Dear Mom Friend (From a Mother of a One Year Old)

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from Ruth Felt, my dear friend and college roommate (yes, we have some dirt on each other).  Ruth and her husband, Kevin, teach English in China and they have an adorable one year old.  If you’d like to hear more from Ruth and Kevin, check out their blog.

Dear Mom Friend,
The early days after my daughter was born were a fog of nursing, cuddling, diapers, hour-long snatches of sleep, more nursing, that first delightful smile, and trying figure out why this cute little baby just wouldn’t sleep! Mothering was so constant, so consuming, that at first I felt no sense of self outside of being a mother. It was hard to spend fifteen minutes talking to my husband, emailing a friend, or pursuing a hobby when what I wanted more than anything in the world was just fifteen minutes more sleep. I think this stage of “tunnel vision” is normal and probably even necessary for a period of time. Becoming a parent is a monumental life shift, babies are perplexing, and it takes some time to adjust.

The problem is that it was hard to get out of that all-consuming mindset and remember I was also a wife, a friend, and a person.  I knew parenting would take a lot of time, but I was unprepared for how mentally and emotionally consuming parenting would be.  Even when I did have time away from my daughter, time to do my own thing, I couldn’t remember what my own thing was! What were my hobbies again?  What did I think about before I thought about parenting all the time? What were my dreams and passions…other than sleep!  It was still in there, but it was hard to dig out.

I’ve realized that mothering is (hopefully) less of a loss of identity and more an identity shift. Who I am and what I care about most have changed since having a baby.  My identity is always going to be tied into parenthood; it’s a huge part of who I am now. I just need to remember it’s not the only part.  Some of my interests have also changed.  For example, I am genuinely interested in childbirth and all the related issues. It’s completely fascinating.  But I also still have some of the same pre-child interests and passions, like China (where I live), teaching, writing, and all things related to women.

Sometimes I need a chance to separate myself enough from mothering to keep those passions alive, by teaching a class or writing a blog. Sometimes I can share those interests with my daughter, like listening to country music together. 🙂 And sometimes my daughter introduces me to new hobbies, like tickling and laughing and hiding in our secret spot behind the curtains. The answer is not to de-emphasize my role as a mother but rather to recognize how it complements, changes, and enhances who I already am.

I am happy as a mother. Very happy. Not every-single-moment kind of happy, but deeply, richly happy. Even in the midst of those overwhelming early days, I was surprised to find how happy I was. I love laughing and dancing and playing with my daughter. I am so excited to see her learn new things every day. When she is happy, I feel happy too (except maybe at 5am).  It’s been difficult, and there are times when I’ve felt like I lost my identity. But actually, I think I’ve just become even more of who I already was!

So mom friend: What are your interests and passions?  Have they changed since you have become a mother?   How do you preserve your sense of personhood in daily life?

From,

The Mother of a One Year Old

Please leave your comments on the blog so that Ruth and others can review and comment.  Thanks!

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8 thoughts on “Dear Mom Friend (From a Mother of a One Year Old)

  1. Allison – What an awesome dialogue you have set up…I haven’t had a chance to weigh in on the initial blog post – but I find many of my thoughts resonating in this beautifully written piece (Thank you, Ruth!) It’s not so much that the “old” friend is gone, or that we “only” want to talk about our children, but motherhood changes you – you learn of new ways to live, to love and to be. You find ways of expressing yourself through stories of your children – the ones that make you laugh, cry, mad and expecially the ones that find you up at all hours of the night and day marveling at the wonders of raising a tiny miracle. Your interests and hobies do change…and even those moments you carve out for “me time” or “friend time” are often filled with joy, satisfaction and happiness by reflecting on the people that shape your every day life – your kids. Its sort of like when you come back from a girls night and can’t wait to share all of the stories, gossip and good times you’ve experienced. When I became a mother, my life role changed. I was no longer “Amber” – Marketing Director, Spin Instructor, Wife, Friend, Daughter – I evolved to be all of those things…and Mother. It’s a nuanced change in the description that language provides, but it’s impact on the person as we can clearly see, ripples like a tiny pebble in a still pond. The pond is the same, but forever changed.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Amber! I like how you share that our non-kid times are “often filled with joy, satisfaction and happiness by reflecting on the people that shape your every day life – your kids.” It is such an important part of our lives it’s natural we want to talk about it, just like anything else that is very important to us. We add new roles and have more to balance, but the old roles (mostly) are still a part of who we are too!

  2. Ruthie
    hey beautiful lady! It was great to read your post knowing that i’m about to embark on this adventure. I wanted you to know that you have motivated me to do a few things. The first is to write down all the things that right now, pre-baby, get me excited. To write down my hobbies and things I love to do. Just last week I started to write down a few things for me to remember about myself after I have the baby, mainly about Identity in Christ. But this week I think i’ll make it a goal to write down some of my favorite things to do, places that make me happy and people that will make me smile and giggle when I need it.
    Thanks for the insight girl.

    1. Natalie, I think that’s a great idea to write down your hobbies, passions, etc. before baby comes! I should advise that to other expectant mothers too. I think it would have been helpful if I had done that – then in those days when I felt overwhelmed by motherhood I could look back and see – Oh yeah, this is who I am! These are things I like! Likely some will change, but a lot will stay the same and be a good reminder that you are still in fact you! It could add some good perspective.

  3. I remember the day that I realized that having a baby did not mean not having my pre-baby hobbies. My husband and I had gotten all of our courage up, or maybe all of our stupidity I’m not sure which, and packed our three week old son into my little car along with our golden retriever and a stroller. We went to my favorite state park and took a lovely, if not a little quicker than usual, hike. It was at the end of the walk when I was sitting in the October sunshine holding my baby, that I realized that I loved having him there with me-I was in one of my favorite places with all of my favorite people, and my heart was full to bursting.

    Some times there seems to not be enough hours in the day, but for me life is much more enjoyable when I take the “both and” and and not “either or” approach. Meaning that my hobbies and the things that make me tick do not have to be separate from my baby, do not have to exclude my baby, and do not have to not happen because of my baby. Gardening now involves bringing the exersaucer out into the yard, cooking now involves periodic breaks for diaper changes and nursing, and my musical pursuits now revolve around singing to my baby (usually about what we are doing…I’ve been cranking out some pretty stupid tunes lately, believe you me). Regardless of the alterations, I find that I still am getting to do the things that make me me.

    I have also found, and I do not mean to sound like a bad mom, that time away is essential. It is wonderful to do my hobbies with my baby and it is also wonderful to do them without. I am convinced that a babysitter is the best marital and personal health tool that a mom can have. Because after all, how can we teach our children to be confident, well-balanced individuals if we ourselves cannot be?

    1. Hannah, I LOVE what you say about the “both and” approach. I think that’s a fabulous way to look at parenting. Obviously not everything can be combined so well, but a surprising lot of things can. And I think our kids benefit from being involved in our lives too – being around when we are cooking or hiking or gardening and learning to appreciate those things. But I DON’T think that time away makes someone a bad mom – probably just the opposite! It is hard to get away from the idea that personal time is “selfish,” but I think those periodic breaks can help us to enjoy parenting, have more energy, and be more engaged when we are with our kids.

  4. Nate and I both enjoyed and agreed with your viewpoint!

    What I have found, ironically, is that I actually have time to pursue more of my interests now that I’m a stay-at-home-mom. Activities like cooking and baking from scratch, gardening, and walking I actually have time to do now! I don’t feel like I’ve had to give up any of my passions. I guess I just feel like the boys are a part of me and what I do. Of course I can’t pursue those activities whenever I want—my time is structured around naps and playing with the boys–but that’s just life.–there are always interruptions and things to schedule around. As you know, I used to teach high school, and that was an extremely consuming job, even though I loved it. Motherhood is also an extremely consuming job, but because it is a job done at home, to me I feel freer now than I did before.

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