YES! But it taught me elementary business ownership skills. It taught me how to market online. It taught me social media networking. It occupied my curiosity for a year or two until I decided one day on a whim to start my first blog.
I knew nothing about blogging. But I knew I had a message and I knew I wanted to give other women a quick escape of funny and happiness. I wanted to give other parents a place to mentally go to for 10 minutes while they’re hiding in the bathroom and laugh and relate and not feel so alone. And I started to learn to write. And writing led to my passion.
After two years of writing and posting and joining groups of other writers I discovered what I should have been doing all along. Comedy. One day I realized that nothing was standing between the dream I’d always had in the back of my mind and my reality. I always idolized comedians. But people didn’t do that in real life! People graduate from high school then go to college then become accountants or engineers or whatever pays the bills. Not COMEDY. But… if my idols could do it, maybe I can, too.
Erica. Erica Benefield.
So, at the age of 36 I started a new career. Me. Erica. Wife, mom, comedian. It’s not easy. I work my day job, take my kids to practice, have dinner with my family, put my kids to bed, kiss my husband and go to my shows. There are a lot of nights when my anxiety sets in and I try to talk myself out of performing because the safe thing to do would be to stay at home with my family and be normal. But when I get out on the stage, I remember why I do it. When I hear my kids tell their friends that their mom is a comedian, I tear up. My kids have no idea what I do for my day job but they know what comedy is! I get to help other grown ups forget the demands of their life for a few minutes a night and it’s the best job in the world.
If you’re still reading this painfully long, rambling post, here’s what I want you to take away: Life has a way of throwing off your plans. It’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re failing. It could be your greatest success. You don’t have to give up your dreams because you’re a parent. Being a mom or a dad doesn’t mean YOUR life is over. If you feel stuck, do SOMETHING, anything to get “unstuck”. Take a different path home. Go to a new restaurant. Make a bucket list of things you’ve always wanted to explore and cross each one off the list. Kids need to see their parents happy and healthy with their own joys. Just take a step. It’ll lead to another step. And don’t use your family as an excuse. Take them on the journey with you. It’ll make the ride so much more fun.
What’s your step gonna be?
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My family and I did something a few days ago that we rarely do… we went to the movies! Usually my hubs and I wait until movies are available from the comfort of our own home and have the “lazy man’s movie night”. But we went all out for Rogue One. Given it’s been a bit since we’ve ventured out together like this, I forgot about a few nuances about the movie theater experience. In the event you are weighing the pros and cons of going to see a movie, I’d like to share with you what those nuances are.
- Cost – if you’re not in the top 1% of the top 1% of earners in the country, you may want to pawn that vase you had appraised on Antiques Roadshow before you purchase those tickets. And don’t get me started on the food. $4.99 USD for a SMALL BOTTLE OF WATER?????? I can get 32 bottles at Costco for that price! Just keep whispering, “It’s for the babies… it’s for the babies… it’s for the babies.” And hand over that $100 bill. To be fair, in exchange you’ll get a kid’s sized Icee, a small popcorn, and a box of Snowcaps. Did you get nachos? Want extra cheese? Well, that’ll be a kidney. Napkins? Those are free. You’re welcome.
- Time Management – Lines are inevitable even if you get your tickets online. Lines, lines everywhere. So be sure to plan for it. Concession lines to order your food and drinks, lines to get your food once you order it, lines to show the 13 year old your tickets, lines to use the bathroom. Lines again so that your 5 year old can use the bathroom for the 6th time in an hour. In my mind I’m famous and, as such, should not be subjected to lines.
- People – Ugh. I forget how much I hate being around people until I go to the movies. Remember that movie Crash? The one where Reese Witherspoon’s first husband played a cop? When I saw that movie so many years ago, something happened that caused me to forever lose faith in the classiness of the human race. A woman sat down rightbesideme (yes, that spacing is on purpose because that’s how I felt) in a not-so-crowded theater, reached into her oversized handbag, and pulled out of that Mary Poppins purse a paper bag from Churches Chicken. While the movie was just beginning (the actual movie, not the credits) she tore the bag down the side and rolled it down so that she could gain better access to her chicken wings. Then she- I moved. I have no idea what she did after that. In my mind she made love to those chicken wings without shame, no matter who was watching, and I wasn’t going to be a part of that. But, yeah, I hate being around groups of people. They’re stupid.
- My kids – I adore my kids. Seriously. I am in love with them. But I can’t handle going to the movies with them very often. When we order movies at home, they have full access to more than one bathroom. They can move around, they can talk, they can sit on their heads, they can cry because their socks feel funny. None of it matters because I didn’t spend $100 to watch it. I maybe spent $6 if I was feeling frisky and didn’t go with a free option. Today Roman spilled his popcorn, went to the bathroom 4 times, got his foot caught underneath himself and started bawling, sat in my lap, sat in my hubs’ lap, sat in his chair, sat in my lap, back to my husband, then back to me. He wanted my pizza, nope that’s gross, then drank an entire Icee. That’s right. He had to pee 4 times BEFORE he finished the Icee. Then there’s my 8-year-old baby girl. Bella is usually pretty good at the moves. Today, though, she wanted to know who everyone was in the movie, why they did what they did, point out how funny the robot was, impersonate the robot, crunch her chips, smack her chips, argue with me out loud when I told her quietly to stop smacking, and sit with her legs in what I can only describe as an open frog position.
Overall, even with the frustrations, we had a great time. Rogue One is a very entertaining, action-packed movie that the kids and the hubs loved. I love that a strong female character kicked ass. Bam, boys! It moves quickly and stands alone so you don’t have to be familiar with the whole franchise to get the story. So if you can get passed all the crazy out there and afford to sell your first born to whatever theater you prefer to visit, I highly recommend seeing Rogue One.
Maybe I’m impatient and frugal but it’s ok. At least I’m pretty. How do you prefer to watch movies?