A few months after my son was born, I missed a birthday party that I helped organize because my babysitter canceled. I texted the birthday girl to ask if it was okay to bring an infant to her 40th at a trendy Downtown spot. She didn’t respond “sure!” until 20 minutes before our reservation. That was way too little time to accomplish all the tasks required to leave the house – feed and change my son, get myself ready, load up the diaper bag. So I stayed home and went to bed with the baby at 8 p.m.
I admit it: I’ve hit some unexpected turbulence in my flight from Girl About Town to New Mom. I call myself a writer, event planner, amateur DJ and decent cook, much of which I used to write about, a lot, in the Girl About Town blog. Last year, I added “mother” to my catalogue of titles, and that label hasn’t exactly resonated as I expected. For me, becoming a mother wasn’t just about a new set of responsibilities; it was about assuming a new identity, while preserving the individuality that I had spent 30 years cultivating.
While other little girls played house, I played office. I studied, traveled abroad and then poured all of my energy into my career and creative hobbies throughout my 20s and early 30s. When I met my husband, we fell in love and married in rapid succession. As it usually goes, the tirade of reminders that I wasn’t getting any younger ensued. Knowing that we wanted a family one day, my husband and I took a leap and fortunately in 2016 had a healthy baby boy in our arms.
It’s true when people say the love between mother and child cannot be understood until it happens to you. Although exhausting at times, caring for my son energizes and excites me. When he wakes up, his blue eyes twinkle and a smile stretches across his tiny cherubic face. He erupts in giggles every time I tickle the inside of his hands. There are four dimples where his knuckles will appear some day, and his palms are soft and wrinkly, like a raisin. When he’s tired, he will nestle his head between my collarbone and my neck. It’s pure euphoria – I feel present and at peace.
But I don’t think it makes me a bad mother to admit that I also miss having ample free time to pursue my passions and dreams. Or just blow-dry my hair. That makes me human. I have always cherished my alone time to relax by reading, writing, seeing movies, working out and shopping. I still try to fit these things in by enlisting the much appreciated help of family members, but sometimes it’s more work than it’s worth to pack up my son’s supplies and transport him back and forth to grandma’s house.
I call myself a feminist – most women would. But by fighting so hard for equal rights, did we fail to recognize that whether we like it or not, the onus of the childbearing and housework will still fall on women even if we’re given equal opportunities in society? Yes, my husband’s a very hands-on father and happily shares the child-care responsibilities. But even with daddy’s careful and considerate help, my son depended on me for nourishment for the first year of his life. And when I physically couldn’t feed him, I had to hide behind a closed office door at work at extract his food with a loud pump that made me feel like a farm animal. Is acceptance the only way to make peace with this conventional and coveted lifestyle I’ve created for myself?
If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s resiliency and releasing control. And perhaps that being a parent is not about you: It’s about your kids, and shaping their lives in a positive way. And, so I’m told, it’s about being in this for the long term. In fact, being our boy’s parents for the rest of our earthly lives.
Applying all that wisdom to my identity shift might take some patience, but I want my son to be proud that I can be an individual and a really great mom. That’s my definition of having it all. ◆