Up until a few years ago, I didn't want to be a mom. I had never wanted to experience pregnancy and I didn't envision having kids. Suddenly, my future plans changed and the idea of procreating with my partner didn't send shivers down my spine. When we found out we were pregnant, I decided I actually wanted to be pregnant and, at the end of that pregnancy, wanted to be a mom. Now I have a two year old son who is as wonderful as he is challenging. Still, I don't like being labeled as a "mom," and the reasons why I didn't want to be a mom all those years ago are why I dislike it when someone refers to me as a mom, and nothing but a mom.
Prior to becoming a mother, I bought into the idea that motherhood means the end of, well, everything else in a woman's life. I value my career, and thought that I couldn't continue to work and be a "good mother." I listened to our society tell women that they need to sacrifice every single aspect of themselves the moment they become a mother, so I decided motherhood wasn't for me. That decision changed, but the expectations of motherhood have remained and I'm not oblivious to them. Now that I'm a mom, people view me a particular way or think I should act a certain way or tell me that my son should be my entire "world." Now that I'm a mom, that's all I am to so many people, and the rest of my humanity feels erased or no longer significant.
It's not that I'm embarrassed to be a mother or don't love being a mother or regret my decision to be a mother. Not a single days goes by when I don't think that becoming a mother was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's just not the only decision I have made, and it is not the only defining characteristic of my life. I am more than a mom, yet when someone calls me a "mom," my choice to procreate seems to be the only thing that gives my life any value. I disagree, and until our culture views and treats motherhood differently, I will continue to dislike being labeled "mom" for the following reasons:
It Becomes The Only Label I'm Known For
It seems like once a woman becomes a mom, that's all she is. Mom becomes her first name, and she is referred to as a "mom" before she's referred to as anything else. I don't work, I'm a "working mom." I don't just drink, I'm a "mom that drinks." I don't simply enjoy going out with friends, I'm a "fun mom."
Motherhood is not all that I am, but simply a specific aspect of who I am. Still, our culture seems hell-bent on defining women by whether or not they reproduce, so when I'm labeled a "mom," it seems to overpower every other part of my existence, to the point that the other facets of my life or personality no longer exist.
It Suggests Motherhood Is My Only Accomplishment...
I don't view motherhood as an accomplishment. Honestly, I did very little to become a mom. My pregnancy wasn't something I had to focus on or think about in order to have happen; my body simply did what it did and I was along for the ride. Yes, I birthed another human being but, again, my body did most of the work (and I had help in the form or doctors and nurses and a supportive partner). While I don't want to downplay how miraculous pregnancy, labor and delivery truly are, or how powerful women are in general, motherhood is more of a choice than an accomplishment, and one I happened to make, for me.
Still, society seems to view motherhood as some box women should be checking off on the list of "life goals." It makes women who don't want children (or can't have children) feel less than or lacking, and it makes the women who do decide to have children feel like reproducing is all they have to offer the world. I can do more than birth babies; so much more. In fact, I have done so much more, yet motherhood seems to be what I am most known for, now, or the thing I should take the most pride in. Mothers feel this silent pressure to claim their children as the "best thing they've ever done," downplaying every other miraculous thing those mothers have done.
...And It Re-Defines Everything Else I Accomplish
Now that I'm a mom, it seems that every other accomplishment I make is somehow tied to motherhood. In fact, I've had people tell me that I'm not a writer, I'm a mom that writes occasionally. I'm not a worker, I'm a mom who works. Mothers who start their own businesses aren't entrepreneurs, they're mompreneurs. Motherhood becomes the one "accomplishment" that defines any and all further accomplishments, and it's the most frustrating.
And, of course, there are products marketed specifically to mothers, to help them accomplish "mom things." It seems that any woman who made the choice to have children can't do anything without "mom" being attached or associated to it. There's not a single life choice that seems to overpower someone's entire existence the way motherhood does.
It Reinforces Certain Stereotypes
Motherhood is what you make it, and I in no way think that being a mother means you're not a feminist or can't be pro-choice or you can't be a progressive woman that fights for gender equality. However, our society has certain expectations for motherhood and they're, sadly, heavy with stereotypes and sexism. If you're a mother, you're supposed to sacrifice every single part of your existence for your children. If you're a mother, you shouldn't work but you should do more than just sit at home with your children. If you're a mother, you need to cook and clean and eat organic food from your extensive garden and dedicate your entire life to your family.
I can't help but feel the weight of those stereotypes and expectations every time someone refers to me as a mother, especially when that's all they refer to me as.
It's Used As A Reason Why I Do Something...
Recently, I was watching the women's gymnastics team compete at the Rio Olympics, which meant I was listening to commentators critique the performances. The one woman commentator started getting emotional at the end of an event, and quickly said, "Maybe it's because I'm a mother now, but I'm getting teary eyed." I couldn't help but shake my head. Why would a woman becoming emotional be the result of motherhood, and motherhood alone? Are moms innately more emotional because they're moms? Why can't a woman be emotional simply because she's a human being, and human beings are emotional beings.
I hear these statements on a regular basis. I'm worried, because I'm a mother. I'm forgetful, because I'm a mother. I'm so exhausted, because I'm a mother. Yes, motherhood can result in all of those feelings, but so can, you know, life. Someone doesn't have to be a parent for them to be worried or forgetful or exhausted, yet it seems that when a woman becomes a mother, motherhood is the reason why she feels anything. Ever.
...Or A Reason Why I Don't Do Something
Simultaneously, people automatically assume that I won't be able to do something (or don't want to do something) because I'm a mother. Oh, you're a mom, so there's no way you would want to go to Vegas or travel or go out late on a Friday night. Oh, you're a mother, so you probably wouldn't want to wear that or listen to this or watch that one movie. It seems trivial, but having certain choices taken away from me, simply because our culture has a narrow view of what it means to be a mother or what a mother looks like, is infuriating.
For example, when I fight and argue for reproductive rights, I can't tell you how many people say, "But, you're a mother. How could you possibly advocate for safe and affordable abortions," as if choosing motherhood for yourself automatically means you believe everyone should be a mother.
It De-Humanizes Me
Mothers are seen as almost super-human, and it's not a good thing. Even when we call mothers superheroes as a way to honor them, we're simultaneously saying that they don't have very real, very human needs. We do. I do.
I get tired, just like anyone else. I get exhausted and frustrated and scared and I feel a relentless amount of self-doubt, just like anyone else. Motherhood seems to stifle those feelings, though, or at the very least make me feel guilty for having them. I am not a martyr, and I am not going to kill myself or sacrifice my mental health in the name of motherhood. Still, that's what's expected of me, and all women, the moment they decide to and successfully reproduce.
It De-Sexualizes Me
Our culture doesn't allow mothers to be sexy (unless it's in a hilarious, comical way) which is ridiculous, because every mother has (probably) had sex. Still, now that I'm a mom I'm supposed to have that "mom haircut" and wear those "mom jeans," which are never meant to be flattering. I don't even have a body, I have a "mom body."
To society, motherhood means I am not allowed to express my sexuality because, well, "think of the kids." I'm someone's mom now, and I'm supposed to "act like it," whatever that means.
It Makes My Kid Responsible For My Happiness
This is arguably the most significant reason why I push against the "mom" label and what it represents. In our society, motherhood means that I live my entire life for my kid which, in turn, makes my kid my entire "world." That puts an incredible amount of pressure on my son to live his life for me, too. Instead of going into the world and living his own life and making his own decisions for and by himself, he should stick around because "mom lives her life for him." I never, ever want my son to feel like I will be devastated if and when he leaves. I never want him to prioritize my happiness over his own. He doesn't "owe" me anything for the choice I made in having him. It was my decision, not his. I am not responsible for his accomplishments, he is. I am not going to make him responsible for my legacy, that's my job and my job alone. I am not going to live my life entirely for him because, in the end, I do not want my son to live his life entirely for me.
Motherhood is a big part of my life, yes, but it is not the only part. It is not the only thing that defines me and it most certainly isn't the only "accomplishment" I am capable of or the only contribution I can make to the world and the people in it. I absolutely love being someone's mom, but I am more than just someone's mom, too.