Since my daughter, MaKayla, was born eight months ago, I’ve been two-faced. Not in the colloquial sense of the word; as in pretending to be and feel one way but acting another. Although I don’t know if I’m too far off from that. No, I mean two-faced as in there are two mes; two selves. The first one is the sister I’m trying so desperately not to forget. The woman who used to catch a train from Philly to Brooklyn for the latest writing conference or arts festival—just because the air smelled right when she woke up that morning. The lurker on Hotwire.com who, upon finding a great deal, used to snatch up Hubby for a quick getaway to the Jersey or Maryland or Virginia shores.
Key words: Used to.
So now there’s this new Tracey. The one who has to plan a simple trip to the grocery and still needs thirty minutes to get out the door. The mother who sometimes forgets to pack the wipes in her sugarplum’s diaper bag and has to come all the way home to get them lest there be some other kind of scents happening in the bread aisle.
I don’t think it’s too much to say that I sometimes feel like I’m in a never-ending episode of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. The fearless twenty-something who moved from Kentucky to Chicago with $300 in her pocket and a Budget rental van full of her grandmother’s old furniture has turned into the fearful baby nazi who, giggling baby aside, has horrifying imaginations of her little girl’s skull being cracked open every time her husband lifts her in the air during play time.
Who is this woman?
Truthfully, these two selves are often at odds with each other. Particularly the old me who is feeling the pinch of my life shift. The pre-pregnancy me screams for the attention that she’s losing. She wants to be the center of her husband’s (and mother’s and girlfriends’…) world. If I’m honest, this part of me resents the suffocation of my former, carefree and independent self even as my daughter grows more lovely and loving as each day passes. The other me sees this change and while not completely embracing it (hence, this blog), looks into those big, beautiful eyes of baby girl and realizes that she I have never known a love like this before. My daughter fills me to overflowing with love. I can’t stand it. No, really. On some days, I. Can’t. Stand. It. What does the carefree, independent writer chick do with all of this extra emotion? (Putting it in a book is so cliché) The love just comes out of nowhere. It can be sparked by little girl squeals of delight. It can turn me quickly into Momma Bear; ready to kill dead anyone or anything that even looks like they might hurt my baby.
Having two faces, two selves can create both a feeling of loss and a sense of being lost. I’m not being fully one or the other. I see pieces of the old me and I want to retain some of that even as I remain true to who I am becoming since being initiated into the Mommy club. I am not who I was and I’m not quite who I’m going to be. This is my reality. Yet, trying to carve out a new identity while still making my daughter the first priority is a challenge. Motherhood in general is a challenge, isn’t it?
(This is where the mommy vets nod their heads knowingly as if to say, “Duh!”)
It challenges the self-centeredness that we so carefully crafted in the years prior to giving birth. And if you are an older first time mom like me (35+), that’s a whole lot of years. Years that, if we allow ourselves to be consumed by the difficult transitions being a new mom can bring, will always seem like the “good ole days.”
It’s important, I think, to not romanticize the past and who you were before. I know full well there are many days I do not wish to re-live. And there are certainly good days ahead. Different days but good ones. The chick who danced the night away in New York City clubs now saves her Cabbage Patch (hey, I said I was an older mom!) for when her daughter eats all her food or has a good poo-poo. So what it may take me a little longer to finish a book or I may have to make difficult choices regarding childcare or schools or good influences vs. bad ones. But as I’m “becoming,” I also get the pure joy of watching my daughter “become.” At the end of the day, that makes it all worth it.
I think. 🙂
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.
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When I had my daughter I felt the same way..and I fell into a really deep depression. I’m so glad you wrote about your story Tracey because until maybe a year ago (my daughter is 3 now), I felt that I could not be the vibrant, driven, sexy and responsible person I use to be and still be a great mother to my daughter. I always felt that a part of me died when I gave birth and I mourned her death for several months (I know it may sound a bit weird). You summed it up so well, “But as I’m “becoming,” I also get the pure joy of watching my daughter “become.” At the end of the day, that makes it all worth it.”
Thanks, @bessieakuba! I think I was taught (or maybe caught) early on that I could not be “vibrant, driven, and sexy” and be a good mother too. I still struggle with what that even looks like for me. In some cases, we (the collective we) watched our mothers and grandmothers give up their dreams…sometimes totally change who they were…in order to take on this new role. I gotta believe that while yes, a part of us will die when we become a mom, we are actually becoming a better version of ourselves….specifically BECAUSE of this great, amazing love that’s come into our lives. Thanks for your feedback!
Thanks for writing this. Now I know why my sisters dissed me after having children. They were at tug of war with being a sister and being a parent. LOL!!! I feel the same way about being engaged though! A tug of war with my single life and my soon to be married life. But, it is a great transition. Thanks for this!!!!
this is good. im feeling this way, trying to embrace this new season cuz i love to go OUT. But now i know life is going to be different as i prepare for things to come. thanks i so relate to your article.
You’re welcome. Just remember…it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time. But unlike a marathon, I don’t know if you can completely prepare for motherhood…particularly this kind of emotional, psychological, or spiritual conflict/challenge. But as some of the other moms have said…embrace the evolution. Thanks for your feedback! – Tracey
Yes, Melissa! I think I have a few friends who might feel the same way about me as you do about your sisters. LOL! Thanks!
Becoming a new mother is SUCH a major transition and we all need to get encouragement from fellow moms on this journey. I truly enjoyed reading this post and really enjoy this web site. Very encouraging.
I felt the same exact way…I had my kids at age 30 and 31.75. The same girl who could and would roll out the house at 10:30 PM to go out and party now goes to bed at 10:00 PM. At 36 I have evolved into mommydom. It took me a few years to realize that its ok for hubs to dress the boys in crazy clothes and feed them donuts for breakfast so that I can sleep in. And its ok for me to go out to dinner with friends and remember what its like to not have to cut up someone’s food for them. In the beginning it was jarring. Now, I feel like I have struck a happy balance. I hope (know) that you will find the same for yourself.
Donuts for breakfast? Yikes! Just kidding. LOL! Yes, Karla. I’m working toward that balance. And some of that comes with, like you said, releasing myself. Being okay with things being done “differently” by Dad. Being okay with taking a couple of hours to get a pedicure or massage or have dinner with the girls. Yep…I’m getting there. Thanks for your feedback! ~ Tracey
I love this and agree.Two selves always but that is how motherhood is.
I’m seven months pregnant and will be a mom at 34, going on 35. Even though my sweetie isn’t here yet, I do sometimes start reminiscing about the “old days” when I had all this freedom to do whatever I wanted and how I didn’t have a care in the world when I was 22 and ready to move across the country for a job or take on the world.
Then reality hits and reminds me that although I loved those days, I was also terribly lonely at times. I remember how much I wanted to be a mother and said I would trade that freedom to go somewhere at a moment’s notice to just hold my sweet little baby and indulge in the joys of motherhood.
I don’t know how I’ll feel when the baby is actually here, but I’m trying to focus on the fact that there is a season for everything in life, and now, it’s my season to be a mother and focus on nurturing and caring for another human life… and that I should relish it. The spirit of Lisa isn’t going anywhere, it’s just got different priorities now, and that’s a good thing. Then, once the baby is older and leaves the nest, it will be time to transition into another phase of life…
I think it’s best to embrace these changes as the normal circle of life instead of looking back with regret at what we think we lost. We didn’t really lose anything… those were fun times in the past and a fun season of life, now it’s time for something new — and maybe even better.