“So, do you do anything else, or are you just a mom?”
Those were the words that came from a fellow woman’s mouth that left me feeling smaller than I’d ever felt before. She didn’t know I was struggling with postpartum depression, or grasping for the remnants of my old self. Or that for 2 ½ years straight I’d put myself on the back-burner to focus on being the best mom I could be. Or how much those words felt like a punch in the gut. In no way did I blame her for asking a seemingly simple question, but I went on to ask myself…am I just a mom? When was the last time I did something for myself? Who am I other than a mother and wife?
My lack of an answer shook me to my core. It wrecked me for weeks. I felt like a failure to the person I had been just a handful of years ago; a coffee-addicted, rum-drinking, solo-traveling, poetry-writing college student.
I was ushered into motherhood by way of a surprise pregnancy. After our first was born, I planned for a lot, but wasn’t prepared for the loss of self and isolation associated with being a new mom. We had our second baby 18 months later, this time planned. In between all of that, I worked as a nanny (brought my oldest to work with me), a waitress (struggling with pumping in the employee bathroom, pregnant, and desperate to be home), and finally landing at stay-at-home mama (easy at first, but reality quickly set in).
In an episode of “This is Us”, there’s a scene that resonated so well with me that I began crying silently while I watched it. The mother—after being a stay-at-home parent for years—says, to her husband during a fight:
“I have no life! I have zero life, Jack. I am a housewife to three teenagers who do not need me anymore, and I have a husband who waltzes in every night at 8 o’clock, if I’m lucky, goes to the kitchen, recaps his day for me and then passes out upstairs at 10 o’clock. I have no life. I am a freaking ghost.”
I AM A GHOST. I finally heard someone else put into words my feelings associated with being a stay-at-home mom. There is a misconception that struggling as a parent means you resent having kids. For me, this cannot be more false. It’s a privilege to stay home with my kiddos, but I never realized it would lead to a loss of identity.
Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve tackled. It’s led me down a path of self-discovery which I am beyond grateful for. I’ve had open communication with my husband and been given an amazing amount of support from him, my family, and friends.
I’ve had the opportunity to focus on things we enjoy, made healthy life changes, and I make sure I find a few moments daily to do something I enjoy…exploring bookstores, writing, crafting, anything that involves self-care.
For those unfamiliar with these struggles, though, I just want to say: I am still me. I like to be asked how I am before being asked how my kids are. I adore having time with my husband without the kids around. I like to do things alone. I’m still an independent person. Moms…dads…you are NOT alone in these feelings. You are valid, and I see you as so much more than “just”.