Being a mom isn’t my most interesting feature

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Mother and son walkBefore 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.

Comments on Being a mom isn’t my most interesting feature

  1. 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 : )

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

    • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 πŸ˜›

  8. 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.

  9. 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 πŸ™‚ I look forward to this new offbeat mama direction

  10. 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. πŸ™‚

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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. πŸ™‚ 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.

    • 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.

  17. 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 πŸ™‚

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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 πŸ™‚

    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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. Reading fiction.

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

  24. 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…… πŸ™‚

  25. 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.

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