Motherhood Is Not My Identity
I was recently asked, "do you like being a mother?" to which I replied, "not particularly, I don't feel anything that different or special being a mom, but I definitely love my son", and it wasn't a remark of derision or callousness…. It was just my natural reaction to the question.
I definitely don't hate being a mom, it's just that it's not my identity, even though I spend almost all day every single day with my son, I somehow still don't think of myself as a "mother", maybe because he hasn't said mom, mama or mother yet, although I'm quite sure he knows who I am. I've noticed that for many women there seems to be a huge shift after they have a baby, their priorities change, life becomes more precious and purposeful, and they place greater value on certain relationships. I haven't felt much of these types of changes, but I think it's because I'm an older mom (compared to the rest of the US, here in NYC it's totally normal to start having children in your 40's), so therefore I've lived a whole lifetime already and have experienced these values to be true. I've been through death, marriage, divorce, international moves, crises, injuries, accidents and much more….
Little else will reorder your priorities, blast open your heart, demand compassion, humble you and make you panic like living through a sick parent's death. It's a forever experience…. In my twenties I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco and being a volunteer is a psychological exercise in resourcefulness, resilience and learning to cope with isolation, all in a new language and a foreign culture. I've also lived, worked and married in foreign countries and have traveled to five of the seven continents. I've certainly had my heart broken, sliced, diced and stomped on a few times too. My career has been less a path and much more like a discovery in a clearing of the wilds. I learned to love and appreciate my body early on and realized its power through dance and athletics, which encouraged me to always maintain my fitness and led me to being a vegetarian and a life long lover of healthy eating and cooking.
What I've realized is that all of this has prepared me to be a mom by grounding me in a way so that motherhood somehow feels comfortable and intuitive. Parts of it are easy, like not being too attached to his growth charts or worrying about when he'll accomplish certain milestones and feeling relaxed even when he's having a meltdown. Yet on the other hand not having time to myself, lack of sleep, memory failures and rare social nights out are more difficult. Additionally I think motherhood doesn't feel much different from my regular "me" because I'm the eldest and have always been maternal and have become more nurturing with age. Over the years friends have said me to "you'd be such a great mom!" which I always thought was funny, but I knew they were probably right. It took me a while to admit this though….. LOL!
Motherhood is clearly what you make of it, but I don't think it needs to be all-consuming, as it's often portrayed by our culture and it's not something necessarily separable from daily life either. I think it can be integrated and woven into life in various ways and you can even be a mother and maternal long before you have children. A child is the external manifestation of motherhood, but I think that the feelings, responsibilities, dreams and values of it can begin long beforehand. In some ways these are just human qualities and if you live a rich, textured and fully conscious life you might experience these concepts prior to motherhood, so by the time you arrive there you too will not feel much different as a mother, but just validated in these precepts and more joyous in general.