Monday, February 2, 2009

Multiple personalities

I've been reading a lot about the inherent conflicts of motherhood. I've read the posts from those who do not yet have children, and how they resent being told how free they are (or appreciate that freedom but are willing to give it up at any time). I've been reading about people who have concluded their fight against infertility and wonder whether this will redefine who they are. This has made me reflect on my quest for children and how much of myself I've sacrificed.

I'm not a terribly ambitious person. I have a relatively great pays well, it's very secure, the work can sometimes be interesting and exciting, and mostly I am in charge of what I do every day. I also have evil coworkers and managers who try to manufacture evidence to progressively discipline people in order to either make them completely submissive or make them quit. I take that back. For one manager, even being submissive is not enough. You must actively recognize his greatness on a daily basis, or you make yourself a target.

When I was 34, I decided to take the LSAT and apply to law school. I got in, and it would have cost about $20K/year for tuition. Since it was night school, I could have kept my job, and we could have afforded the tuition, but my husband was opposed to the expense. As I said, I'm not terribly amibitious, but my main motivating factor for not pushing to go to law school was that I knew I wanted to have children. It would have been a waste of resources to start law school, because I would probably be having a baby before I graduated.

Once I finally did get to the point where there was a pretty good chance that I could have a take-home baby, I was pretty happy to have my job. I had lots of sick time and vacation time stockpiled. I could work part time for a year. They were required to provide me with a place to pump breastmilk. At the time, my husband worked with me. He had gotten so fed up with the evil people that, when the baby was about 5 months old, he started looking for new jobs. We both applied for the position that he has now. When I went for the interview, I saw that it would be a great job...if I didn't have a child. Everyone there was ambitious and dedicated. Everyone spent a LOT of time at work. But it is a contract position with the US Government, and some other company could win the bid for the work at any time. It did not provide the security I felt we needed for our daughter.

I would have loved the job. It involves cutting edge technology. It involves national and worldwide security issues. It is high-impact but low profile. But I could not fully devote myself to it, because I was 100% devoted to something else...mommyhood. Plus, the attraction of a 6 figure salary was outweighed by the need to keep a stable home and be near family. Putting the needs of your children first is a no-brainer, but it is extremely challenging to put aside your career options to do it, especially when you are going to continue working.

I didn't really take in that I might be losing my identity until our daughter was 15 months old and I took her to daycare. Overnight, I became S.'s mom. I was not Mrs. Whatever, I was not A, I was S.'s mom. I was simulatneously freaked out and offended by this. My first thought was "I am not just S.'s mom. That's a great thing to be, but it is not my whole being." Then I wondered (because my husband was saying something similar) if it was becoming my whole being. But it's not. I still have interests. I still have the same hobbies that I've always had.

Yes, I have made some sacrifices that I would not have made if I did not have S. But operating in her best interests does not change me. I might swear a little less, but that's only when she's around. I might go out less than I used to, but I'm basically a homebody anyway. When she's an adult and moves out on her own, I will not find myself lacking in things to do. Yes, I'm a mom, but I'm not only a mom. Although I am pretty focused on becoming a mom to another baby...


  1. Very thought provoking. Being a SAHM, I think I very easily fall into being just the FarmHand's mom. I do worry what will become of me when they don't need me every minute of every day. Will there still be something left of the old me? I was never ambitious in any sense of the word, so what does one do when faced with no longer being needed? I have no real marketable skills & no real desire to aquire any....

    Somedays this worries me greatly. Other days I could care less. I do know that it would never have changed my decision to be a stay-at-home mom.

    I think it's very admirable to stand up & say, "I'm not only a mom!" Good for you!

    *My first clue that I was no longer FarmWife but instead BabyGirl's mom was when I was still pregnant with her. Husband's little cousin came running into church one morning, threw her little arms around my ever expanding waist & said, "Hi, Baby!" then walked away with out every saying a word to me. :)

  2. What a beautiful post and I am reminded of my own journey of leaving a very lucrative job to work part time because I got the full time job of Mom. It's funny you do view folks as "A.J's mom" or "D's dad". Best to you on your baby wishes.

  3. Very well written.

    I think many women want to to solely "so and so's mom" and they love it. Having that identity is all that matters to them. But how do those women feel when their child goes off to live their own life? THAT is when the identity worries me.

    Of course, I am not one of those women and need to be "nancy" everyday, even with a newborn. This is why 12 weeks a maternity leave is enough for me. (I'd die in canada with a year of leave!).

    I think no matter what a woman chooses, it's fine and dandy. I just hope women think of their own future too.

  4. I get what you are talking about. The whole shifting identity thing. Also, the being defined thing. I didn't realize that when I became a mom the rest of the world would forget all the other things I do. I have a brain...not just a uterus (and my brain works much better than my uterus these days).

    And to me you don't sound unambitious. It sounds like all the decisions you made were strategic.

  5. I definitely understand this issue. As I've recently had to take leave of my job, and I'm left with one activity a week in which I'm NOT The Boy's mom, and Cancer Mom to boot, I feel like I have all of a sudden been stripped of my identity and credibility. My husband, who is in the same field as me (teaching music), still treats me as a respected colleague and talks to me about work and music as if I matter. Without that, I think I'd go bananas.

  6. Love this post. It's something I think about a lot. I don't want to be "Lexie's Mom" as my main identity, either, even though it's probably the most important job I'll ever have.

  7. This is great. I love that you think about these things (maybe because I do too). I love being Peanut's mom. And I don't mind if people refer to me that way in the context of say, a playgroup, because I understand that may be how I'm most easily recognized. But I also want to be recognized as a librarian, and a coffee lover, and someone who reads a lot of books, and a volunteer, and on and on...I'm really striving to keep my interests alive and balance that with my daughter's needs and what our family needs right now. I don't think it's ever easy. But I think wrestling with the ideas is well worth it. Thanks for stopping by my blog!