I’m struggling today.
Struggling to stay calm, to not displace my frustration on my husband, to be patient, to not yell at my kid, to feel something other than apathy. Mostly, though, I’m struggling with feeling like a person with an identity other than “mother.”
Becoming a parent later in life (at age 36) was beneficial for a host of reasons.
I’d “sowed my wild oats,” I’d established myself in a career, traveled, spent money, saved money, fallen in and out of love and in and out of friendships.
I’d moved, married, and fully indulged being selfish about my own life. Through all of that, I evolved as a person. Establishing my values, moral code and system of beliefs. Establishing my self-identity along the way; defining myself through my experiences both good and bad.
The downside to being older is that that identity, those defining characteristics, chafe against an identity that is all-consuming: motherhood.
Do a simple search on Instagram of the women in your friends list. How many of them lead off their profile with “mom” or a mom-related identifier? It’s a pervasive habit.
We’re taught, indirectly, by society, by our family, that once we become a mother, everything else before ceases to exist and your life takes a hard right turn onto a brand new road; your previous self and life visible only in the rear-view mirror, fading into the horizon with each passing day.
Your habits, values, priorities now focus on one singular thing: your role as a mother. You blindly and automatically put one foot in front of the other on this brand new journey with a shitty old road map and a car that needs more work than it’s worth.
No one else bats an eye as you struggle with this sudden turn of events. No one else has to make that hard right turn-not your husband, not your friends, not your parents, not your co-workers. Just you. Alone on a road trip with no true destination and no true end. It’s traumatizing.
That’s not to say that motherhood is an identity I loathe-in fact, I relish it.
However, I think we’ve done a great disservice to women by failing to empower them to embrace motherhood as an aspect of their identity rather than their entire identity.
I consider myself a pretty self-aware, empowered individual and even I have arrived at a place where I’m stuck on that road; speeding forward, searching desperately for any road sign that might be an indication of my previous existence, of my prior characteristics.
And the craziest part is you don’t really have any idea that this identity crisis is happening to you.
It’s completely organic, that’s how ingrained it is into our societal and human DNA.
You function (miraculously) as a brand new person, taking care of a brand new person, without notice of anything off kilter until one day you’re trying to put shoes onto a tiny human who is wiggling like a fish on the end of a line and you want to punch your hand through the wall and issue a guttural yell out of frustration because it’s the 47th difficult thing you’ve done that day and it’s only 7:35 AM and you realize, with deafening shock, that you’re not actually pissed off at your kid, or your husband who’s quietly reading the paper nearby, or even your circumstances, you’re pissed because you-the you you used to know-is completely gone and you were never given the chance to salvage or mourn her.
And now, you’re a woman who spends her mornings wrestling her toddler into clothes and worrying about how to ensure she’s not a picky eater, remembering everything on someone else’s checklist for school and forgetting, more often than not, to take her own vitamins.
And you’re pissed. Because it’s not fair. It’s not okay.
That’s what I’m struggling with today.
When we found out we were pregnant we hopped aboard the “our child will become a part of our lives rather than our lives orbiting entirely around our child” train. And, for the most part, we’ve lived that mantra successfully.
We’ve enjoyed incorporating her into our everyday lives and she’s grown up exposed to lots of different situations and people and was a remarkably well-adjusted child from almost day 1.
Obviously, she’s always been the priority: maintaining a healthy nap and sleep schedule, honoring the routines we’ve created to make her feel safe and secure. But it’s balanced with a healthy dose of “the life we lived before.”
The part that’s not so easy has been re-defining myself in the midst of all that newness and all that before-ness converging at once.
So, all of this being said, other than a mom, who am I?
Allow me to indulge and remind myself of some of the things that make me…me.
I miss freedom (duh, I know, that’s a given). I miss not having to live on a rigid schedule. I have diaper cream permanently living under my right hand’s fingernails. My hair is now curly in one specific spot on the right side of my head (thanks hormones).
I mostly eat with someone hanging off my body. As an anxious person who worries, I didn’t believe I could worry more-becoming a mom proved that oh-so-very wrong-I worry about E V E R Y T H I N G.
I have developed a Pavlovian response to any noise that sounds like a whimpering child, to the point that when I step on a specific spot on the floor of our bathroom, it sounds like my daughter beginning to cry and my entire body and brain tense for a split second. I think of my day in three hour increments.
I have discovered the perfect amount of alcohol to imbibe that will result in inebriation but not a hangover (because being hungover with a baby is the 10th circle of Hell).
I have let go of the ridiculous quest to be skinny and am learning to love my body as it is in that moment.
I feel less mom guilt than I do dog-mom guilt because they’re basically second-class members of this family now.
The time I have to myself has become like a precious gem; I covet it like Gollum covets the One Ring (and, depending on the day of the week, might look a lot like him, too).
The joy I have come to know when I hear my daughter laugh, or, more recently, say, “mommy,” is beyond any emotion I thought possible.
Love was nothing before her.
I have leaned fully into my marriage-a feat that scared me shitless before-and am enjoying being one half of our partnership.
My favorite food is pasta, my favorite bevvie is cava, my one vice is chocolate. I don’t play the piano as often as I should. I miss singing with my whole entire being. Sunsets > sunrises.
I respect people who tell the truth, work hard and stand up for what they believe in. Nothing is more important to me than family?-?literally nada. Reading is one of the only things that frees me from my never ending, going at 100mph internal monologue (thank you anxiety) and I don’t do it enough.
I’m outspoken and loud and opinionated and unapologetic.
My mom’s my best friend. I need to be a better friend. My biggest strength is my ability to communicate with people. My biggest weakness is that I take everything too seriously. 85% of my wardrobe is all black and I love it that way. I wish I was funny. I’m a very good cook.
These are things I’ve come to learn about myself. Some deep, some lasting, some new, some superficial.
But they’re the patchwork of who I am.
Becoming a mom is the single greatest act of my entire life.
Everett is pure and beautiful and smart and happy. It blows my mind that I did anything in my life that resulted in me deserving her, or this experience. But it’s not all of who I am. It’s just a part of me.
Today, I just needed to remind myself of some of the other things that make Kate who she is. Thanks for reading all of this.
So, moms, do not feel like you cannot be your own person and a mom at the same time.
Fight for her, the parts of her that were before, bring her out into the sunshine (if we ever see it again) and take a moment-even a precious, fleeting one-to remind yourself of them.
Being a mom is a monumental task and it’s so easy to get lost inside of it. Do one thing today that honors or acknowledges something about yourself that’s not connected to your motherhood.
Keep on keepin’ on, humans.
This post originally appeared on the Author’s Medium Blog