I’d like to thank my wonderful friend Irene for being my sounding board for this post. It’s been on my mind for a while, but it took a conversation sparked by her for me to get it in writing.
How do you merge your self identity with motherhood? Can you be yourself, the you you were before kids, and be a mom? At the same time?
This is a topic that I thought a lot about before, during and after my pregnancy because one of my biggest parenting fears, right after being a shitty parent, was that I would lose myself. I majorly put off becoming a parent and thinking about becoming a parent because of it. I observed lots of women that didn’t seem to exist outside of the role of being someone’s mom. Not that being a mom isn’t a grandiose enough achievement on its own, but I spent a long time figuring out who I was in my 20s, and I finally felt secure and happy with myself. I didn’t want to lose that. I really stressed about it.
And now, nine-ish months in, how do I feel? I feel like maybe I was over-thinking it. I am a mom. And I am forever changed. And I am not ashamed of that. But I am also still myself. And somehow, those two things fit together a lot better than I ever thought they would.
Here’s where I was getting tripped up.
I was worrying too much about other people’s perception of me as a mom. For some reason I had this clearly defined idea of what a “good mom” should look/think/dress/act like. And I just couldn’t imagine myself becoming that person. But it’s kind of bullshit. Right? It seems crazy to think that all the wonderful, funky, vibrant, different kinds of women who choose to become moms could all somehow fit that one stupid mold.
Maybe it’s not just one mold. Whatever your ideal image of a mom is. Whatever kind of mom you want to be for your kid(s). Whether that’s a minivan-driving, chinos-wearing soccer mom who has casseroles made with cream of campbell’s soup on the table at 5pm exactly; or a make-up-less, NPR-listening mom who drives an energy efficient car, or no car, even! You take the bus. But either way, you’d never ever let your kid eat anything that’s not organic and hormone free. Whatever it is. We put enormous pressure on ourselves to be our version of a “good mom”. And of course, it’s all done out of love.
It’s kind of bullshit. And I kind of think that’s how people forget about themselves. Trying to fit into that. It’s just too much.
I don’t mean that we shouldn’t try to be good moms. Obviously. I just think that being a good mom doesn’t mean completely sacrificing yourself or your self image. I think being a good mom and being good to yourself can reside together nicely. And we can learn to be a little more forgiving of ourselves.
So what do we do about it? Not an expert, but I’ll suggest some stuff that keeps me feelin’ good. And I also completely acknowledge that I am able to do a lot of these things because I have a super awesome and supportive husband. So you know, I know everyone has different circumstances.
Spend some time on yourself. Every week. Do something that is JUST for you. It’s tough at first to justify spending the time away from your kids, or to justify taking yourself away from that engaging pile of dishes or laundry, but I just think of it as setting an example for Eddie. I want him to know me as an intelligent, happy, well-rounded woman. I want him to expect other women to be intelligent, happy and well-rounded. And I want him to respect those qualities in women and one day seek them out in a partner. For me, the thing that I do that is just for me is sometimes just being creative. Keeping a journal, keeping this blog, taking some pictures, filling up sketchbooks, whatever. And if I’m being honest, spending time on myself is not something I’ve had a lot of trouble convincing myself to do. Selflessness is not really my forte, I guess. Hence my initial apprehension about becoming a parent. Turns out I can care about more than one person at a time.
Keep in touch with old friends. Those people who knew you before you had kids. They loved you then and they love you now. I mean, hopefully, anyway. They are growing and changing, and you are growing and changing. It’s comforting and transformative to check in on each others’ journeys. Unless they were shitty friends. Then drop ’em.
Make new friends. What is more inspiring and refreshing than finding a new person who you click with and hearing their new perspective on things? I know we can’t always make this happen. It’s hard enough to meet people who don’t straight-up suck, let alone someone you’d want to be friends with. Who has stuff in common with you. And then making the friendship happen? Sheesh. So hard. Mom friends. That’s a whole other blog post. But you know, try.
Work it out. If you want to. I mean, if you hate working out, don’t do it. I haven’t been doing a great job at this lately. So no judgement there. But there’s really no downside to it. You are doing something good for yourself, you feel good that you are doing something good for yourself, you get all those endorphins, and it counts as “me-time”.
Intellectually stimulate yourself. I totally don’t have time to read. Plus I suck at reading. That’s why I was an art major. But I DO have a nice little commute. And I try to use it optimally. Audiobooks are awesome. It feels good to be informed about some stuff and to be able to carry on an intelligent non-baby related conversation about something I read about/listened to.
And finally, take meds. JK. 😉