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Finding Myself After Motherhood

I had a baby at the nebulous age of 23. I fancied myself a whole adult right up until the moment the doctors dumped a fresh baby in my arms, and helped me load up into my 2003 Toyota Echo. I sat there, looking at this tiny human that had just come out of my body a little over twenty four hours ago and found myself waiting for the actual adult to climb in beside me and tell me what to do.

It turns out 23 years was not quite enough time for me to understand exactly who I was, let alone feel confident in becoming someone’s mom. I'm definitely not a teen mom but I didn't really feel like I was grown enough to be someone's mother. I sort of understood it was my job to keep this baby alive, healthy, protected, and loved. I knew I was supposed to help this baby grow up and find her place in the world. But I didn’t even know what my place in the world was. I started going through the motions. Feeding, rocking, cuddling, dressing, changing, rinse, repeat. Those things felt more natural than I expected. But after a few months the repetition wore on me. Was this all there was? Was this all I was?

As my daughter got older she somehow needed me less and needed me more. That felt as confusing as it seems. She could pour herself cereal now. But I had to foster a better relationship with her body than I had with mine. She could walk to the bus stop all by herself. But I felt compelled to encourage her interests without letting her be pegged as the weird kid.

How do you teach a kid to accept herself and not care about social stigmas without singling herself out, isolating herself because social stigmas are still, in fact, stigmas? I couldn’t answer that for her because I’d never answered that for me. When it came right down to it, the real questions I was asking was how do I help her find herself when it felt very much like I’d lost myself? I’d barely experienced adulthood before trading that in for motherhood.

I turned to the internet and to the books. I turned to my peers and the mothers that had come before. I found trite, tropish answers.

“You’ll figure it out.”

“It gets easier with time.”

“You’ll find your new normal soon.”

Soon? How soon was soon because I’d been at this for years? And what was a new normal for someone who’d never really understood her old normal?

The answers ended up being there all along. They were just buried under layers of fear. And uncovering them, peeling back the fear of messing up, of doing it wrong, of failing at being the one and only thing I could positively identify as, required embracing the fear.


Yes, I’m going to mess up. I have already. And will again.

I was afraid of exploring myself. But figuring out what I liked and liking it unabashedly showed her how to do the same. I was afraid if I was anything other than a mom, I’d muck it all up, damaging my daughter beyond repair. But showing my daughter the complexities of personhood, the nuance of individuality, the art of exploration was going to be what actually prepared her for the world, not hiding her under a one dimensional shield of “Momma Bear.”

So I explored.

And I took her with me.

I tried new things.

And I let her try them too.

I messed stuff up and found stuff I sucked at.

I embraced things that nothing to do with raising a child while raising a child.

It took time.

It took doing it scared.

It took patience I didn’t know I had until I tried it.

But I am more than a mom. And that’s a good thing.



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