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Is Mommy Who you are or what you do?

by Deborah Cruz
In most instances, people are not what they do, but in Motherhood the marriage of the two is as seamless as the Separation of Church and state in Rome. In no other aspect of our lives does one single event of our life forever define who we are to the outside world as does becoming a Mother. It not only instantaneously changes how we view ourselves, how our family and friends view us; it changes the way we are viewed by the entire world. It’s not like being a Republican or Democrat, you can’t hide that you are a Mommy. Besides being recognizable by the obvious changes of Motherhood; your body, the tethering of a small human being to your side for 18+ years, and chronic food/spit/shit/ or urine on your clothing. There are also the not so obvious changes, the slow softening around the edges, the small appendage roaming the world freely (your heart), and the ever present elation filled with sadness and extreme exhaustion readily seen on most, if not all, Mommies faces.
The moment we become a Mother in our minds, whether it be at conception, labor, the moment we hold that newborn, or at that moment they first call out for us, we are changed forever. Never again to be that same woman we were before that moment, at least not entirely. However, where is the line between being their Mommy and the woman independent of the child? We become so consumed with the task at hand (being said Mommy) that we sometimes forget about the woman behind the miracle.
I sometimes look at my girls and I am in awe that I have anything to do with molding such amazing little humans; little lone that I am the sole reason they are on this earth. In those instances, I feel as if I am capable of accomplishing almost anything. I feel as if my potential is limitless. Then I catch a glimpse of myself in my ponytail and yoga pants and I feel like an incredible failure. How can someone who can do so many amazing things for and with her children have such little regard for herself? I am barely recognizable to myself in the mirror. I have become so immersed in their lives, their dreams and goals that I have forgotten about my own. Well, obviously I have not entirely forgotten, since I am referencing and acknowledging the fact that I ever had dreams and goals of my own, but I have certainly pushed myself to the side in many ways.
Like most Mommies, I do this willingly. After all, isn’t Martyrdom #1 in the Mommy manual? Nevertheless, am I really doing them any favors in the end? I have girls, so do I want to be the example that imprints on their tiny brains that being a Mommy= losing yourself and relinquishing all of your hopes and dreams? Obviously, that would be a resounding Hell no! That would be, by far, the greatest disservice that I could ever do to my girls. I think to be a really great Mommy, we have to be willing to let our children see us as humans and as women with interests, hopes, and dreams outside of just being their Mother. I struggle with this daily. Most days, I lose the battle.
Our children are our top priority but shouldn’t we be a priority on our own life, as well? Our children need to see us succeed, fail, survive it all and to pick ourselves up and continue on. If I were practicing as a lawyer or a doctor, I would not let it engulf my entire life. I would still allow myself outside interests, friends, hopes, and dreams. If we don’t do the same with Motherhood, who will we be when our children are grown and don’t need us to be their every thing? How will we define who we are if we have completely forgotten who we were?

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Bruna 2010/12/27 - 12:10 am

This is, by far, THE best post ever. I think all us Moms feel exactly as you've described above. Couldn't have said it better myself.

The Real Life of a Red Head 2010/12/27 - 7:20 am

Great post. I have struggled with this question for years, but it has become a bigger deal to me after Joshua died.

To me, it's about what defines who I am. Am I a heart mom? Infant Loss Surivor? Mom of 2? Mom of 3? Should my identity even be solely based on being a mom? Afterall, I am still Jill- but who is Jill?? I'm not sure these days.

I think it's about finding a balance between remaining true to ourselves, and remaining true to our family. It's extremely hard to find that balance when we, as mommies, juggle so many roles and responsibilities. We leave ourselves as the very last thing that gets paid attention to- mommy martyrdom. How do we find time for our interests when we are busy cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and wiping butts all day long?

I love my children with my whole heart, but I don't ever want them to become what defines me. If I let them define who I am, what do I have left after they leave- either this world or the nest. What do I have left? An empty shell of a woman who used to be someone. I don't want to be that way!

Much love! (sorry for hijacking your comments!)

Gigi 2010/12/27 - 9:57 am

Thoughtful post. I have come to terms with this question. I am okay for right now being "just" a mom. My blog and writing provide me a great temporary outlet to do grownup things, and I know that there will still be time for me to revisit some other goals I have once the kids are a bit older.

Ambrosia 2010/12/27 - 10:04 am

Very good post. I'm struggling most days. I know I'm a good mom, but I sometimes want something "more." Maybe just a hobby that I don't have to include the boys in, or a night out with friends, or just something! I think it's important for our kids to see us as our own person, not just their mom.

Daria 2010/12/27 - 7:39 pm

I absolutely love this post. It is something almost every mom I know struggles with – that balance between Mom and "me". Where one ends and the other begins is an ever changing line and most days is too far weighted to the Mom side.

I wonder why that is…Is it because we don't value ourselves as much as our children? Because it's easier and less risky to put our energy into them than into our dreams? Is is pressure from our culture to give EVERYTHING we are to our kids?

I don't know – but I do know I'm not doing a very good job of the "me" side of the equation. And I too have daughters and DO NOT want that to be their example either…

Great post!

Thank you.

Daria Mom in Management

Vivi Borne 2010/12/27 - 10:26 pm

Well, I've ridden the rollar coaster of this question for many years. As a mother of 4 who are now 16, 15, 12 and 10 I have learned a great deal in my experience. I spent alot of time in my 20s worried that the working women of the world had something on me as a SAHM. I spent my 30s trying to juggle being supermom, superwife while trying to be "me" – but now in my 40s there is one certainty. Time is fleeting. Children grow up faster than you could ever imagine. There will never be a time that I will say "I wish I had spent less time with my kids and doing more for myself." But I can tell you that even now as I look at my teens I wish I had done more with them and that I could ensure that they would stay longer. Because here's the thing – we spend our lives planning to have our children. We imagine our babies – their names – and all of the things we'll do with them – but we never plan on their leaving or what we will do when the nest is empty. As a mom who has watched her children grow – I can tell you that it is both who you are and what you do until they don't need you anymore. Because one day not only will they not need you they may not want you involved in a great deal and then you can do whatever makes your heart content – but until then – don't be so silly as to miss a thing while they are there. Life is entirely too short. Next year my son will graduate from high school and our "family" will forever be changed with his absence – one by one they will follow after the other. I don't need to be hung up on who am I right now – well at least nothing more than the mother of those 4 wonderful souls that God gave me to raise!

Jenny Georgio-who 2010/12/27 - 10:41 pm

I'm gonna be the first one to say this openly and honestly. I HATE ONLY being a mom. Sorry folks but its true. A mom is a PART of who I am not the ONLY thing I am.

I'm also a wife, a sister, a daughter, a cousin, a business owner, an employee, and so forth.

Being a mom is a huge part of who I am and it does dictate what I do on a daily basis but its not to say that I have forgotten who I am. I recently broke down and told my husband how hard it is to be just a mom. That I was getting to the point that I don't recognize myself in the mirror and it breaks my heart. It saddens me. He's actively made more of an effort to be home more often, help with more feedings etc so that I can have more me time.

I'm a mom but its not the only thing I am.

Laura {A(n) (un)Common Family} 2010/12/27 - 11:19 pm

You are speaking my mind right now, girl. I've been struggling immensely with this for quite a while. Like, struggling. I feel a post coming on, thanks to you! Great, heartfelt post. xo

parenting ad absurdum 2010/12/28 - 2:25 pm

Great post debi!! Motherhood pervades everything thing I am and do – though I do lots of things that aren't mothering. And I'm okay with that :). xo


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