Before the baby was born, one of my most panicked thoughts revolved around how would this change ME? Where will ME begin and MOM end? How will I still be a ‘real’ person and not just some kind of mom-shaped robot woman?
The more I thought about this ‘conundrum’ the more I got pissed off at myself and the world for the thought even being in my head. Do we get so self-reflective about most of life’s other large events? Not really. I didn’t worry so much about the ‘me’ who was also a college graduate, or a Master’s student, or wife. I didn’t worry about where ‘me’ meets ‘vegetarian’ or any of my other self-ascribed labels. And, perhaps most significantly, how many of my male friends (Dave included) gave this ANY thought when becoming a father, let alone dedicated blog posts and endless hours of conversation and sleepless nights to fear of losing themselves when becoming a parent? Tears even people, I’ve CRIED over this!
Then I got even more angry because I realized HELLO WORLD it’s not all about me. Frankly, it never was (shocking) but once I had a baby it really wasn’t. And part of me felt afraid to admit that because saying ‘it’s not all about me, it’s about the baby’ sounded like some kind of defeat in the face of those of my friends who always said ‘I hate my friends who have kids and then aren’t themselves anymore.’ But honestly, isn’t that part of ‘themselves’ and can’t you just accept that and why am I bothering with the thoughts of others so much!?
THEN I got even more mad because this line of reasoning led to an Oprah-esque aha moment, that I was never really worried about myself in all this, but rather the way other people view me. Would my friends who weren’t parents be thinking ‘wow she sure talks about her kid too much and she used to be way more fun and is she still talking about her kid and did she even brush her teeth today!?’ Would my friends with kids be thinking ‘why doesn’t she talk about her baby more and doesn’t she love it to the proper degree and why is she making me discuss the election/global hunger/Pinterest and what is up with this child-neglecter’s priorities?’ So after a year of motherhood which was preceded by 40 weeks and 1 day of pregnancy I finally realized I am pretty much at peace with this situation but for the worry I have about what other people think. What am I, 12? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuudge this.
The conclusion I’ve come to is simple, perhaps simpler for me than for some people. But if I’ve learned anything about life this past year, it’s that saving time by cutting out the excess bullshit of life is invaluable. Sifting through life’s quandries and figuring out which bits are bullshit is not always easy, but once you spot those little bastards CHOP CHOP them from your life.
I am a mother. It’s another part of my identity, more consuming at this point in my life than most other parts. The question isn’t how can I be a mother AND myself, because I am those things simultaneously all the time. Just like I am a wife and a friend. I’m a vegetarian and an atheist. I’m not me plus all the other things. I’m all the things at once. All these things are me. End of story.
The reason the title of ‘mother’ gave me more mental anguish than the other labels is probably because I live in a society where motherhood ascribes some kind of sainthood to anyone bearing the title, while simultaneously condemning any mom who takes the wrong turn or makes the incorrect choice. Who wouldn’t be confused? Am I amazing, or am I just a breeder? Is this the most meaningful thing I’ll ever do, or am I simply doing it all wrong? Answer: Yes or No or Maybe or WHO GIVES A SHIT. All of the above? I need a nap.
It is definitely important to critically analyze the way mothers, parents, families and children are treated and viewed in our society. It is also important to scrutinize our own reactions to different life choices of others. Because within our reactions we will find the beliefs engrained in us systematically, not necessarily those we could come to by means of logic and compassion.
I do those things, I exercise my mind on the matters of motherhood, parenthood, fatherhood, childhood, societal norms and so on. I question my own reactions to the way others live. But on a day-to-day basis, when moving through the miasma of my identity, I have to find a simpler way to address the issue. So I just accept the ‘mom’ label, let myself be what I am. And what is so novel about that?
It does seem novel though, to just be what you are (which is many things). When I read blogs or Facebook statuses and the like I find the issue of being a mother is as often as polarized as everything else in our sensationalist culture. It’s either you LOVE IT AND IT’S YOUR LIFE AND IT ALL COMES SO NATURALLY AND I REFER TO MYSELF AS MOMMY IN THE THIRD PERSON or else IT’S DISMAL AND I MISS SLEEPING IN AND WHAT HAPPENED TO MY ASS AND MY FREE TIME AND MY LOVE LIFE. I don’t feel like any of that. Or maybe I feel all of it.
In 2008, I wrote this post about how I feel a passion for life, but not a drive for a powerful career or an overwhemling urge to be a mommy-wommy. And now that I’m a mother and still don’t have a career in the traditional sense (nor an ambition to dive into one), I feel more proud than ever of the insight I had back then.
In 2012 I feel like this: I like my life right now. And much of my life is currently wrapped up in being the mother to this baby. AND I LIKE IT. And it’s also very hard. I love my daughter more than any other person on this planet, and sometimes I miss the life that existed before she was born. There, I said it. Is that so bad? Is it so awful? To not be on the bandwagon on this side or the other and just say how things are? To just be what I am, which is who I am, which is always changing. Nothing could compare to the love I have for my daughter, and nothing will come from me sugar-coating all the complex feelings I have about parenting.
The bottom line is that my life is different. My priorities have changed. My philosophy has evolved. And on a very practical level, my daily activities are altered undeniably. For example, this morning I spent 45 minutes watching the baby eat oatmeal and put banana in her hair. Seven minutes were spent with her showing me her belly button, then my belly button, then her belly button, searching for belly buttons on all stuffed animals in the house. The next 22 minutes found me walking with her from room to room in our (very small) apartment while she pointed at every single thing we own asking ‘This? This? This?’. Then I had 3 minutes respite while she banged on the sliding glass door yelling ‘dogdogdogdogdog’, perhaps hoping a dog would come by and I fantasized about taking a nap.
If you’re not a parent, like I wasn’t for 29 years, that probably sounds mind-numbing. But I had a really, really good time. After all that she fell asleep and I read a few articles about the abuses of dairy cows, tried to figure out what the frig is happening in Syria, wrote an e-mail to my insurance agent, chatted to a friend about how far holistic eating should go, and watched an episode of New Girl. This is me, I am she. And it’s good.