Monday, April 25, 2011

Being a Mom versus Being You

I was inspired to write this post after reading this entry over at Navelgazing Bajan's blog.  Truth be told, I kind of find it annoying . . . the sentiment that being a merely a stay-at-home mom/homemaker might be enough for some women.  (But really, it's not enough, hence the term Mommy+).   I totally understand the need to be something, do something outside of being a mother but I like what Navelgazing said in this post
If there’s anything I learned from being unemployed, it’s that I like to be the primary determinant of where I spend my time. So, over the next year I’d like to find a way to earn a steady paycheck while spending my time in ways I find fulfilling, and that includes being my son’s primary caregiver.
This has been my focus, I realize, since the moment I found out I was pregnant and I have not yet found a way to do it.  Being a stay-at-home mom, while not my total ideal, seems to be what works best right now and I enjoy it and would be hard-pressed to change it.  [(And in my real life, I don't know any (voluntary) stay-at-home moms where this is not the case.)]  It's not that I don't miss adult conversations and being asked my opinion.  It's not that I don't miss interacting outside of the home.  It's not that I don't miss my freedom.  It's not that simple.  

But I'm not interested in arguing about that.  I completely understand the underlying sentiment: you were a person before you had children.  After children, it feels like mothering becomes your primary identifier no matter how vibrant a life you had before them.  The feeling is even more pronounced if you've chosen to be a stay-at-home mom because then you have to make a seriously concerted effort to maintain that part of you that was and always will be (albeit changed in some fundamental ways).  For some women, it is impossible and being a mother really does take over and sometimes becomes a choking kind of prison that they must find an escape from.  Hopefully, they find a safe and acceptable escape and/or regular break from mothering.  Other mothers find ways to cope and find a kind of balance somehow (usually by developing or becoming part of a supportive network--supportive of whatever it is that's a big part of her life be it web design or knitting or mothering itself) or finding work that's fulfilling both as a mother and as a human being.  

Personally, I recognize how important it is to maintain a sense of myself and not become consumed with mothering.  It is important so that I don't grow resentful and so that I don't lose myself because, let's face it, children grow up and move out and what is left is . . . you. But here's the complex part: getting married and having children at a young age didn't give me the opportunity to really get to know myself.  And learning who you are, who you aren't, what you like and what you hate in the midst of being a wife and a mother is tricky and frustrating to say the least.

I work hard to keep on doing the things I used to enjoy doing before children but it's surprising when I realize I don't enjoy those things as much as I did (or thought I did).  Actually, I realize I don't enjoy doing them in my current situation (i.e. with young children).  I used to love to read but I find it kind of infuriating having to stop every 5 minutes to referee a fight.  I sometimes feel like I'm just waiting for them to grow up so I can do me again.  And yes, I've found new interests (such as weight lifting and meditation) but I have limited time (and energy) to focus on and develop those interests.  And truth be told, sometimes these new "interests" start to feel like chores given my constraints.  The question that keeps haunting me is, "Who were you before kids?" and the answer that comes back is, "I don't know" or "Nobody".  It leaves me with a lost kind of, grappling feeling.  Like trying to recover something you never even had.  I kind of envy women who can list all those things that they were and now, as mothers, are not.  At least, I reason, they have some kind of direction as to where they are trying to go or get back to.

That's just being real.  

Some folks might say, "Just go back to work full-time--you won't have time to focus on this stuff and you'll have a daily purpose and rhythm" and sometimes I think that would be a good solution.  It wouldn't fix anything fundamentally but at least we'd have more money [and theoretically maybe, I could plug up the emotional/spiritual holes with cool stuff like an IPad and a smart phone].  But I can honestly say that making more money means spending more money (I've got a long list of things in addition to the IPad and smart phone that I would buy if I had the money) and I can see how I could end up right back at this point but with a whole lot of extra stress [from an outside-the-home job] and stuff.  

Sometimes, I swear, it feels like such a luxury, such an untenable goal to live life on one's own terms.  But I am finding the determination to live all aspects of my life: mothering, crafting, writing, etc . . . just that way.  

2 comments:

navelgazingbajan said...

I think, for me, having a child has helped me clarify my identity quite a bit. I feel like I have a better sense of what is most important to me.

I feel you on the not feeling like there's enough time to explore your own interests while tending to young children. I can probably count on one hand the number of books I've finished since I gave birth and I used to devour books. I wish more of us had supportive networks where we could balance our caregiving with our needs to nurture ourselves. The whole "it takes a village" thing shouldn't just be about who's caring for the child, but also who's caring for the primary childrearer (usually mom).

P.S. I'd love to add your perspective on motherhood to my guest series, if/when you have time.

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