When I was 15, I had a clear idea of the way I wanted my life to go between then and 30. I would go to George Fox University, 30 minutes from home. After college, I’d get married young, buy a house, and be done having kids before my 30th birthday.
My Life Plan never considered what I wanted for myself outside of hitting those milestones. After all, my own mother married young, had kids young, and proved to everyone she was born to be a mother. This was so true, in fact, that she accidentally started a daycare when I was five that she accidentally never closed, and now she watches her grandchildren.
So I figured I’d get my English degree, get married, and have kids. I’d have a career, sure, but it would come second to being a mother, because that’s what I was born to do. Just like my mom.
I followed my Life Plan. Got married young, started a career in my dream field of editing, bought a house, and was soon newly 25 and newly pregnant. I didn’t feel like a mother. I told myself that would change when my child was born.
I held my daughter in my arms at the hospital. She was tiny and beautiful and perfect. We named her Alexis Joy, like we’d planned since before she was conceived.
She didn’t feel like an Alexis. She felt like a blob of unrealized potential.
And I didn’t feel like a mother.
I told myself it would change as I got to know her better.
By my last week of maternity leave, I was bored out of my mind. I had no idea what to do with a newly-formed human. I remember holding her on my knees one day while I sang to her some song that was popular when I was in high school. I was play-acting, remembering what my mother did for all the daycare kids I’d watched grow up.
I loved this blob of unrealized potential. She learned something new every day, and she astonished me. I took care of her the best I could. But I didn’t feel like a mother.
When I went back to my job, everyone asked me how I was holding up, told me that leaving your child for work is the most painful thing. Then I really didn’t feel like a mother, because I missed my little girl, but she was in more capable hands and I was at work, doing what I loved.
When my blob of an Alexis was seven-months-old, she only turned her head to my dad, who called her Lexi. I started calling her Lexi and she felt more like her very own person. I didn’t feel like her mother.
Soon after, I left my day job for freelance work and stayed home with her most days of the week. I loved getting to know Lexi. Toddlerhood has always been my favorite age (and I was perpetually around toddlers, thanks to my mother’s daycare), and spending it with her was wonderful.
But I missed the full-time daycare her nana had provided when I worked. I loved Lexi, but I also loved my job. I wanted uninterrupted time to grow my business.
Soon I realized my Life Plan said a lot about me—by omission. It stopped at 30, and therefore implied I’d lose my own ambition after I had children. I didn’t recognize how integral that ambition was to my personhood.
Lexi is now three-and-a-half and she calls me “Mom” but when I ask her my name, she says, “Rochelle”. A person who has every right to say I am her world recognizes that she is not mine, that there are billions of people who can’t call me mom. That I have an identity outside of her.
I feel like an editor. I feel like her mother.
I’m proud of my own mother, who has raised 70-odd wonderful children and counting. She lives a life she was called to. And I want my daughter to be able to say the same thing about me, which means I get to be her mom, and I also get to be Rochelle.