For me personally, becoming a mom was different than “becoming” anything else. When I got married I expected to wake up the next morning and “feel” like a wife. I didn’t really. Nothing felt all that different. Yet as surreal as it all was, it seems as if the moment the nurses laid Reese on me, I knew I was a mom. I felt it. Don’t get me wrong, some days I still feel like a child myself who could not possibly have one of her own. Sometimes I look at other moms and feel like somehow they are more of a “real” mom than I am. It’s strange to realize we are the same. Sometimes I look down at my little girl and think “she is ours forever?” But, it was also as if in one single moment I instantly joined a team of other mamas. It was as if things that used to matter seemed a little more petty. It was as if my identity, perspective, and entire life suddenly changed. I felt the beautiful and terrifying weight of my new role.
Of course, I think becoming a Mom should change you. As a parent you are responsible for another human being. You realize how vulnerable, moldable, and capable they are. And that you have the unique ability to shape them. To sharpen. To help. To hurt. To shepherd. Naturally, that is going to change your perspective on life. Naturally the way you spend your time, energy, and money changes. The way you think, feel, relate, and make plans radically shifts. You feel the ever present reality that your child’s needs are in so many ways dependant on you.
While I think it is natural and good for us to feel instantly and drastically different, I think we have to be careful. I think subtly a voice inside starts to tell us “they don’t get it.” These thoughts can give way to isolation, bitterness, lonliness, insecurites, and pride. It can separate us from our once close friends. It can separate us from our own spouses. Then, before we know it we are in an all-exlusive Moms club. Here is where we bring our kids, talk about our kids, and even hide behind our kids.
I couldn’t imagine my life without other moms (I mean it would be physically impossible for me to be here without them… But you get the point). I am unspeakably grateful for other mama’s who have said “oh yes, I experienced that too!” when I started to feel like I must just be crazy. I am thankful for the mothers who have gone before me and who stand with me. We need each other. Not to compare, judge, and compete but to relate, encourage, and support in a special way. They are living proof that you are going to make it! Really, you are.
But I think we need to be cautious not to confuse new role with new identity. Yes, it is a very big and life altering role. Sometimes we realize there are people and things we need to let go of because of it. And sometimes people and things leave us because of it. It is going to change our relationships. They are not going to look exactly how they used to. Being a mom should definitely take a place of priority and call us to live differently. But, we must not let one part of who we have become overtake the rest of who we are. I know many feel burned, belittled, and forgotten by new mom’s. Wise advice I heard recently that helps prevent this trend is simply learning to talk about other things. Just like being a student.. learn to talk about things other than school. Or being an athlete… learn to talk about something other than sports. As moms we should learn to talk about things other than our kids.
You may feel like mothering demands all that you are, and then some. You may look in the mirror and see unwashed hair, exhausted eyes, a drenched shirt, and a stretch-marked belly. But you are more. You are a whole person. You are made up of more than only motherhood.
In the same way, our marriages should be made up of more than just parenting. Children give the opportunity for couples to bond in a new, unique, and powerful way. But I think before we know it, they can become the only thing that is holding our marriages together. As the joke between the old couple goes “what did we even talk about before we had kids?” But guys. It happens! All the sudden you ashamedly realize that somehow your conversation that started out about how good the food tastes somehow ended in what color the baby’s poop was today. You are on a date but all you can think about is how your kids are doing for the babysitter. You keep pushing off the same conversation because the baby needs you more. It is then that we must remember who our husband was before kids, and continue discovering who he is after having kids. Go on dates. Laugh together. Hold hands. Ask questions. Listen. Look into into each others eyes. Cook together. Dream together. Dance together. Don’t let your marriage get lost in your parenting.
Of course, that is much easier said than done. It does not happen effortlessly before kids, and it definitely does not after them.
We have only been parents for four months and already we have to intentionally work to see each other as wife and husband before mommy and daddy. Already I can default to saying “here take her” instead of “hi love, how was your day?” Already I can look at Kyle and see my child’s father before I see my husband; my best friend. But a thriving and strong marriage is worth fighting for in the midst of a job (parenting) that can feel all consuming.
The reality is that one day those kids you gave your all to will leave the house and you will be left with a stranger of a spouse. You are married to your spouse, not your kids. Remember your vows. Remember who stole your heart before that precious child did. Look at your child and see the love that brought them here.
Being a mom is unique.
It is exhausting.
It is demanding.
It is busy.
It is joyous.
It takes so much from you and gives even more to you. l already think it is one of the best things in all of life. But, it does not have to become our everything. We do not have to lose everything we have and are in the long, hard, messy, and absolutely wonderful process.
Yes!!!! Yes to all of THIS!
Natalie, your thoughts are so beautifully expressed–and so important for all parents to put into practice. I love reading your musings. I expect someday to see your published ideas. Love to you and Kyle and Reese.