I'm sure by now you've all heard about the #SoGladTheyToldMe movement that's been going on in the blogging world. Stephanie Sprenger wrote this amazing piece in response to an article by another blogger who was gushing about how beautiful her transition into motherhood was.
To say that I loved Stephanie's piece would be an understatement.
Although I had wanted to be a mother and was thrilled to begin this journey, my reality was one mixed emotions. The guilt, the sorrow, the "oh my god why did I think I was ready"...all wrapped up with all the loving, warm-fuzzy-inducing moments that I had looked forward to.
As should be clear by now, I feel like it is extremely important that us mothers are honest about motherhood, from the happiest bits to the parts that drive you crazy. The dichotomy of bliss and terror that surrounds motherhood is insane and we owe it to each other to be open and supportive, especially when it comes to new mothers. We absolutely must change the conversation.
Naturally, I jumped on this movement (with a sign written in crayon, because toddlers).
#SoGladTheyToldMe: It's OK to still be yourself.
Aside from the postpartum depression and all the usual parental bogeymen, the hardest thing for me was feeling that I had lost my identity. Not only did I feel consumed with the responsibility I had for my little one, but I felt this immense pressure to change everything about me to be more "mom-like".
I remember feeling so horribly guilty for still feeling like "me". I think I had this idea that once I gave birth some internal switch would be thrown and I'd suddenly be the picture of maternal perfection. I'd suddenly be more mature and full of wisdom. I'd always know what to do. I certainly wouldn't miss my old life or want to "selfishly" spend time on my hobbies or passions.
I wallowed in this guilt for quite some time. I gave up things I loved because it wasn't "what a good mom would do". Guitar? Frivolous. Writing? Takes too much time away from the little one. Friends? Ha! What are those?
I put away a lot of my favorite clothes. I cut my hair to a "respectable" length and refrained from putting fun colors in it. I always made sure my tattoo was covered and considered taking out my belly ring. I even started wearing matching earrings for a little bit (which I previously hadn't done since I was around 12). I focused every ounce of my attention on my child and looking/acting/thinking "like a mom".
And I made myself miserable.
What's worse, I found myself feeling resentful of my new role as "mom".
Then, the most amazing thing happened.
I remember clearly calling my mom in tears, certain that I just couldn't do this motherhood thing. My child would be better off with a mom who knew what she was doing. As my mother has successfully raised two children to adulthood and is doing a fantastic job with the youngest who is still in grade school, she seemed like the perfect candidate.
She chuckled softly on the other end of the phone as she listened to me spill out all the things that I felt ashamed to be feeling. When I finally stopped blathering on, she spoke. She reminded me of all the things that she did for herself when I was a child, all the ways she stayed true to herself. And then, she uttered the words that hit home...
"And you don't think I was a bad mom, do you?"
"Well, no," I replied, in a state of shock. I hadn't thought about all the things she had done. In my mind, she had always been focused on us kids 100% of the time.
"You're doing fine," she assured me. "You have to take time for you and be true to yourself if you want a good relationship with your daughter. If you don't you'll wind up resenting her and you don't want that."
I remember hanging up the phone and staring at it for a moment after we'd finished our conversation. She was right. It was so obvious.
Of course, it took a little while for it all to really sink in. Before long I started reading posts from wonderful mommy bloggers who repeated the same sentiment. Women who weren't afraid to be their goofy selves. Women who weren't afraid to tell it like it is.
I set out on a mission to find myself again. I made it a point to get out and do things without the little one. To read non-parenting related books. To watch movies that weren't aimed at children. I began writing again.
And, of course I started this blog to document my journey back to myself.
I'm not going to say there haven't been a few hiccups along the way. I'm not going to say that this simple piece of advice made everything all sunshine and roses. Parenting is hard, but it's so much harder if you aren't happy with who you are as a person. And, regardless of what images you may have been sold, motherhood does not end your personhood.
At the end of the day, who cares what you look like, what you listen to, or how you spend your child-free time? Who cares if you sing along with the music playing at the grocery store? None of that has anything to do with your parenting ability. And really, if someone thinks less of you as a mother for being you, you probably don't need them in your life. When it's all said and done, your children really are the only one's whose opinions of your mothering matter, anyway.
So, be you. Be obnoxiously, apologetically you. It really is okay.
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