Monday, April 5, 2010
More on Parenthood and identity
Most of you know that I write for examiner.com as well as this little blog. A while ago I did a piece on parenthood and identity that was read by a woman producing a play for DC Fringe fest. I haven't seen the play yet but from what I understand the play deals with three women who have recently become mothers who feel that they are losing themselves in the job, something like that. I have been asked to review this play (!) when it is performed at the festival and I'm going to do a "Q&A" with the writer and producer to gain some background on it before I see it.
So first of all, let me just freak out for a minute that someone who is not related to me or friendly with me actually reads my column and likes it!!!!! Ok, I'm composed again.
Secondly, all this talk about the identity crisis that new mothers go through got me thinking a few more thoughts on what I'd already written and I'd like to share them with you. If you'd like to read my original post, here it is.
The first thing I thought about after re-reading this was Madonna. I'm a child of the 80's and 90's so I saw or heard about Madonna going from the creepy/slutty pop star to the sex goddess to Evita and now suddenly she's the mother of many kids and seems perfectly happy to be Mrs. Richie(?) for the rest of her life. Do you think she misses the pointy bra or regrets giving it up to be a mother? My guess is no because, as much fun as I'm sure the pointy bra was, it's not compatible with the other choices she's made and you just can't pull that stuff off after a certain age. She reinvented herself to fit the life she wanted and that is what we women have to do in order to fulfill our goals. Our lives and our identities are not static, they are constantly changing and evolving based on the choices we make.
The second thing I thought of was how long life is and how short childhood is. The average life expectancy is now past 70 but if you choose to be at home with your children while they are small, you're looking at anywhere from 5 to 15 years, depending on how you space those babies. That leaves another 55 years (35 if you subtract the first 20 for your own childhood) to do whatever else you want to do. Being with your children and giving yourself over to their needs is a temporary arrangement unless your kid is one of those that doesn't mind sleeping on his Batman sheets until he's 45.
The other thing about the timing of motherhood that I have never seen in one of those expert books is how much easier it all gets after the first year. For that first year you can feel like you're drowning. You have time for nothing and you are never off duty. But after your baby's first birthday, suddenly you have a lot more options. Your partner can take on a lot more of the baby work that they couldn't do before. Things like feeding and nap schedules are suddenly much easier because your baby has turned into someone who eats people food and who doesn't need a breast in their face ever 3 hours. You can spend a few hours with a friend, you can go grocery shopping by yourself, you can take a class at your community center (I totally recommend Belly Dancing 1), you can get out. Plus, your baby is now learning to play independently at a year so there is less pressure on you when you are there to entertain them. Compared to the life you had before children it won't seem like much but after one year with a baby, you will feel like a free woman.
My final point is the same as that in my examiner.com post but I think it bears repeating. Children are an investment that lasts. Investing your time and your talents with your children and your family and really being there for them when they need you isn't something that can ever be taken away. You may look back at your life and wish you'd done things differently. You may wish you'd traveled more, experienced more, taken a different path from time to time, but you will never regret the time you spent with your kids. That time is precious and is worth far more than all the promotions, raises, and accomplishments that would otherwise define you.
And so, to all the new mommies out there who feel so overwhelmed right now, know that this to shall pass. Your baby won't always want your undivided attention, you toddler won't always want one more story, your preschooler won't always want to ask you about your day. So if you put in the time now, you give your undivided attention, one more story or lesson from your day, you can know that you are planting something that lasts far longer than the next nap time. As hard as it is, you can get through it and you'll be glad you did.