In my 29 years of life, I have been so many things to so many people. I'm a sister, a daughter, a friend, a lover, a partner, a teammate, a coworker, a writer, a reader and, well, the list goes on and on. However, when I became a mother that list suddenly disappeared. With one final push I was someone's mother and "mom" became my main (and to others, only) identifier. A mother should feel confident in her choice to become a parent, and never feel shamed for identifying as such, but there is one thing that every mother wants to say when it comes to her over-arching identity; one thing that itches the back of her throat in the hopes of escaping her socially conscious lips; one thing that deserves to be said with reckless abandon, but isn't necessarily said because, well, being a mother has evolved into constantly convincing those around you that you're diligent and devoted to your children and, in turn, to not much of anything else.
I'm not saying that a mother shouldn't be all of those things, and more, to her child. I'm definitely not saying that a mother should keep herself from being a proud parent and boasting about the child she brought into the world. I think that a mom finding herself in parenthood and associating a part of her identity with her child is almost inevitable, if not endearing and, honestly, part of loving someone as much as you love your children. When you've grown and carried and birthed and sustained and hugged and kissed and ached for and advocated for and taught and inspired and done all the things that a mother does for a child, it's difficult not to associate your purpose in life, with the purpose of raising another human being.
I think every mother wants to be seen as a human and a woman and a friend and a lover and a worker and a daughter and a sibling and absolutely all of the wondrous things she is and will be, as well as being someone's mom. Most importantly, I think a mother wants to be able to say all of those things, without feeling like she is being judged and shamed. I think she wants to be who she is, all that she is, without having people assume that, somehow, being complicated means she resents her child and the role of "mom."
In the almost-two years that I have been responsible for another human being, I have noticed that parenthood seems to be the only "life choice" that you can't criticize yourself or admit you don't always enjoy or talk about as just one thing of the many things that you end up doing and/or being. When I talk about any other aspect of my life or proclaim that my son isn't my entire world, but just a very significant and important and wonderful part of it, I can feel the eyebrows raise and the lips purse and the assumptions that I'm not as loving or devoted or devout or "in love" with my son, as other mothers are with their children. However, and it's the honest truth, my son isn't the best thing I've ever done. He isn't the only positive in my life and he isn't my greatest accomplishment because, well, I don't see him as an accomplishment at all.
My role in my kid's life is pretty minimal, if I stop and really think about it. Yes, I grew him in my body and birthed him into the world and sustained him through breastfeeding. Yes, I have kissed pains and calmed fears and taught lessons and that will continue for many, many years to come. Yes, I will protect him from danger and sacrifice for him and do what is necessary to make sure he can be a happy, healthy, functioning and thriving adult. However, I also just had unprotected sex with his father and decided that I could be a parent. I also was, in so many aspects, just along for the ride, as my body did so much of the work; work I didn't think about but was just natural. And now, as I parent my toddler (and continue to for the rest of his life), I am acutely aware that I'm doing so with a partner and other family members and friends and eventually teachers and coaches. I am not in this parenthood thing alone, so it is not my sole "accomplishment" to claim. In truth, my son is so much more than something I "did." He is a human being who is going to carve his own way into the world and while I helped facilitate that ability, in the end, who my son becomes and what he ends up doing will be his triumph, not mine.
No, what I have done is write a book and published articles and moved to the greatest city in the world after successfully pursuing my dream career. I have advocated and I have failed miserably and I have loved people and I have hurt people. I have been a wonderful friend and a not-so great one; I have been a wonderful daughter and caused my mother to look for the nearest bar; I have been a fantastic sister and I have fought with my sibling as if I hated him. I used to play basketball and I've had seven knee surgeries and I've once ate an entire large pizza, by myself, without breaking a sweat. I also decided to be a mother, but that doesn't negate the other things that I have done or will do or might someday maybe accomplish, separate from my son and the happiness he has added to my life.
And yet, I am afraid to say all of these things. I am afraid to be unapologetic about my thoughts concerning motherhood and my role in my son's life. I am made to feel like a "bad mom" if I even whisper that I am more than just a mother. My humanity has been chiseled away to that of a procreator, and when I push against that label I am criticized for not loving my son enough or being devoted to my son enough or simply enjoying being someone's mother because, oh man, do I so enjoy being someone's mother. Perhaps that is what every mother really wants to say: We can be mothers and love that role in our lives, but we can also be (and always are) so, so much more.