As an academic, I have spent many years working towards achieving various titles. As a Lecturer, I have spent most of my career helping others to complete their degrees. But now I have become a mum. While gaining a new title used to feel like second nature, this one was given to me without qualifications. There was no viva, no tests, just a very brief course that wasn’t even mandatory and too fast paced for my OCD taste! This title came like no other, it’s being magical while it also feels like my world, my identity is being rip-ped apart. All the feels, all at once. As a (try to) navigate this new world, I wonder should my old self just RIP and ‘give birth’ to a new identity, or is there a way to reconcile that adventurous & workaholic pre-mom person with the one that is now raising a tiny human and whose wellness routine is to pray to have a shower regularly?
Thanks in advance,
Oh my dear NewMom,
Welcome to the land of sleepless nights and sobbing alone in your weekly shower. If it feels like your world is being ripped apart, that’s because it is. At least the world you used to know. At least for now.
You’ve stepped into a whole new world: Motherhood. And you are right, it is both messy and magical, all at the same time. There are no roadmaps or blueprints, no amount of courses, books or workshops that can truly prepare you for what it’s like when you are in the trenches of utter exhaustion and fear of “am I even doing this right?”
I would wager to say that there is not a parent alive who hasn’t asked themselves that same question at least once during the early years of caring for their first born.
But that is not really the question you came here to ask, is it NewMom? I suspect you already know all that. What you want to know is: Who am I now? Now being the operative word there.
Just as some people find it easy to buy jeans, I imagine there are individuals out there who, quite seamlessly, slide right into their new role as a mother.
I wasn’t necessarily one of them. Before Juan joined my story, I had been a dancer, a business owner, a writer and an artist. And for the first two years of Juan’s life, I attempted to continue holding onto those parts of me, living as though nothing had changed.
I remember a sensation of complete rejection toward my friends who held tight sleeping and feeding schedules, rescinding their own needs and desires in order to tend to those of their children.
“I’m not going to adapt my life to his,” I remember saying. “He can adapt to mine. It’ll make him more resilient” I justified.
This meant I took him with me to ballet class, only to have him cry out in the middle of barre. I wore him in a carrier to the office, only to have him shit out the sides of his diaper and up the backside of his onesie. An explosion only a bath can fix.
I didn’t see it then, but I was setting myself up to live in a perpetual state of frustration. I had convinced myself I could continue living as though nothing had changed, continue being who I’d always been.
But who we are is always changing, NewMom, and any attempt to solidify parts of our identity forces us to live outside our authenticity. Because now can never be then.
My big aha moment came when I started asking questions. Can I be a dancer if I’m not dancing? Can I be a writer if my brain is too fogged to put two words together? It wasn’t until I asked myself, “Can I be a mother while running a team of 15 teachers and 100 students annually?” that I saw I’d been asking myself the wrong questions all along. The answer was “sure, but not necessarily the kind of mother I wanted to be.”
So, NewMom, I’ll save you some heartache by asking you the question I should have asked myself on day one: what kind of mother do you want to be?
For you, that might look like reconciling your adventurous & workaholic pre-mom self with the one who is now raising a tiny human. It also might be an invitation to give birth to an entirely new version of you.
I don’t have the answers, but I do know that our children know nothing and care not for our titles and achievements. What they care about is being cared for. And, in my experience, that deep connection and caring calls us to unbury the person beneath all our decorated armors and achievements. It’s an opportunity to unearth our truest and most authentic self. The you who isn’t perfect, who doesn’t have it all figured out, who trips and scrapes her knees right alongside them. The you who has no idea what she’s doing but has a big enough heart to let it lead the way.
We are nothing my dear, if not models for our children to follow and they are nothing if not our mirrors.
What is your child showing you about the way they need you to model for them? There, in the mirror of their precious smile I suspect you will find your answer.