I’ve sat back and watched, but it’s hard to keep quiet about this.
Do people understand that your life doesn’t end with parenthood and that your identity doesn’t have to be synonymous with your role as parent?
More and more, I see women (I’ll pick on them for a moment) who have these lavish baby showers that don’t acknowledge the reason for the party – you know, the BABY? The “showers” are, in reality, a reason to party and celebrate the mom-to-be, with almost no mention of the baby awaiting its grand entrance into the world. It’s as if the party is the last hoorah for the woman, akin to a funeral except in party form.
I often ask myself (because it would be rude to ask them) “You do realize that you can still be you once you’re a mom, right?” While becoming a parent will undoubtedly change you, it doesn’t have to be all-consuming to the point where you lose your identity. You can still be the fabulous, fly, go-getter you were before gestation began, and the world will not implode. I promise — I’m living proof.
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a co-worker who’s expecting her first child. She told me that she was worried about how her personality would change once her son is born. Her fear was that she’d turn into the type of woman whose world revolved around her child so much so that she would exist only insofar as her motherhood. That every conversation would hinge up on the child and how she lived in relation to being a mom. Then, she said that she wanted to be like me – still work, still have hobbies, still be the amazing person before “motherhood” became a new title.
I was SO flattered. Here was someone who perpetually has her stuff together (in my eyes) and who I admire as a colleague and associate. But she was telling me that I was somehow an example of who she wants to be as a mom? I’ll be honest, I was FLOORED. I try my hardest to be a great mom, and I think I do a really good job. But I also struggle to be the best me. And that means focusing on my career and personal interests and generally maintaining some semblance of who I was before my daughter was born. Except for other moms in my close circle, I never thought people noticed, let alone felt that I was an example of striking that balance. Especially since a lot of my newer hobbies are directly related to my parenthood. I’ve gotten into domestic and crafty things that 21 year old me would CRINGE at … but 29 year old me knows that these things speak to me and what I value now, which has shifted over the last 6 years. I find fulfillment in these new things, but above all, they speak to ME.
One of the pieces of advice I received while pregnant was to continue doing what I loved and keep being me. The way my day to day life would look different and my priorities would shift, but I still needed to exist in order to make those things happen. It was invaluable to me and I try my hardest to make time for myself and put effort into retaining my own identity aside from being a mom. I’ve found that it makes parenthood more fun. I can share my interests with my child and it helps our relationship. I tell you, it’s great to see that flash of understanding when my kid really gets into something I love. I’m pretty sure she’s turning into a bookwork-music fanatic-foodie, and I love it.
The bottom line is this: You will change when you become a parent, but it’s up to you to manage that. If you want to lie down and let parenthood cloud over the amazing person you are, fine. But if you want to still be the person you were, it’ll take some work and commitment to honoring yourself. Take time for the things people loved about you before. No, take time for the things YOU loved about YOU before. That’s the only way you’ll be at your best. And trust me, you’ll want to be at your best for that lil person.