Sometimes, I feel like becoming a mother has erased a part of my identity I am desperate to recapture.
My days revolve around taking care of my three children: changing their diapers, filling their bellies, teaching them how to be kind to each other. Life as a mom takes up 95 percent of my time. To a degree, that's OK with me — I knew what I was getting into from the start. I knew how much would change, and how much my life would rearrange itself around my children. I was fully aware of the sacrifice of becoming a mother, but I knew the joy of caring for my children would always outweigh the cost.
What I didn’t expect is this feeling that I’ve lost the parts of me that don’t have anything to do with being a mom. It isn’t OK that when I step away to get a break by spending time with friends or even to capture a few hours alone, I can’t just be me. I can’t simply be Mary. I am always Mary with three kids. Yes, I had a baby, but I’m still here. I’m still me.
There are times when I’m with friends or chatting with the barista at my favorite coffee shop, that I feel like I am about to explode. I don’t want to talk about diaper changes. I don’t want to discuss breastfeeding or relive the scary details of my last sleepless night. I don’t want to explain why we stopped cloth diapering and my stance on breastfeeding in public. I want to talk about something, anything, that has nothing to do with being a mom.
Since becoming a mom, I get this strange suspicion that my thoughts on anything but parenting don’t matter as much anymore. At times, it feels as if people simply look past me, making assumptions about who I am because I am a mom. On some occasions, when I have tried to have a conversation in both professional and personal settings, I have felt myself slowly elbowed out of the conversation. I wonder, am I making this up? When I attend networking events with a full-blown baby bump busting out of my dress clothes, am I imagining that fewer people are making eye contact with me or that I am rarely finishing my sentences before someone interrupts me?
I wouldn't trade these quiet nights at home with my family for anything, but sometimes I wonder if I could do a better job making space for my interests in my life as a mom.
In a way, I know I have played into this dynamic. Over the last five years, since I was newly pregnant with my oldest, I have let motherhood chip away at the other parts of who I am. I have traded in long evenings spent with my nose in a book for board books read in a toddler bed. Late nights out at concerts or movies rarely happen. I wouldn't trade these quiet nights at home with my family for anything, but sometimes I wonder if I could do a better job making space for my interests in my life as a mom. I have even centered my career as a freelance writer around writing about my life as a mom. I'd like to branch out, to explore new topics to write about or to travel more or to find a babysitter, so I can go to that concert or see that show.
Did I learn to be this way because I have felt the subtle messages of the people around me, that I am just a mom? Or do people put me in that box because they sense my lack of confidence?
I’m not sure how this happened, but I know that it makes me feel incomplete. There must be a way for me to fully embrace who I am as a mom without saying goodbye to the parts of me that existed long before my children were a part of my life.
Honestly, right now, it feels nearly impossible to make time for a shower, much less exploring the interests I once had, when there was endless time before I had kids. Most days, I fall asleep with a book at my side, having fully intended to crack it open before turning off the light. I avoid making plans, knowing how difficult it will be to get away for an evening with two toddlers and a breastfeeding baby at home.
One day, I hope to put the pieces of who I am outside of motherhood back together again. But I’m probably going to need to finish a few loads of laundry and get dinner on the table first.