I can't say that I ever looked to motherhood to "fix" or fulfill me. In fact, I was somewhat hesitant to become a mother because I bought into the idea that the only way to be a "good" mom is to sacrifice absolutely every single part of yourself. Thankfully, I was wrong, and I've realized in the two years that I've been a mom that there are things motherhood just can't accomplish for me, in any capacity. While it's truly an incredible experience to be my son's mom, it's not the only experience I aim to have.
I feel as though it's worth explaining that I in no way want to shame women who do find themselves in motherhood, and see themselves as moms before they see themselves as anything else. I believe that one of the greatest parts about parenthood in general is that you can, for the most part, adapt it to your individual lifestyle, personality, needs, and wants. Depending on your unique circumstances, you can either work or stay at home. Depending on what works for you and your baby, you can breastfeed or bottle feed. And, in the same way, depending on who you are as an individual, you can define motherhood however you want to and in a way that makes you feel the most comfortable.
Personally, I don't find motherhood to be the end-all-be-all of my existence, I don't think being a mom is "the most important job" I will ever have, and I don't think my son is my "legacy." I've learned that, for better or worse (but probably better), motherhood is incapable of doing the following things for me:
Giving Me A Sense Of Personal Fulfillment
While motherhood is a very rewarding experience, I don't feel personally fulfilled by motherhood alone. An entire day with my son in which his happiness and safety is my one and only priority, while enjoyable, doesn't leave me feeling completely at ease with myself at the end of the day.
At the risk of sounding like a walking cliché, I just need more. Motherhood doesn't make me feel particularly accomplished, even when I'm able to dress, feed, bathe, and entertain my son in a 24 hour period (which, I assure you, is not always easy).
Becoming My Entire Identity
While I am a mother, that is not all that I am. I am also a writer, an activist, an avid The Office watcher (who, yes, can definitely recite all nine seasons to you, word for word), a sister, a best friend, a daughter, a reader, a girlfriend, a Puerto Rican, a woman, and a slew of other identifiers that, when combined, make me, me.
The moment I brought my son into the world didn't change those other parts of myself, and motherhood isn't capable of erasing all that I am. Instead, it's just another added facet to my entire identity, and works in tandem with every other part of me to create the woman I am, and the woman I am working towards becoming.
Fulfilling My Need To Connect With Other People
Sometimes, an entire day inside my small apartment with my son is all I need (or want). However, I am a pretty social person by nature, and thrive on connecting with other people. Motherhood hasn't changed that need, so I still need to reach out to my friends (most of which who do not have children) in order to feel anchored and secure within myself.
The first few postpartum months of new motherhood were particularly difficult for this very reason. I spent the majority of my time at home recovering from childbirth, breastfeeding, and taking to a newborn who could only form a spit bubble as a response. I was incredibly lonely, and quickly realized that my son was never going to be enough when it comes to human interaction.
Overpowering My Career Aspirations
There wasn't a single second in which I questioned whether or not I would continue to work after I had my son. For me, my career has always been my first baby, and I won't apologize for continuing to put my time, effort, and energy into nurturing it long after my son was born.
While my son gives me so many wonderful feels on the daily (like when he says he loves me or calls me his "best friend") he cannot give me what my career can. Honestly, it would be unfair of me to ask him to. So, no, motherhood cannot replace my desire to work and succeed as an individual outside of my relationships to friends, family, my romantic partner, and even my son.
Replacing My Sexuality
Our society's view on mothers and sex is, um, weird. While most of us know how babies are made, and as a result, know that most women who decide to have children procreated because they had sex (though, not all, because advancements in science and IVF are things), society treats mothers as asexual beings who should never be sexual in nature, for the sake of the children. I mean, huh? What kind of backwards thinking is that? Women should be sexual in order to procreate, but shouldn't remain or appear to be sexual after they procreate unless, of course, it's to procreate again.
Yeah, well, I'm not buying it. I was a sexual being before I had my son, and having my son hasn't changed that. I still enjoy sex, I still like expressing myself sexually, and I still think my sexuality is an important part of who I am as an individual. That doesn't make me a bad mom, that makes me a human being.
Changing My Desire To Learn Something New
I don't feel as though I've "fulfilled my purpose in life" just because I decided to become a mother. Hell, I'm not entirely sure I really know what my "purpose in life" is, only because there's so many things you can learn and do in the course of your existence, but I definitely don't think it's procreation.
So, no, my son hasn't "settled me down" in the sense that I feel I have nothing else to learn in this world. I still want to travel and experience new places with new people. I still want to learn a third language. I still want to figure out math, because math just alludes me to an almost embarrassing degree. I still heave learning to do, most of which exists outside of my role as a mom.
Becoming My Only Accomplishment
Now, this isn't to say pregnancy, labor and delivery, postpartum life, and motherhood in general isn't an insanely surreal and incredible experience. In my opinion, it is. When I think about all my body has endured in the name of procreation, I'm nothing short of astonished at what it has accomplished in order to bring (and sustain) my son into the world.
The thing is, though, I felt like those experiences were somewhat outside of my control. I mean, my body just kind of did its own thing and I was along for the vomit-filled ride. I don't feel like I really "accomplished" anything, it was my body doing all the work and my brain was just sitting in the background, cheering it on while simultaneously struggling to comprehend what in the hell was even happening.
Sure, I did feel like I ruled the world after my son's birth, but even that feeling was relatively short-lived. I honestly feel a greater sense of accomplishment when I meet a work deadline.
Eradicating My Need For Independence
I've always been that woman who could happily sit at a bar or a restaurant by herself, book in one hand and a cocktail in the other, and enjoy being with no one but herself. I loved living alone (most exes would say to a fault) and need space even when I'm in a relationship. My son's arrival didn't change that. If anything, it enhanced it.
At first I felt like a "bad mom" for saying I needed a break, away from the baby, so I could be alone. However, I quickly learned that giving myself what I needed enabled me to give my son what he needed, too.
Replacing My Individuality
I'm still an individual person who can exist separate and away from my son and my partner. I'm not define solely by my relationship to my son. Instead, and again because it's worth repeating, my title as "mom" is just one part of an overall identity that still likes to go on a drive alone, go to work every morning, walk around a city and get lost in a crowd, sit with a book on a nice sunny day, and recite lines from The Office ad nauseam. I don't know if that's good for my son or not, but I'm betting it is, and I know for sure that acknowledging and respecting it is essential for my wellbeing. That's enough.