When I get asked “How does it feel to be a mom?”, I don’t know how to answer that question, because I don’t feel like a mom. I just feel like me with a kid. Motherhood has brought more joy to my life and some healing, which is not at all insignificant, but being a mom feels like a very specific relationship, not a change in my general identity.
(I had similar trouble with the “How does it feel to be married?” question too, so my response was generally “Pretty much the same actually.” I can tell you what it feels like to be married to my specific husband, but would struggle to tell you how it feels to be a wife. While I think the ritual of a wedding ceremony witnessed by our nearest and dearest was important, there was no magic “We’re married!” moment, when I felt that everything changed. I’m sure that for those who weren’t already living together, it’s different.)
“Doesn’t having a kid change everything?” people will also ask.
Yes and No. It is true that I would not have been awake at 2:00 am last night and again at 6 if it weren’t for my daughter, but honestly, so far, having a baby is easier than I thought it would be. (My many years of whacked out sleep patterns are probably a plus for once.) I may feel very differently once she starts throwing tantrums, but at the moment – it’s mostly pretty fun. I have my moments of frustration, of course, but those are just moments. For the most part, I really dig hanging out with my little drooly bear, and parenting is only the fourth hardest thing I do every day.
Some of this is no doubt circumstantial. I have a healthy, not terribly high strung baby, a supportive partner who does not have to be cajoled into caring for her, and a business that lets me work from home less than 40 hours a week. Because J and I both work from home, we can juggle baby care between the two of us. Things would be a lot harder if I had to be in an office for eight hours a day or if we were struggling to pay rent or if our baby had significant special needs.
Still, I thought I would be much more neurotic about parenting than I am, that I would question myself more, and feel more guilty. But I don’t. I’ll spare you my labor and delivery story, but despite my firm insistence on a natural childbirth, I ended up getting an epidural about 14 hours into the situation. It was the right decision, and I felt perfectly fine about it. I still do. When breastfeeding didn’t go quite as planned, the lactation consultant seemed to think that I would be devastated. If the rest of my life is any indication, I should have felt like a failure. Instead I was a little bummed for a day or two, and then I got over it. And I just now realized that my daughter’s shirt is on backwards, although this does not seem to disturb her unduly.
My inner critic puts in a full week’s work with overtime in most of the other areas of my life, so there’s not much carry over of this motherly equanimity, and most parts of my life – of me – feel unchanged. I think this is why I resist the idea of finding “mom friends.” “Mom groups” feel a little bit like when people would try to set me up with someone in my single days, and when I asked why they thought we would be a good match, the thinking was “You’re single, he’s single, what more do you need?”
I do feel like I need to expand my social circle right now, but I’m not sure I want that to be centered around “mom stuff.” Just because another woman and I both have babies doesn’t mean we have anything else in common – or even that we’re experiencing motherhood in similar ways. I’m not opposed to hanging out with other women who are parenting, but I would prefer that it be women that I click with on some level, and that we do more than just compare parenting philosophies.
Speaking of which, my parenting philosophy involves feeding my child when she is hungry, so I’m going to go do that.