DW McKinney
June 06, 2019 12:09 pm
Getty Images, HelloGiggles

Motherhood—and mothers’ voices—should be celebrated every day. But that also means having conversations about the complexities of parenting. In our weekly series, “Millennial Moms,” writers discuss the simultaneously beautiful and daunting responsibilities of motherhood through the lens of their millennial experiences. Here, we’ll be discussing things like burnout from the several side hustles we work to provide for our kids and pay our student loans, dating app struggles as young single moms, rude comments from other parents at daycare, and so much more. Stop by every week for a judgment-free space on the internet where women can share the less rosy aspects of motherhood.

It’s important for me to make sure that my daughters enjoy full lives—what also matters is that I give myself space to do the same. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I am thinking about the moments in between raising my two daughters and managing my household when I can temporarily lay down the mantle of motherhood and become someone else. Sometimes I become so hyper focused on these moments that I hunger for them. The unrelenting tension between trying to be a mother and expressing other parts of my identity can be overwhelming, drawing my attention from dancing with my girls or reading them bedtime stories. But the desire to fulfill my own needs is normal and justified. Without separate time to indulge the other parts of myself, I feel incomplete.

Mothers shouldn’t be swallowed up by their children’s lives.

When I turned 30, I believed I was on the precipice of a new beginning, and not just because I was entering a new decade. When I went bungee jumping on my birthday, it felt like my life—the one I had waited forever to have—was a tangible force coursing through my veins as I plummeted to the ground.

I became pregnant a few months later.

Even though my husband and I planned this pregnancy, I did not recognize the enormity of our decision. No one around us discussed the hardships of parenting, especially not in graphic detail. It was as if everyone was too shell-shocked from raising children to explain—few parents talked about how physically and emotionally depleted they were. It was all “hard work,” but it was “always worth it.”

I recognized that I had altered the direction of my new beginning in a significant way. Was it the right decision? I never got a chance to consider it—too many people were busy asking me if I was ready to become a mother. They asked how it felt to be a mother. They told me being a mother was the greatest thing that would ever happen to me.

My child was the size of a grape in my womb, but already everyone had forgotten that I was more than just a mother.

As soon as I announced I was pregnant—and there was not one significant instance of someone asking me about my life separate from the pregnancy—I realized I’d be forever contending with who I believed I was and who people saw me as with a baby on my hip. It immediately became difficult for me to present any other identity besides “mom” to the rest of the world.

But what I remember most about how my own mother raised me is that she did not let the rest of her being die to motherhood.

During my adolescence, she established herself apart from being a parent. She was very supportive of my siblings and me, and she made a point to be aware of our extracurricular activities and academic development. But she didn’t attend every award ceremony, choir performance, or track meet—she often chose to prioritize herself, and there was nothing wrong with that. She supported us, but she also took time to rest and pursue her own interests.

My mother regularly spoke about her professional achievements and future career plans. She occasionally invited me to her office to help her with special projects and to see what she did outside of our home. More than anything, she wanted to be a private investigator—I remember the way her eyes shined when she told me this. Now that I am a parent, I see how much this goal—to continue striving beyond our household—meant to her.

That was the most important lesson I learned from watching my mother, but fighting for all aspects of my identity has been exhausting.

People often ask me questions about my two girls and forget about me. Our identities have become so inextricably tied together that I am perceived as the instrument of their growth and development. Who they are becomes what I am.

I still have to advocate for myself with my friends.

Those who only knew me when I had children are surprised when they hear about my past experiences. I can’t help but think that they only know so much about me as a mother because they forgot to ask about my life aside from my children.

Coworkers have leveraged my motherhood against me in the workplace.

They’ve excluded me from projects or suggested that I let other colleagues take on more responsibilities just because I had children to focus on as well. If I insisted on inclusion, I was waved off or given a smaller portion of the project. Besides implying that being a mother made me weaker and less capable, they assumed that I would rather focus on my children than the position I was hired to fulfill. After all, society tells us that when women become mothers, our sole purpose is reduced to caring, cleaning, and nurturing our children.

This is not how companies treat fathers. There is no reason why a woman cannot be a mother and a competent employee if that is the life she has chosen.

That’s why I am constantly championing myself beyond motherhood.

The process has started at home. I let my husband and children know that sometimes I get to do my own things without them because I am more than a wife or mother. I set aside time each day when I can work on my professional development or resurrect old projects and forgotten hobbies.

I also reframe the narrative of motherhood in conversations with others. When my husband’s coworkers ask about our children, I don’t answer until my husband answers first—it’s not my responsibility to be the singular authority of our children. I love talking about my kids, but I want to challenge the assumption that it’s all I have to say. I am intent on adding the statements, “But I am also—” or “But I also do—” when people ask about my daughters.

I love being a mom; no one can minimize my self-sacrifice. The intangible ways mothers care for our children often escape our own comprehension—but we can give others life while allowing our own lives to thrive. We are so much more than someone’s mother.

Advertisement