Growing up, my best friend and I loved to daydream about our future. We’d be married with a bunch of kids living in a huge house all together — because what preteens don’t think the idea of a 24/7 sleepover sounds amazing? Even at a young age I yearned for a mother role, and was excited about a family-oriented future with children which, in my mind, was supposed to kickstart around age 26.
As I got older and followed my career dreams I was invested in that future. Despite the fact that I had been with my husband since college, we didn’t get married until I was 29. Even then, with my head full of ideas of starting a family, I didn’t feel quite ready. I still enjoyed my freedom to go out with friends whenever I pleased, and my baby desires were overshadowed by traveling abroad and enjoying a night out without having to coordinate my schedule around someone else’s needs.
Living in NYC where many women are career-focused or hold off on having kids, I still had plenty of friends who weren’t starting families any time soon. I wasn’t thinking about what joy I’d get from having kids; I was more concerned about the FOMO I’d feel from missing out on life once I had them.
At age 31 it was my husband who encouraged us to really focus on a conversation about when to start a family, especially if we wanted to have the large family we always dreamed about. I admit I was slightly ambivalent to give up “my freedom.” But I was so grateful for the decision once I was pregnant, and having my son was the best thing ever. Once he was born I didn’t want to miss a single minute of holding him or watching him grow; it pained me to think about missing a milestone.
While some friends of mine were eager to get back to work or bored by baby classes, I relished baby yoga and ran all over the city trying new music or gym classes for infants. When I went back to work after 7 months of maternity leave, I was upset that my nanny got to enjoy these activities, and I complained that she would be able to watch him develop his crawling skills instead of me.
Within a few weeks I quit my job and I have loved being a stay-at-home mom. I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed my career trajectory or a part of myself at all. “It can be an unforeseen relief to go from a high-powered job where one is more extrinsically motivated – for example, where productivity is measured by transactional successes and external validation,” explains Sloan Post, LMSW, a perinatal psychotherapist, “to a stay-at-home mom where one might be more intrinsically motivated by supporting their child’s daily accomplishments.”
That isn’t to say I don’t find it exhausting at times. But overall, having it be the staple of my identity doesn’t bother me, as it does for others. Instead, I feel as though my identity is finally complete; like a part of me that I always desired, but had forgotten about, has resurfaced and is ready for action.
I love caregiving, and “wearing all the hats” involved with being a mom, such as essentially becoming a chef or teacher or crafts-leader for a little one. I don’t mind that the majority of my conversations are about my son, and the fulfillment I feel from watching him participate in activities makes me so happy as a mom.
While some women favor having a separate identity and appreciate having their jobs as a place to give them another focus, I don’t miss having deadlines or stressful partners at all. I can appreciate why these other moms feel the way they do, but I personally know it’s not where I want to be — at least not right now. I do freelance work to keep myself stimulated in other ways, and it allows me the flexibility to balance mom responsibilities. In fact, I have another baby coming in a couple of months and admittedly, while I’m nervous about juggling two kids, I have full confidence that I’m going to still love embracing my Mommy-Title.
I recently circled back with my best friend, the one I used to dream about being a co-mom with, and she admitted she felt a small loss of identity. I was surprised because I know she loves being a mom and is passionate about her career with kids. She shared that recently when she was driving alone, she literally couldn’t think of anything to listen to other than Disney songs. She was baffled that she couldn’t remember what else she used to enjoy.
On the flip side, when I’m driving with my son I always listen to an audiobook or the pop music that I’ve always loved, and luckily my toddler doesn’t know there is even a world where children’s music could be played. So in the end, perhaps my old identity still shines through, not completely lost in the waves of motherhood.