I have been thinking about motherhood. Shocker, right? Particularly about feminism and motherhood. About the expectations I had while growing up and after getting married, and about the reality of my life after giving birth to my first child. Are feminism and motherhood antagonistic? Who actually reconciles the two? The all-mighty mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies for years and then maybe even homeschool them and feed them only homemade foods that require sometimes unbelievable amounts of time spent planning and working in the kitchen? Or the mothers who choose to offer formula early and let themselves work for a career outside the home while their children are cared for by professional caregivers and teachers? Which way is without guilt or suffering? Which is without heartbreak at some point in time?
I find myself treading the middle line, where I am at home with my children but I do try to push a sort of career ahead from here, and where I choose to breastfeed for at least the first year of my children’s lives. I do feel guilty of course, wishing that I had chosen my path with a lot more conviction than I actually have.
I loved this article, The Case Against Breast-Feeding, by Hanna Rosen, in the Atlantic very much. And naturally I felt very guilty about it. Because more often than not you will find me in the camp of the “natural mamas” who cook organic foods from scratch and seldom buy plastic toys for their children’s pared down toy boxes. But this side of me struggles with the other side that wants fulfillment outside of the home, that wants to use her degree instead of letting it rot, that wants to achieve something more than just family. I do not feel that my children offer me all the intellectual stimulation or represent the whole purpose of my life. That would be a burden on them, I believe, and a tragedy for me.
Breastfeeding does not allow me any freedoms right now. And I am trying to be OK with that, because it’s only for a year. I wouldn’t do it for longer, though. I do feel conflicted about that. I know other mothers are happy to do it for several more years, and they would probably call me selfish, but after nine months and a year, I want my body back, as scarred, deformed and hormonally messed up as it is at that point. I just want to feel like myself again.
I know some women do not feel any identity crisis when they become mothers but I have, and reconciling all my roles means allowing time and energy to do things that are only for myself. That might take away from my time with my children. It might be selfish. It might just be one of those instances when selfishness is acceptable. Because I don’t want to be a victim. And I won’t allow myself any martyrdom. I hope my children won’t hate me too much, and they will see my point of view when they become parents themselves, when I hope they’ll feel empowered to choose the type of parenting that suits them best and not allow themselves to be crushed by someone else’s expectations.
Let’s wait and see how all this blows up in my face pretty soon. Because that’s how this ingrate parenting job always works, right?
Having kids changed my work ethic, but I don’t think I changed. As for reconciling feminism with motherhood, it’s all about choice, so whether you stay home or go back to work the day after you give birth, more power to your elbow!
I never felt like I had much choice. I felt desperately broken and unable to reconcile all the sides of my life. I don’t know. I generally can focus only on one thing at a time, and maybe that’s my problem.
I don’t recall having the sense that I wanted to get back to being myself after having kids because once I had my kids, I felt so irrevocably changed that it was clear there was no going back. There was no reconciling of the me before and the me after because the me from before was just…gone. Pregnancy and birth and parenting babies laid me bare and rebuilt me from scratch. And with as flawed as I am as a mother, I see myself as such an incredibly better person than I was before kids, I don’t even want to go back to being the person I was. (I sometimes would like to bring my pre-pregnancy abdominal muscles back, but that’s a different story.)
But this feeling of complete and total change, while it allows me to embrace motherhood and my identity as a mother while I’m here, carries with it a delayed anxiety. People assure me that once I’m a mother, I’m always a mother, but there will come a time when I have no children in my house anymore and I’ll have to look at myself again without the filter of my progeny. I’m afraid that I won’t like who I am without kids to care for. I’m afraid I won’t even know myself.
I wished I had such a clear sense of who I have become in motherhood. I suppose in my case the change that the first child brought was intensified by other big changes that took place in my life at that time, like the big move to US. But then how to explain that I don’t feel much different so many years later? Maybe it’s just nostalgia. As for the fear about the future, I know, it is a big one. It’s the fear brought on by retirement. But everyone in the end finds ways to fill the space and the time. Everything will be fine.
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