How Motherhood changes you is a very personal perspective. But the fact that it does, it’s universal.
Women may be in different stages of their motherhood journey, from wondering if motherhood is worth it, to feeling completely fulfilled by it. But the fact is, we all have our struggles with it, from time to time. The important thing is that we share our experiences and that we support each other to get through the hard times as well as to celebrate the good ones.
In this chapter I talked to Sara. She’s an educator and extremely kind. Sara’s beauty made me think of Renaissance era paintings and I got really creative with her photos. She’s also a mom.
Tell me a bit about yourself, what would you like others to know about you?
I grew up in New England, went to college and then started teaching in NYC. I moved to Portland in the mid 2000’s thinking I would be a midwife – teaching was just too hard. But I ended up sticking with teaching until I had my first daughter in 2016. Since then I’ve been working mostly as a mom but also a little bit as a private tutor. I’m an anxious person and my anxiety has definitely ramped up since having children, and even more so now that the pandemic has cut us off from friends and family. I love to read – if I had a day to myself I’d spend it on the couch drinking earl grey tea and reading. I was really active before kids, and I’ve had to push myself to get back to being active. I love to run, hike, and bike.
How do you define motherhood?
Honestly, I’d define it as one intense challenge after another, punctuated by moments of joy and ease. Being a parent is much harder than I anticipated it would be. I tend to be anxious and reactive, and to overthink and over-worry and over-plan. I love my children, and of course they do bring me joy. But it’s hard being a mom to two young kids, even with all the privileges we have.
Do you feel motherhood has changed you? In what ways?
Yes. My goodness. In many ways. It’s made me more empathetic and less judgmental. I had *lot* of ideas about parenting, especially as a teacher. Now my feeling is basically, whatever works for you. I have a feeling that when I return to the classroom I’ll have a lot more patience and empathy with my students. But being a mom has also made me a lot more anxious. I’ve always been a worrier, but since my older daughter was born it seems I’m quite literally *always* worried about something. And one of the hardest changes has been the huge identity shift. I used to be defined by my work, by my interests and passions and relationships. Now I’m “Wren and River’s mom.” Especially with the pandemic on and being so cloistered in our home, being a mom sometimes feels like it takes up my entire life and being. And it causes me real grief, to feel that I’ve lost so much of myself. I have to assume it will slowly come back – certainly there’s more space for me now that my children aren’t infants – but at this stage, they are the center of everything and my interests and needs fade to the background.
What is your biggest fear as a mother?
Well, for myself personally, I guess it’s as I describe above – losing myself, my sense of who I am and what makes me, me – to the process of mothering. But I have a lot of more general fears and worries. Of course I worry about all the normal things – will they be happy, healthy, safe? I worry that climate change will render the world uninhabitable in their lifetimes. I worry about racism, sexism, and other kids of bigotry and hatred dividing our society even further. So – I don’t know what my biggest fear is. Maybe my biggest fear is that all of my fear and worry will make it hard for me and my children to access peace and joy in our lives.
What support do you think mothers lack the most in society?
I don’t think the things we lack can be ranked, actually, because to me they are intertwined. Of course we lack financial compensation for the work we do. We lack professional regard for our work – it’s not even seen as “real” work. We lack community – oh, I was SO lonely when Wren was born. So isolated and lonely. It was an incredible change in my life when I finally started connecting and hanging out with other moms. A lot of this could be addressed with policies that protect parents, such as paid parental leave, free childcare, and access to support and education groups, and universal health care. Not to mention closing the gender pay gap! The well-being of children is of course tied up intricately in the well-being of mothers, which is stunted by an almost total lack of support and regard at the practical, societal level, regardless of how any individual may profess to feel about children and mothers.
How can mothers show up for each other?
Well, I think we often try to close these gaps in whatever ways we can. We affirm each others’ work, we take care of each others’ children. We pass on our kids’ clothes and we make meals for the new moms among us. We create support groups on social media and offer our advice and experiences there. I think we DO show up for each other – but the fact that we have to is because society totally fails to show up for us. On a more positive note, the MOST helpful things that other moms did for me were: 1) hold my babies when they were little. Sometimes so I could shower or do chores but sometimes so that I just didn’t have to be the one holding them for a few minutes, and 2) hear my worries, complaints, and questions and just affirm them. “Yes, that happened to me, too.” “Yes, I remember that – it was so hard,” “My child does that, too, and I’m not sure what to do about it either.” Those types of comments were very strengthening in my early days of motherhood.
How do you want to remember this period in your life?
Yikes. How I want to remember it is as a peaceful, nourishing, loving time. But I kind of doubt that’s how I will remember it. I think I’ll probably look back with some regret about how much time and energy I put into worrying, and chastising, and trying to solve problems. But even though I know I’ll likely feel that way later, it’s hard not to do those things. I do hope I remember how my children love me – the way they love me right now, at this stage, is (I think) very different from how they’ll love me as they grow. They are so open and honest and affectionate. I want to remember that well – the weight of their bodies on my lap and in my arms, their little voices asking for my help, their emotions so completely naked and guileless.