Being a mom isn't my most interesting feature

May 23 | offbeatbride
Mother and son walk
I still like stuff like camping.
Before I became a mother, I assumed that motherhood would be all-encompassing. After all, trying to conceive was a process that took over my entire life for five years, raking me across the monthly highs and lows of "AM I?/I'm not…" over and over again. All through the years of charting, guided meditation, acupuncture, abdominal massage, medication, and hardcore fertility treatments, one thought held me through it all: I WANT TO BE A MOTHER.

I think that was a fair assumption: since trying to conceive completely ate my brain, of course being a mother would inhale me. I'd wanted it for so long, and I'd prepared for it for YEARS — like a long-anticipated college graduation. And then it happened! I finally got pregnant, and suddenly…

It was just, you know, whatever. Pregnancy was just pregnancy. Uncomfortable and fascinating, but just pregnancy.

Then I finally had a baby!

And I was like, "Oh hey. Awesome. I like this! …and, wait, what's that? OMG, I STILL LIKE OTHER STUFF, TOO!"

I'd watched many friends embrace their mom-ness with gusto, their novels completely replaced with parenting books, their hobbies eclipsed by trips to the zoo. I wasn't sure I totally wanted it to happen, but I assumed it just sort of WOULD happen. Based on my mental state while trying to conceive, clearly the process of becoming a parent brought out some obsessive tendencies. I figured I'd be an obsessive mom, too.

I've shocked myself, though. I love being a mother. I love my son. But he's just a portion of my life and (no offense, sweet Tavi) not even the most interesting portion. Sure, he's my highest priority — but so is breathing, and I don't introduce myself by saying, "Hi, I like air!" Breathing and my son are top priorities, but neither are my primary identities. Priorities can co-exist for me. I've learned that love is not a zero sum economy. I can have room in my heart to love my son and yet, still love other stuff too!

Sure, my son is my highest priority — but so is breathing, and I don't introduce myself by saying, "Hi, I like air!"

Motherhood is just a portion of my identity — and not even that remarkable of one. It's a quality I share with BILLIONS of women on this planet. That shared experience is amazing and I love recognizing it and feeling that connection with my fellow mammals… but for me, that shared experience is not the thing that feels like my core identifier. I'm much more likely to identify by my work (small business owner, publisher, author, web entrepreneur), or my culture (pacific northwesterner, raised by hippies, retired raver), or my hobbies (dancer, comedy event producer, camper) than I am by my parental status.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Years ago, when trying to articulate why I wanted a child, I talked about how I felt like Andreas and I had crafted a rich, interesting life for ourselves that we wanted to share with a child. I didn't need a child to bring meaning or richness to my life — although certainly my son has done both those things. I did not want our child BE the adventure (although certainly he has been)… rather, I wanted him to SHARE our adventures.

Now, I want to say this before anyone else can: I do NOT wish to devalue the experience of those of you who hold your motherhood as a tantamount identity. THAT IS AWESOME. You are in great company. Raising children is hugely important work, and your children will benefit greatly from your attention. My experience does NOT invalidate your different experience. It's cool. Seriously.

Nor am I saying that child-raising doesn't eat a huge amount of time/brain-power (especially in the first year), or that you'll have time to pursue all your interests. Being a parent takes time, and I'm not saying it doesn't. I'm just saying that for some of us there can be a difference between time spent and identity developed.

I want to celebrate those who are finding ways to balance all that rich life stuff with all that delicious family stuff. This website is called Offbeat Families, not Offbeat Baby. While of course this is a website about babies and kids, we're also about YOU. Because your kids are cool — BUT YOU'RE FUCKING AWESOME.

  1. Awesome article!

    Can I say I'm already having a similar experience? I wanted to be pregnant for a while before my partner was ready and fed my desire/obsession by reading all sorts of parenting and pregnancy books and websites before I got pregnant. So much of my brain and energy was taking up by wanting to be pregnant.

    Once my partner was ready and we finally got pregnant, I am surprising myself with how relaxed I am – I've barely cracked a pregnancy book unless I have a specific question, I'm not tempted to dwell on every little single growth stage (your baby is as big as a lime now, fingernails form this week, etc.). I'm here, I'm happy but I find the most comfort (the nausea/exhaustion is rough!) right now by being mellow and doing things that are "me" – reading romance novels and comics, watching my favorite shows, cooking, not by focusing obsessively on my pregnancy. Of course who knows how it will be when I actually have my baby…

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  2. I feel like this post would be very beneficial over on Offbeat Bride as well. Although I'm not a mother, I ran into a lot of this during the process of getting married (You mean, all of a sudden I'm supposed to drop all of my habits and become The Bride? And not the killing kind?)and now that we're a year post-nuptials I find that I'm still confronted by this (you mean, the first thing out of my mouth is supposed to be "I'm a wife" when people ask about me?). I LOVE this post and love that the Offbeat Empire celebrates that we are all 3-D people.

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    • Wowjunkie, I thought the same thing as I read this. As a not-yet-bride (still just OBB/OBM groupie), I've thought many times how much I'd like to be in the role of wife. And then how to balance those desires and priorities with identities.

      I really enjoy hearing your perspectives, Ariel, and appreciate them greatly. They're like a breath of fresh air in a sometimes stale world.

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    • I agree, now that I'm married everyone goes, "oh how does it feel?"

      "Ummm… just like every other day, but we're officially married now?!?"

      I love my husband, but I'm still me!

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      • When I get that question "how's married life" I always respond with "pretty much the same…I just put more jewelry on in the morning!"

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      • I might have to steal this line too… I keep getting asked "How's Married Life?" and when I respond as "Pretty much the same as unmarried life", I always get this… Oh, poor YOU look which infuriates me. You know, I was pretty darn happy before I got married living with my amazing other half, so why would I want anything to change in that life apart from wearing a ring?

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        • I'm four months married and people are always asking me how married life is. I respond, "Great!" And after a pause, "Pretty much the same as before," and have only received positive reviews. Most of my married friends get it. It's too bad the people asking you don't understand!! In this day and age we live together before marriage so the legal thing doesn't change much more than, well, the legal stuff. Perhaps they are from a different generation?

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  3. I WISH I could feel more like myself again. I just don't have energy; still waking up every two hours to feed the little one… Someone please tell me it gets better!

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    • Just wanted to echo what Ariel said – WAVES. Don't expect anything to change overnight. Patience is good. Finding five minutes a day to mellow out without the baby around is good. Breathing is GOOD. The first year is no joke, but it gets easier as your baby becomes more independent, and as that happens you find out that you're still you after all. YAY! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • It does get better. My 4 month old was eating every four hours. Then, one morning I woke up and realized that he'd slept 8 hours. 3rd night so far and he's still doing it. It gets better and does come in waves, sometimes going back again too.

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    • It gets better–I promise! For me it was so much better after month 3. Then again after month 6. I'm still very much consumed with 1-year-old twins, but that impossibly exhausted, everything's crazy and out of my control feeling did not last.

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    • It gets better and worse and better and boring and exciting…and just like life without kids, there is an ebb and flow. Some days rough and some days are filled with shining moments. An important balance.

      But I feel ya, I'm two months from being a mom of a 4 yr old and a newborn…the thought of tackling two is making me nervous!

      • Jess, I am a mama to a 3 month old boy and a 21 month old girl. Lemme tell you that the first month of having two little ones was rough…really rough. I'm still trying to get my mojo back, but things are slowly getting better. Having two little ones just means a bit more pre-planning, a lot more crying, but also a lot more laughter. In a year or two, hopefully the two of them will be playmates leaving us with more freedom!

  4. Yes! I'm still expecting as a bio-mom, but in year 11 as a stepmom to a 20 y.o.

    Things we liked as poor/young parents – cheap-o traveling in general. His birthday present from us every year was a trip. It was often a camping trip, but not always. We found that with a kid we often did a lot of cheap touristy things that you are too cool to do if you are just a young person traveling, like going to museums, parks, etc. Having a kid with you forces you to do those things that are awesome when traveling, b/c you aren't wasting money at bars.

    Games that you like to play. I'm a big believer that kids can learn complicated card/board games earlier than the box says. Sitting down and playing games is good practice for when its Saturday night and you can't afford to go out so you invite your friends over to play games with you and your kid.

    Learning/playing a musical instrument. Don't keep saying "I wish I had practiced the piano more when my mom made me" go ahead and take lessons again, and then your kid can learn from you (instead of paying for lessons for the kid). Plus a ukulele is perfectly kid-sized and priced and easy to learn enough chords to play a song.

    Don't forget to invite your friends without kids to your house to visit. It is perfectly acceptable to socialize while your kid is asleep. Just because you don't have a babysitter doesn't mean you can't hang out with your friends – and it doesn't have to be a "playdate."

    Things I hope to be able to keep doing: Cooking actual interesting food for the upcoming week on Sundays, my monthly ladies card night, being able to afford the dance lessons we keep hoping to take, and never changing my fb profile pic to my kid's pic.

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    • Re: "Cooking actual interesting food for the upcoming week on Sundays"

      SO possible, even with an, erm, "high needs" child. My husband and I both work full-time (we're teachers), he coaches 3 seasons of sports, and I am a fickle hobbyist – sometimes I knit, sometimes I bike, always I bake too much – and we have a very, very active toddler (who was a very, very demanding baby). We cook dinner from scratch every night, and spend Sunday afternoons in the kitchen together, making bagels and bread and granola and everything else we'll need for a busy week. We still manage to get most of our stuff locally (babies are fun to go farm-hopping with, and they score free veggies for sheer cuteness) and while the kitchen is certainly more chaotic than it used to be, that's why you have kids in the first place, right? The joyful chaos.

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    • Re: kid as facebook pic – I've always found that a bit weird and yet everyone seems to do it… But you are not your kid!

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      • TOTALLY! I get why people do it, but I always swore I never would! I've only done it once so far (in the 2 months she's been alive) and it was to show off a delightfully dorky pink unicorn tabard I made in honor of baby's first DnD game. And even then, I took it down in a day. Thanks for posting that great article on it! I agree with Roiphe, the message that practice sends is a bit disconcerting!

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      • I'm a bit guilty of this, about a quarter of my profile pics haven't featured me. For me though, photography is a hobby and I feel that my photos that I take are a part of me, and the subjects are usually the kids!

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  5. Oh yeah Ariel! I'm with you here. Perhaps because I'm in grad school, and have been throughout trying to conceive, being pregnant, and raising a now-almost-two-year-old, I've had other stuff going on from the beginning. Also, I feel really lucky in that my own mother always talked about how important it was for her (and, she thought, for me), that she kept doing the things that mattered to her (working, traveling, being an artist) after I was born.

  6. Two very big thumbs up!!! Thank you so much for so eloquently stating how I feel about being a mom.

    I am a mom, but I'm also an architectural designer, rugby player, weight lifter, tattoo and piercing loving fantastic mishmash of weirdness. And without ALL of the things that make me who I am, it just wouldn't be the same journey for me and my kiddo.

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  7. Things I do that are just me:

    1. Spending time and money on my hair. I'm a bit vain about it, but I love having long red hair and find the time to upkeep it.

    2. Riding my bike to work. This takes getting up in the mornings a little bit earlier and ends up pushing dinner to a little bit later (which is already late due to me working til 6:30 pm- I think we usually eat close to 8 pm). I love cooking, so I spend time in the kitchen making the things I love to eat. The boys have learned to like non 'kid friendly' foods, like our sushi nights. They've gotten involved with our cooking by bringing home cookbooks from the library, etc.

    3. Shoe shopping- definately not practical to wear my heels anywhere except work, but I love them!

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  8. Oh, and I just found a belly dancing class that is starting up in our little town! I'm so excited to get started!!!

  9. amazing.
    i'm jealous. after three years of motherhood with two kids i do not feel like 'me' and it's sad and depressing. i do not want to be an 'only a mom' person.
    i couldn't agree more on the direction of offbeatmama. keep doing.

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    • Amber, it will get better.

      You had (if I read correctly) two kids within three years. That alone is a tremendously exhausting thing for body, mind and soul. It must feel that just as you got one sleeping through the night -mostly- another one came along and disrupted that.

      And now, you have two lovely kids you take care of but no time to indulge in the things that once made you….well, you.

      All I can say is hang in there. Find those brief, blessed moments when both kidlets are down for a nap and remember who you were, remember who you are, and imagine who you want to be. The trick is finding teeny, tiny ways to incorporate the old you into the mama you.

      My mom loved to paint. As soon as I was old enough for fingerpaints, we sat down and painted every day. She still has my very first paint blob entitled "Cat." Sure, if the cat was run over by a harvester, spread over three counties and left to bake for six months!

      Find ways to bring your kids into your beloved hobbies. If you love to read, read to them. My mom fostered my love of reading by reading to me. She claims it later led to me reading and giving her much needed peace.

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      • first things first i guess…i. need to find out what i enjoy again ๐Ÿ™‚

        thanks for the encouragement

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    • It does come in time, and the fact that you recognize it means you can do something about it! If it means a new "you" hair cut, a rad t-shirt, sweet comic book (or whatever you're into) it brings you one step closer to feeling like yourself. I went through the whole "I feel like a mom and not like myself" thing and I changed it by vowing not to wear my yoga pants out of the house anymore. Little things like that make a big difference sometimes!!

  10. Awesome, wonderful post, once again. This makes me feel a whole lot better about going to work.

    As for my wife, she has defied all the doomsayers who told her that she'd never be able to finish a book again. She's got two degrees in Book Reading, and still eats up printed material even with a 4-month-old chap around the house. These days there's more pregnancy/baby books than there were before, but she's just finished the 864-page Crimson Petal and the White. Take that, doomsayers!

    That seems to be keeping her sense of being a real person, that and having nice baths.

    The direction of Offbeat Mama is good, although don't forget about the Offbeat Papas. After the birth, with the exception of breastfeeding, there's nothing that I can't do/wipe up/sacrifice for my partner and my baby, so pretty much everything on this site applies to me (birth stories included, I was there!). Put it this way, I read tons of blogs without ever sharing a link or posting a comment, but OBM has got so much to offer me that I'm recommending it to everyone and commenting all over the place. It's the mother lode.


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    • I find it easier to read now. In school I read a lot-between classes, study hall, when I was done with work in my classes. But after high school I just didn't have time to sit and read. Until I was nursing and laying with kids until they were asleep. I can't just lay there it's too boring, I can't watch tv since it keeps the kids up. So I read, my husband even got me a nook so I can have the light off and not keep him or the kids up while reading.

  11. I am so glad to read this. I didn't plan on having babies ever, so when I ended up with one and was suddenly expected to become MOTHER (the one who only does and talks about baby-related things) I didn't know where to start. I have felt guilty about not feeling this way. Obviously I'm crazy about my daughter, but it's nice to know there are other people who are didn't abandon who they were to become parents. Kudos.

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  12. That last sentence was exactly what I needed to hear! Thanks for putting it all into perspective, I love it!

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  13. Omg me too! It took me years to have the kid. I love the kid. But I still like other stuff too and I never expected too. Glad I ain't alone.

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  14. Thanks for this article.

    While I was pregnant, I found it to be more of a nuisance than a joy (what do you mean I can't tie my own shoes anymore?), and now that my baby is here, I was starting to think that there was something wrong with me since I didn't feel consumed by him. I've been told that I wouldn't want to be away from him long enough to pursue my hobby (dance) which, in truth, has kept me sane and connected, instead of feeling isolated like I would have if I had stopped.

    If anything, I'd say that I'm discovering a new aspect of myself (that won't let me sleep through the night) rather than a new identity.

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    • Agreed. I love my daughter, but you know what, I love taking a break from her too.
      I was told I wouldnt be able to bear leaving her in the first few months. I went to the shops for an hour without her a couple days after coming home from hospital and honestly felt 100% normal.

      I mean I wasnt used to having to take her everywhere yet so it was just like pre-birth. At first I worried maybe that meant I wasnt bonded to her or there was something wrong with me (I've never been a hugely maternal person), but then I realised I am ME first. I just have a daughter now.

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  15. I've got a 2 month old, my first and I just started back to work last week. I am totally having issues with the mental leap between mama me and work me. I'll get into the grove at work and then suddenly realize I haven't thought about the little for hours and I feel crushing guilt (or maybe that's just my boobs crushing my chest with unpumped milk ;-). I have been thinking lately about the sort of projects and activities I can commit to in addition to work and being a mom. I want to be the sort of woman that my daughter can be proud of and model the sort of happiness that I want her to find in her own adult life, the way my mother did. I hope I can find that balance in the coming years.

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    • Katie, you will find balance! Just cut yourself some slack. You just got back into work. The first year (at least for me) felt like it was all about the baby because everything changes so quickly. As your baby gets older and you find your groove, it will be much easier. There were/are days that I drop off my daughter at daycare and literally do not think of her save for maybe once until I am getting ready to pick her up in the evening. You have to focus on the task at hand when you're at work and at home. You wouldn't want to be thinking hard about work when you are trying to spend quality time with your baby and you wouldn't want to be thinking about your baby when your work needs focus. Letting go of the guilt will get so much easier.

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  16. Thanks for this post! This is me. So, here I am with a kind of stressful job as a teacher & department head, a house, a spouse, and a 14 month old. Things are just starting to get good again. So what do I decide to do? Why, go back to school, of course! I'm beginning my Certificate of Advanced Study to become an administrator. And we're thinking about having another child, so I really have to get crack-a-lackin' by taking 3 classes this summer, 3 in the fall & 2 in the spring while working full-time at my sort of stressful job. Because I'm crazy. And because being a mom, while it is my top priority, is not all-encompassing. I do still have a brain. And I don't need that much sleep. That's what the weekends are for.

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  17. I'm due in July and cannot tell you how great this post is. I've had so many people do the "isn't pregnancy WONDERFUL?!" thing to me and "Aren't you excited to be a MOM?!?" I want to shriek at them all- NO! I'm scared. I'm excited. I'm sad. I'm happy. I'm still ME, looking at major changes in life. I've talked about how my husband and I still plan to travel and do things with the kid and people are like "Oh, just wait until it's born, you will think differently". Why should I??? Knowing that there are others out there that are not thinking life has to stop just because you are a mom REALLY helps me out. I've been up in this blog so much since conceiving that I feel like I know everyone. (I was an OBB so to come here was only natural *grin*) I've paid attention to what has been shared and decided to go with hypnobirthing and have already given my doc my "birthing wish list" of what I'd like and not like to have happen if at all possible. I feel like I have thousands of mentors here and I really look forward to sharing more of my experience when it happens.

    Hugs and cupcakes to all,

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    • "I feel like I have thousands of mentors here"

      This. This is exactly how I feel about this site. And it's amazing. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • My hubby and I took our 3 week old camping. People thought we were crazy and yeah I was a bit anxious about things like bugs but the weather was on our side and damn it I like camping! It went so well our next camping trip is going to be a longer one. It was a bit more complicated with a newborn but well worth the extra effort. We stuck the diapers in the dogs back pack and we were ready or hiking! I was is a good mood for a full week after that trip!

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    • I totally agree. I don't plan to think differently either. Passports before teeth, I say! We've been splitting our time between our work in tropical Africa and our getaway/future-retirement cabin in the Rocky Mountains, and we're going to keep doing just that. We've crafted the life we want, so why would we change it to the life we don't want; we want the kid to experience our crazy, wonderful life too!

  18. Great post! What keeps me sane? Cooking, blogging, reading (I don't own any baby books), learning (anything that comes my way), helping my hubby with his work and soon weight training. We are getting a proper weight bench since my son won't drink expressed milk from a bottle and I can't go back to the gym (I'm going crazy). I need exercise!

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  19. This post really resonates with me. I adopted my son and although the process to become a mother was years, one day I was an active woman leading a very active life and the next I was a mother. I was the same person physically and really struggled to hold on to my identity.

    The one thing that I still struggle with is travel. I love traveling to other countries. It's not that I am hesitant to bring him a long, as a single mom, I can no longer afford to go anywhere and road trips are tough at that age. Advice??

    I'm an avid runner and remember the first time I took my son for a jog in his jogger stroller – I was overjoyed to be able to continue doing something that was such a big part of me and literally bring him along for the ride. He is 19 months now and has already completed three 5K races and a mile race (baby jogger category).

    I've done two half marathons since he was born (he didn't join in) and although I don't have time to train like I used to, just being able to complete the race was confirmation that I'm still the person I was before.

    The one area I still struggle with is travel. I used to love to travel internationally and always dreamed of introducing my child to new places. As a single mom, I can no longer afford to do so and road trips are tough at that age. Advice???

    • Is it safe to assume you're in the United States? We've traveled by Amtrak with our baby which is Awesome. Get a train hopper ticket and check out stuff all over the country if you want to be spontaneous or plan a trip with one or more destinations. Trains can be so baby friendly and if you're worried about managing all by yourself, I had so much support from my fellow passengers, everyone seemed to want a cute little baby to play with to help pass the hours ๐Ÿ™‚
      It's not necessary, but staying in the sleeper car (a roomette) was really nice. Plus it includes meals and gives you access to a lounge car which provided great crawling/toddling space.

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  20. I very much appreciate this post. Among my group of friends and acquaintances, many of the women have a tendency to act as if, once you've had children, your children must *become* your life. I disagree with this–I was me before my son and, almost eleven years later, I'm still me and don't plan on changing that any time soon. Because I've refused to allow my role as a parent to eclipse the rest of my personality, I've been looked down upon and even lost friendships. It can be a bit frustrating at times. It's nice to know there are other people out there like me, who love being a parent, but love being a person even more.

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  21. This is so refreshing to read! I'm pregnant with our first child right now, and I'm glad that not everyone has their lives completely consumed with being "Mommy". That isn't the only function of my life from now on.

  22. Yes. It's true. I am fucking awesome. And the article I wrote was linked here…. more proof of my AWESOMENESSS!!!! Hehe… I'm happy now : )

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  23. Haha, what timing! I just had a very emotional discussion about this with the husband today. I was asking him "How can I feel like myself in gross sweatpants and an UGLY STRETCHED-OUT BEIGE NURSING BRA??? I don't even LOOK like myself! I look like a frumpy…old…MOM!" Many tears followed. It's a struggle to find that balance, especially with a young baby (mine is 6 months). I need to get back in touch with my ME side. He assured me we could work on that (thank goodness for great partners). And that we would go buy me a pretty nursing bra ASAP.

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  24. I have a lot of male friends that would benefit from reading this article, they act like being left in charge of their kid is a handicap. I've literally heard (dozens of times!) 'No, I can't come hang out. I've got my kiddo(s)' This drives me fteakin insane! My hub has a 15 yr old daughter, a 10 year old son and together we have a 7 month old. We have been together for 6 years and have never let the kids slow us down… Even now, with the babe, if we wanna stay out til 4am we do so! I breast fed for the first 6 months so it was a bit of a challenge then, but now, more often than not, our older kids will crash on the couch or spare bed wherever we are and my little gut is super easy going and will fall asleep anywhere… we leave the 10&15 at our friends and wait for a text the next morn and the little guy never wakes up- even when we put him in and out of his seat and in bed (did i mention that our children are very well mannered and all aroumd amazing)– long story short, if we can keep our identity with 3 kids (1 of which is a teen girl that sometimes reprises linda blair's role in the exorcist & 1 that is 7 months old) then anyone can! Why do dudes act like they can't take their kids anywhere? Don't sacrifice your entire life just to be a parent! There are other things too and your friends understand and probably love hanging out with you AND your kiddo!

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  25. Am I doing something wrong? As the months go by, the little one only gets harder! When she was tiny I could strap her in the bouncer and take a 20 min shower, now I go weeks without shaving since we are forced to co bathe because I was blessed with a 14 month old who doesn't nap and is too much of a daredevil to be left alone long enough for me to shower (what? The purpose of furniture isn't to jump from one piece to another?)

    During the first year I was all consumed by my mom-ness (and not so much by partner-ness : / or by self-ness(?) but I wish I would have given myself more time alone, on my own interests. Now, I have a fiancee that works 60 hr weeks, a mom who is recovering from a stroke in a nursing home (while I visit daily, handle her finances, help brother who forgot to learn to be an adult, and put my dreams for baby #2(and my life?) on hold), and a 14 month old daughter glued to my side. Now that I need something that's just for me (to stay sane!) It doesn't feel like an option.

    • You're not doing anything wrong — just sounds like you're having a different experience than me. We're all different people in different situations raising different kids with different needs. Your experience being different than mine doesn't mean anything is "wrong." It's just different, which is fine.

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    • I can completely sympathize with you about the child who can't be left alone. That would be my 14 month old as well. Add in a 4 yr old special needs kid, and showers are "If I'm lucky, catch the timing right with the husband before he goes to bed after working 3rd shift, stand on one leg, and sing a song about unicorns".

      I am an artist and love painting. When the 14 month old was younger, I would get the 4 yr old involved in painting with me, which he loved. Now, it's more of a chore than something fun so I stay away from it. But unfortunately it makes my creativity slip away, basically making me feel like a part of my identity is slipping. After the kids are in bed at 8, I start on schoolwork which lasts until about 2am so I'm left with no downtime.

      *sigh* Ok, so I just wanted to say that I understand how you feel to a degree, and I'm suffering along with you.

    • Sounds like you have an especially difficult confluence of responsibilities, Hannah. I have a daredevil toddler and not a whole lot of help, too, and though its hard, it will still get better in the kid department. My older boy is 4 and cried incessantly as a baby, developed straight into night terrors and didn't play well by himself. Now he is totally engrossed in his imagination for much of the day, he knows what he wants to eat and can reach the fruit bowl for a snack, etc. Some of us have an extended period of that newborn survival mode, but it will still get better, and you will have a chance to be you again.

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  26. this is a great post and a great reminder to give yourself some time and credit as much as possible. it's super easy to get caught up in being a mom and to slowly stop doing the things you loved before becoming a mom. i recently set my guitar stuff back up, after many starts and stops. turns out my boy loves rocking out with me and even recently broke his first guitar string!

    i do love the mom slice of my identity, but i also love being awesome outside of motherhood.

  27. An excellent post, and the sentiments expressed are also true for women who weren't career women when they became mothers. I had a degree when my first child was born but wasn't working in the field. I went on to have 2 more children within the next 2 1/2 years, and my youngest has special needs. Though I was a full-time mother by definition I was still very much me. Part-time jobs and volunteering got me out of the house, and my kids knew when I needed some quiet time. As a result, despite my having been with my kids most of the time, they were and still are independent thinkers and doers. After working in the early years sector for a few years I'm studying towards a law degree, so while being a mother temporarily halted my study and career advancement I always knew I'd move on with my life when I no longer had 3 toddlers underfoot. I love my kids more than life itself and still sacrifice things for them, but I never have, and never will, sacrifice *everything*. Miserable mothers cannot be good mothers, no matter how hard they try.

    2 agree
  28. YES!!!! THIS!!!!

    I am pregnant with my first child and I have already pointed out to my OH that my roller derby habit will not wane after the baby is born. I am off skates for now but I am coaching and bench managing my butt off and plan on doing so until I am physically ready to be back on skates.

    Part of the reason is (as stated in the above) I do not want to be defined as just a "Mum". Another part is I had to give up my chosen profession to accompany and allow my OH to pursue his career in various other countries which was hard and made me feel like I lost a bit of my identity in the process. Roller derby not only keeps me sane, it keeps me multi-faceted ๐Ÿ˜›

    2 agree
  29. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I went back to work after 10 weeks of maternity leave…and I was excited…and then guilty for being excited. I coach middle school volleyball and I absolutely love the sport and my athletes. First thing I did yesterday morning was play ball with my girls and it was exactly what I needed to clear up any lingering postpartum blues…I felt like ME again. But hopefully my love for the game will be something that I can share with the kiddo when she is older.

  30. I am in love with this post. I am pregnant with my first (a girl!) and already feeling the pressure to be consumed by the pregnancy, let alone once she gets here. We tried for a year and I've always, always wanted kids, but I also just finished grad school and can't wait to start my career. I was prepping for the guilt trips when I go back to work because they seem so mandatory. Reading this makes me realize they're not. Will I miss her on the days I'm away? I'm sure. But I'm allowed to have a life. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ I look forward to this new offbeat mama direction

    1 agrees
  31. I love, love this post. I feel less inadequate about when I drop the kiddos at day care even though it is my day off so I can enjoy some "me" time. I work full time as a nurse so on days off I want to take time off from caring from someone else for a few. But when I head out to go kayaking or explore the park, I would like nothing more than to bring my sons so I can share with them the beauty of the world I see. But not every time-sometimes I just want to hear the nature around me- sometimes a bit difficult with a chatty kid at my side. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1 agrees
  32. Ariel, thank you for this post. My husband and I are on a different track than most of our friends–we still have some life goals to meet before having children–but living in a conservative, family-oriented state, we're seen as really weird. I'm at the age (27) in which many of my friends have started families and becoming a mom totally consumes them. I have started to get some rude comments about not understanding anything because I'm not a mom or how my life will really begin once we have children. Because I am choosing to wait and solidify who I am first, I fully expect to remain me at my core, while growing and changing as a person. I think my husband is more afraid that he will completely lose his identity, because that is the example he has seen. (He grew up here.) I may have him read this. Thank you for your example and for sharing your experiences. Everything I read here is getting filed away for someday!

    1 agrees
  33. One of the reasons that I put off child bearing for so long was because of my aspirations with music. I have been an electronic music DJ since the mid-nineties and have been steadily working towards being an accomplished producer and hopefully music performance artist. It's been a long road and I have made great strides in realizing my dream. I have always worried that having a baby would threaten this dream and felt like I had to choose one or the other. In the last couple of years I came to terms with the fact that giving up one or the other (baby or music) was making me very miserable…. so I am just going for both and will make it work SOMEHOW. I'm due in August and hope to be able to continue the record label I run w/ my husband and working on my album while raising my baby. I LOVE conversations like this because it inspires me and gives me fuel to know that I CAN make it work if I work at it. Thank you!

    2 agree
  34. I took the time while on mat leave to start really volunteering in my community, in ways that I could handle. Namely, I started up a blog for the local freecycling group, and it really kept me connected with the outside world and with the old me, as well as helping the new Mam me be who she wanted to be. I got to do everything from home so it was great, and I met awesome people and community groups too. There was a point in time where I thought I would drown in boredom and baby-time but someone reached out to me at the right time and now I have lots to keep me busy! So, I guess I am echoing what everyone else seems to be saying; you need to find time where you can and fit new things into your schedule as it allows.

  35. I love how you expressed this – honoring those with differing styles/daily lives – while acknowledging your feelings of wanting to balance who you are with being a mama.

    On that note – something I'm doing to better myself:

    FINALLY dealing with my own emotional issues. My son is my nephew, and so there is a story there, of course. Being his mom for the last year (he is 14 months old) has made me realize the things in myself that I need to work on in order to be a better mom, AND a better person.

    So I'm diving headfirst into focusing on myself, my trauma from years of emotional abuse and neglect, how my personality reflects the crappy upbringing I had (can you say HIGH-STRUNG!) – basically I realized I don't want my son to grow up with a crazy-anxious, irrational, chaotic, unpredictable, and not dependable mother, like I did. I want him to feel secure in his home, loved unconditionally, and above all – SAFE. Not like unrealistic fantasy-world safe, but safe to be his own person without feeling shame or being yelled at.

    So being a mama is helping me be a better person. I was in therapy for years, but never before did I actually take it very seriously. Now it's not just MY life, but HIS life at stake. My actions, my personality, my values – all have an effect on his emotional well-being, and I want it to be positive, not negative.

    Here's hoping I can recover – so he can grow up to be a confident, healthy, secure, and loved human being.

    1 agrees
  36. This post nailed it on the head. I live in a place that has the expectation that you have a child, it consumes you, and then you push out a couple more.

    When I was pregnant everyone gushed about how great pregnancy was and I found it ho hum. It has its wonderful moments, but really by the end I just felt limited. Everyone said I would change when the baby was born and all the things that are so important to me would fade and I wouldn't even mind.

    They were so wrong. I am still completely me. I love my animals like they are my children and I am talking four horses, three dogs, a ferret, and ten chickens! I still love dancing and my husband. I love music and hiking. I love reading and writing and planting things. I haven't stopped doing any of it.

    I get looked down on a lot around here for not giving everything up and focusing on being super mom, but that is just not who I am. I share it all with my daughter who is 16 months and sometimes I just do things by myself for myself when I get the chance. I feel like she will be a stronger woman if she grows up seeing her mother doing the things she is passionate about in her life. If I gave up my stuff, I would be miserable and then what kind of role model would that make me?!

    Some women find all they need in child rearing, some woman think they do but really they do it because they feel like that is what they are suppose to do, and then there are some just loving and living their life with their children by their side. Everyone follows their own path and that is what makes the world amazing.

    I tip my hat to the Mamas out there who are living their unique lives and enriching their children's lives by way of that. And thank you to OBM for reminding me that their are other woman out there who love their kids, but still love their amazing selves too!

    7 agree
  37. Honestly Ariel, I needed this really badly.

    I'm a full-time 100% committed stepmommy (and have been for 6 years now) but I'm also a pretty awesome individual. And people always tell me that "it would be different if they were actually YOUR kids" but you know what… they are MY kids. And I'm still pretty awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I'm glad to know that just because they didn't come from my loins, that I'm not alone in feeling this way.

    2 agree
    • I second this. At a stepmom you are in this weird middle ground where you are constantly not given enough credit for them being your kid and having normal feelings about your own identity.

      1 agrees
  38. This post is great, and unbelievably timely for me. I have a blog about '80s TV, but found myself too anaemic and dopey to write for it throughout my pregnancy. The baby was born in February and I have finally started blogging again this week, and it feels so great. I am using a totally different part of my brain from the part that I use to do baby-stuff, and it's very reassuring to see that it's still here ๐Ÿ™‚

    1 agrees
  39. Amen! Oh my god! I was starting to think I had something wrong with me because I'm planning my academic life (Currently 3 months pregnant and studying Masters) to fit with my maternity leave. I'm not naive enough to assume my baby will just be awesome and go with my every need, but I also don't have to accept that having a baby means giving up on academia either! I plan to study up to the end of this year, which takes me to two months out from the birth and then I'll take a semester off and go back in the second half of next year to complete my internship and research project and graduate in time for my baby's first birthday. I also totally get what everyone is saying about being a wife and how the wedding is supposed to change you – my hubby and I were only 4 months married when we found out we were expecting, but we've been together for over five and a half years so the titles may have changed but the roles didn't, being a wife and mother doesn't take away from my personal academic aspirations, I think it's good that my kid/s will grow up with a mum who is so invested in education, rather than just living out my dreams by pushing them. I'd rather push myself and be a good role model than push them and potentially lose myself in the process.

    Thanks Off Beat Momma for again giving me a cultural touch stone to point any of my critics to when they think they know best!

    3 agree
  40. Thank you so much for this article.

    I'm 34 wk pregnant and from the first trimester, I kept feeling like I should feel different – more maternal or loving or glowy or something. I'm excited to be pregnant and have a baby, but that doesn't change who I am and the things I like to do. Through articles like this and talking to other grounded like-minded people, I've found that I'm not some cold-hearted freak.

    I've already bought tickets to several dance performances that will take place during the first year of my child's life knowing that this will force me to take time for me. Not as someone's mother or even as a wife, but as someone who loves the performing arts. Part of my identity that I don't expect to change because I gave birth or have a child.

    Thank you for sharing multiple ideas and opinions. Thank you for representing the Off Beat in all of us.

    1 agrees
  41. It took me two years but I've finally started to get back to the gym every few days, get my hair done every few months, get my nails done every few weeks…and so on and so on ๐Ÿ™‚

    I also decided to go back to school for my teaching certification last Fall.

    I'm not sure that I feel like "me" yet, but I don't *just* feel like a mom.

    1 agrees
  42. I love the post, whole heartedly… but I ADORE the action takeaway. I've noticed the trend, though I didn't articulate it to myself. I just noticed myself on OBM less often, feeling less engaged, but couldn't pinpoint why.

    The thing is, I'm not a mom, at least not yet. And I'm fascinated by alternative family life… but I don't want to read something that's really wrapped up in PARENTING OMG MOM OMG PARENTING, even though I love the Alt spin. I want to read about being a Mom AND a person, about, well, the OBM mission. So hurrah!!

    Oh yeah, and I love me a good birth story. Achem. We all have our addictions.

    3 agree
  43. Thanks for this great article! I agree wholeheartedly that the mom-ness is just a piece of the picture.

    But I have to say, I was sort of running myself ragged with all my passions before the baby, and becoming a mom has forced (allowed?) me to step back a bit from the crazed juggling of activities, and focus more on the joy of the moment.

    My girl is only 4 months, but I'm not yet missing the rock-band diva / blogger / jewelry-maker / costume-freak / hard-drinking me… I'm kind of enjoying the chance to breathe and relax. Guess I had balance issues.

    I'm sure I'll want to go back to those things at some point, but for me it was a revelation to realize that when I let go of all my frenzied activities, those things did not define me, either — I was still me when I stopped to just *be*, first with my pregnant self, now with my daughter.

    Ultimately it's all about finding the balance between work-family-passions that will make you feel good about yourself!

    4 agree
  44. Reading fiction.

    That's what I miss most but am not making time for now that I'm a mother.

  45. actually…… i had been thinking offbeat mama hadn't been so offbeat lately……. but you're right it's up to an offbeat mama community to create those blog posts. i'll get to work…… after the bazillion other things I have to do…… ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. I have a 7 week old baby, our first. And I was looking forward to getting pregnant for the past 20 years. And I loved being pregnant. And I never really thought that much about how my life would change once the little one arrived. I mean, I really didn't think about it *at all*. So, these first weeks have taken me a bit by storm — recovering from an unanticipated infected c-section (rather than our planned home/waterbirth), lots of complications and pain with breastfeeding (and ongoing persistent thrush), and the sleep deprivation have all been very unexpected. And yet . . . it all still feels rather surreal. I have never shied away from a challenge, and have tried many new things in my 35 years, knowing they would short-term endeavors. I think I have yet to realize that this is for life. So, I just take it day-by-day. I am in a PhD program and will start to collect dissertation data this fall when he is about 5 months old. I will be away for month-long periods of time and haven't quite thought through how all that will work, but will figure it out as soon as I can get enough sleep to think straight.

    But, throughout it all, I still just feel like me, living my life, and sharing it with a little person for these past few (and next few) weeks. I like that. I like that I don't feel like someone new.

  47. AMEN!

    Without all the other things the make me who I am, I can't be a good mom. Nurturing my kids is an important aspect of my life. Most of that nurturing comes in the form of sharing the best parts of my life with them (like Burning Man, roller derby, marching in the Gay Pride parade) and supporting them as they explore things that are meaningful to them.

  48. This post speaks so well to my feelings about becoming a parent. My son is going to be 8 weeks on Tuesday and I went back to work last week. I was feeling guilty for how *not* guilty I felt about going back to work! But it's really important to me that I continue to have an identity beyond being a parent. As much as I love my child, and I love him more than words can express, I love me too and I don't want to lose myself. It's hard sometimes to really see myself, and not just see "mama."

  49. Thank you! It is only recently that I reached this surprising conclusion that I can like other things … and I had been feeling SO guilty about it, which makes no sense, really. How am I supposed to teach my kids the wonderful things in the world if I've stopped doing/enjoying/learning those wonderful things? Yes, I treasure the time I spend with them, but I must remind myself that pursuing a hobby or two does not make me a Terrible Mother.

  50. Just wanted to say that I LOVE THIS POST!!! I love everything about it. I was just telling my new husband the other day that one of the main reasons I dont want to have more kids (I have a 14 year old daughter) is because I feel like I suck at it. And really, I dont suck at it, I just dont buy into the conformist idea that your life is now your children and youre supposed to check all your shit at the door to the nursery not to be seen again for 20 years.
    So now were having interesting conversations about babies ๐Ÿ™‚

    1 agrees
  51. I am super late to the comment party; I really wish I could have seen this post about ten years ago; at 19 my boyfriend (now husband) and I became parents to a wonderful boy, but dear sweet god I had years of capital-letter Guilt for not being swallowed by motherhood. Now the boy child is nearly 10, and we co-exist with all 3 of our different interests. Things got a lot easier when we started doing projects/crafts side by side as opposed to together, and also having conversations about which interests were fair to inflict (lol) on each other, and which should be saved for special alone time. I am an avid maker (food, sewing, knitting, painting, jewelry, almost anything), and my son, having watched me enjoy doing these things for years, has come to enjoy them on his own. I am particularly pleased to watch him create, and to know I have not damaged him by enjoying other aspects of my life while he is being parented

  52. Wow… I relate SO much to this article! It took my husband and I about 6 months to conceive, and I was totally consumed by the charting process and the 'Am I??' constant questioning, and all the research.

    Now that I am pregnant, I have this growing anxiety that these are my last months to be ME… And I'm afraid to do the things *I* love; I feel like I should be reading baby books instead of fantasy novels. I am having such a hard time imagining how I will ever integrate who I am with whoever my baby needs me to be… But I am so grateful to see how many people feel the same as me! Now, I'm remembering how my step-dad used to read to my sister and I the books that HE loved as a kid, and how much fun I had with my little brother when he was a baby doing art projects together. I think I can imagine this as a challenge to keep my sense of self strong, and to be a great role-model for my baby to always take care of yourself first so that you will be capable of being a better person/partner/parent/etc!
    Thank you for this article and for being awesome!

    1 agrees
  53. Wow… I relate SO much to this article! It took my husband and I about 6 months to conceive, and I was totally consumed by the charting process and the 'Am I??' constant questioning, and all the research.

    Now that I am pregnant, I have this growing anxiety that these are my last months to be ME… And I'm afraid to do the things *I* love; I feel like I should be reading baby books instead of fantasy novels. I am having such a hard time imagining how I will ever integrate who I am with whoever my baby needs me to be… But I am so grateful to see how many people feel the same as me! Now, I'm remembering how my step-dad used to read to my sister and I the books that HE loved as a kid, and how much fun I had with my little brother when he was a baby doing art projects together. I think I can imagine this as a challenge to keep my sense of self strong, and to be a great role-model for my baby to always take care of yourself first so that you will be capable of being a better person/partner/parent/etc!
    Thank you for this article and for being awesome!

  54. Thank you for having the balls. This is so very me, and I get crap for it all the time. I also find it really hard to meet women who dont talk about their kids incessantly.

    1 agrees
  55. I love your emphasis on having a "different experience." I appreciate this perspective as I have a different one. I have a fabulous professional job – "doctor" is part of my title! – but no part of what I do compares to my primary identity of being a mom. In fact, I feel like I get to be more ME in this role, learning and loving, than ever before. Camping, backpacking, going to operas, cooking, learning history, reading great literature – I do more of what I love and try more new things in my mom role than ever I did as a hard-working single. That said, my "different" experience carries something in common – I strongly believe that moms need to take care of their own needs first, or they will have nothing left to give. I happen to get recharged through my time with my young girls and experiencing so much together. In addition, I experienced significant reproductive grief, which holds the silver lining of making want to strongly relish what I do have now. Of course, others may have different mileage, but that's what informs my current bliss.

  56. 100% agree. To the point where I was never one to follow 'mum' blogs or websites such as this one (I came across just this article shared on fb), as just that very idea seemed so limiting, and odd. A colleague of mine recently made a comment about me (when there was office debates on who would next have a baby), "It won't be Yvonne – when does she EVER talk about her daughter?". That, and my own observations make me feel pretty alone in that my motherhood doesn't define me completely. Like you say, my daughter is my TOP priority, and my world, but she's just one element of what makes me me.

    1 agrees
  57. Dear Ms. Meadow Stallings,
    I should really just type the words "thank you" and have that be enough. The focus and clarity of your words are impressive. For the sake of anyone else who finds comfort in community, I will share why your words were validating for me.

    Four years of fertility treatments, obsessive, compulsive, hell bent on perfection, postpartum depression, debilitating fear of loss, anxiety and a total loss of ability to feel excitementโ€ฆ.and at the same time there was LOVE- so much love. Today, 3 years & 9 months after getting exactly what I would have died for, I am finally alive again. I finally realized that trying to be the perfect mother to my son turned me into someone who wasn't interesting, had no real identity, wasn't happy and (the very worst part) did not like or (even worse) love, myself!

    Since this realization I have spent most of my "me" time running. It is something that I know I am good at and running brings me a tremendous amount of peace and satisfaction. I run Half Marathons because I love the distance.

    It is just far enough to always make the effort at the end feel like I can do anythingโ€ฆif I can just get through this last 20 minutes. Running gives me a love for my body (which is not something that comes easily for me) and clears the negative thoughts out of my head. I also have the most amazing community of women who champion everything "me" (not just the Mom in me). Some of these friends have children and some do not. The thing I value the most is that there is no competition or judgment among us "moms". We all parent differently and value our differences. This dynamic gives an amazing safety net of love and support when we feel like we are failing as mothers. Let's face it; we are always hardest on ourselves. Every time I put myself down in front of my best friend (which is often); she says "don't talk about my friend that way". That is a huge hug of love in the form of words. I have a thirst for solving problems/puzzles (fulfilled by my job), understanding politics (fulfilled by my inquisitive partner) and the state of the human existence outside of my upper middle class urban bubble (inspired by my friends who carry the torch for Human Rights).

    I want my son to look at me when he is 25 and see me in the present as a woman that he respects and admires. He will see a woman whose opinions matter and this will shape his understanding of the world. I want him to seek out those things that he will come to value in his partner. He won't be searching for the perfect "mother" when he seeks a partner in life. He should be searching for a person who is intelligent, self-confident, capable, loving and selfish. Yes, selfish. They will be selfish, like his mother, and know that energy spent being the very best "you" you can be is the best gift you can give your partner…and, ultimately, your child.

    1 agrees

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