One of my main uncertainties going into motherhood was how I would retain my pre-parent identity once I was a mom, and I know from talking to lots of other moms that I was not alone in this wondering. This dilemma was also one of the reasons Shannon and I started Raise A Mother about a year after our kids were born: we craved a space where we could hold onto and explore our identities as individual adults alongside the role of ‘mom’ that seemed at times to tidal wave over everything else we were.
Well, if being literally attached to another human for all their feeding, conforming to that person’s sleep demands, cutting out large portions of your old social life, leaving work, and falling out of touch with some of your pre-parent friends wasn’t enough, then comes the day, which I had yesterday, where for the first time, someone will address you not by your name, but by the title of “[Your kid’s name]’s Mom.”
It was incredibly sweet when it happened, because it meant that my kid had a friend at the playground, that he had formed his own relationships and become the central player in someone else’s interactions with the two of us. Another kid from his child care saw us at the park. As we were playing and he wanted to show me something, he called:
“I’m over here, Arlo’s Mom.”
It was inevitable, it’s bound to happen many more times, and it makes sense that that’s what this child would call me. But it was a pointed reminder of my own aging and position through life. Right now, even though my kids are central in so many ways, it still feels like my husband and I are the key players in our family. We’re the ones who have conversations and discuss ideas about life and the future. We make all decisions about where we go, what we do, and who we socialize with as a family. If there are activities outside the house to be incorporated into our schedule, they are ours, not our kids’. (Even baby ‘soccer,’ which we do every other Saturday, is really just a gathering with other parent-friends of ours; we meet at a green space and bring some balls for the kids to chase around while we get to sit and enjoy the sunshine together.)
Soon enough, that’s not going to be the case. Especially once my kids start school and extra-curricular lessons or sports, I’ll primarily be “Arlo’s Mom” and “Remi’s Mom” rather than “Lindsay,” in a huge number of contexts. Teachers, coaches, babysitters, parents of their peers, will all likely know me as my kid’s mom first, and maybe not even know my name, or know me as a separate person at all.
I know there will still be times when I’ll be primarily “Lindsay” – with my friends, at a yoga class, at work. But when I look at the lives of those I know with older kids, it seems these times won’t be the focus of my life. They’ll be side-dishes (work appears to be an unfortunately large side-dish) squeezed in around the main course of helping my kids with homework, making their meals, addressing their dilemmas, and chauffeuring them to various activities. For some reason, I always thought that as my kids got older and more self-sufficient, the more I’d get back to my ‘own’ life, my own time, my own identity – that this was a straight correlation, a smooth line to graph. Babyhood, I thought, would be the most involved part. But now I’m wondering if that’s true at all… in fact, I fear it might be downright laughable.
I’m not sure what to expect here… fellow parents? Do other moms with little ones wonder whether they’re only just starting to enter a long run of their “Somebody’s Mom” identity, or if their kids getting older will actually bring more freedom and a return to self? If you’re a parent with older kids, what’s it actually been like for you? Any tips for us ‘newbies’ on what to expect???