I would die for my kids. But I won’t give up my life for them.
Parents get the whole would-die-for-them thing; its innate. You would do anything in your power to help your child if they truly needed you. So girls: just know that you always have my soul as a bargaining chip in case of an emergency.
Something strange happens when you become a mother (jk lots of weird shit happens- this is just one example). Suddenly you are not You. You are now Mother. And henceforth the You that existed before your little sapling does not, and most definitely should not, exist.
The first part of this transformation happens automatically. When I became a mother, I unknowingly crossed a threshold that irrevocably changed me. When you bond to your child you are forever altered by the love that follows. It separates you from the person you were and from those who haven’t experienced it. And it just happens.
The second part of the transformation has little to do with paternal instincts and all to do with social constructs. These constructs reinforce the idea that now your sole purpose is as Mother. Career, aspirations, vacations, gym memberships, romance. Everything else is put on hold not only out of necessity (because trust- every aspect of your life is affected in some way by becoming a mother whether you like it or not), but also out of the ridiculous presumption that mothers should have no greater care in the world than that of their offspring.
Don’t believe me? SAHMs: ever felt guilty for counting the days until school starts again so you can have some peace? Working moms: ever felt guilty for enjoying your career and the time spent away from your kids? Who has felt bad for taking a vacation without your kid? Bad for leaving the house to go work out (or to just sit in silence)? Guilty for wanting to sit the f down and just be left the hell alone? Guilty for turning on the TV so you don’t have to play hide and seek one. more. godforsaken. time? The list could go on.
The message to mothers is inescapable: [good] mothers unequivocally subvert their needs, whims, and desires for the needs, whims, and desires of their offspring. Full stop.
I live for my children and I am proud to be a mother. It is a blessed job for which I am grateful. But I reject this message. At least I’m trying to reject it. I have struggled with every guilty feeling outlined above and more. But I continue to tell myself that although I am a mother, I am still me. I still have aspirations and needs and they are no less valid today than they were the day before I gave birth.
My goal for myself, in my mom-friend relationships, and even through this blog, is to spread this rejection. And I’m in luck. Because unlike the first part of the transformation, which happens completely and totally and forever, the second part is ever evolving; its always lurking in the background to chastise you for pursuing some new “selfish” aspect of your life above and apart from your role as Mother.
And the best way to reject it? Support other mothers in their (safe) parenting practices and their personal pursuits, whatever they may be. You want to start making some side cash from home? I don’t have the guts for MLM but you go for it. You want to give birth in a giant glass orb while your husband whispers whale chants in your ear? I’ll be over here in a dry warm bed with an epidural flowing. Not my thing but you do you.
I have found that the harshest critics of mothers are other mothers. Men appear to give no shits about whether we stay at home v. work, formula feed v. breastfeed, or use the TV as a babysitter v. prohibit all screen time. Us moms are the problem. We desperately need support and encouragement but we rarely dole it out for anyone else (much less ourselves). Look at the comments section of most any parenting related article and see the mom v. mom savagery in action.
We can change the constructs. It will require being honest. And that means exposing the not so glamorous parts of motherhood. The lonely parts you don’t see scrolling through your Instagram feed. But honesty will make more space for us to collectively share our struggles and triumphs. And permit us to enjoy the aspects of parenting we like and accept that it’s OK and normal to dislike others. Because after all, we are still multifaceted human beings. That never changed. Now we also happen to be moms.
It also means giving yourself permission to do what you want just because you want to. And so the next time you need to escape and leave your little whiners behind- you leave them with a loving and responsible adult and you unabashedly sprint out the door toward freedom. Because what you want matters. What you need matters. Just because you are a Mother doesn’t mean that you aren’t You.
I’ll keep trying too. Because like I said, I’d die for my kids. But I won’t give up my life for them.
You don’t have to either.