I was reading something the other day that pushed me to reflect. It was about how to “find yourself” after motherhood, how to pull the woman you were out from underneath the piles of laundry and leaning towers of LEGOs. It made it seem like the mission of mothering was something that overwrote who you were. You faded somewhere into the background like the imprints of words that had been hastily erased from a page in a notebook.
Desperation crept into my mind when I read it. Was this what was wrong? Was I missing? Somewhere there were words that should have been written boldly proclaiming my existence, but they were just graying pencil swipes? I did a mental roll call and decided this didn’t fit.
I was unable to separate the “me” that was not a mother from the “me” that was.
I wish there was some sort of prolific reason for this. Something that made me seem like the best mother in the world in that I didn’t feel like I was growing sideways in the shade of the forest of my children. There isn’t. The reason itself is that the woman I know as myself simply does not exist without motherhood.
See, the idea of “finding yourself” means there is someone who is lost. But the person I lost by becoming a mother was a 20-year-old party girl who went to clubs in other countries with wealthy men who didn’t mention their wives. The life that I let fall off me when I held the 6lb 14oz weight of my first real responsibility was a fast-paced, temporary existence the likes of which I had no desire in finding. Even pulling it from my memory was a heavy task and one that usually ended in re-shelving the volume dedicated to that time period.
My abrupt launch into adulthood includes motherhood. For me, as a young mother, there wasn’t a version of womanhood that didn’t parallel ideas of sacrifice—be it the last cookie or the last thread of sanity. Because of this, I felt moved to write my own version of the idea that the act of “finding ourselves” will be the salvation we need as mothers. I hope this essay can speak to the other young mothers who don’t long for the wild days of loose strings and even looser morals.
When there isn’t an adult life to compare things to, you don’t mourn the loss the same. I wonder sometimes who I would be in a world where I didn’t become a mother. I see that imaginary woman in characters on TV or in the filtered photos of an influencer’s travels. It makes me laugh to even try to conjure a form of myself as an adult who doesn’t need to worry about what’s for dinner or who will need new shoes soon. Who would I be if I wasn’t caring for tiny lives?
I find comfort in the stability I’ve created by becoming a provider. I actually like the predictability that breeds in the chaos of motherhood. It’s been almost 18 years of this if you really want to get down into it. So if I had spent the last 18 years curating a persona who I felt wasn’t me, I would be lying. I would be lying in an unmade bed of unhappiness because the worst thing to do is walk through life feeling like the person you want to be doesn’t exist.