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?
The Mother of a One Year Old
Please leave your comments on the blog so that Ruth and others can review and comment. Thanks!