10/31/2013 10:26 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Motherhood Did Not Change Me, It Made Me

Carin Kilby Clark

A few days ago I was chatting with a few friends and we ended up talking about motherhood. We talked about how children take over your life, and one of the ladies discussed how she is childless by choice; having grown up with several siblings and realizing early on that being a mom was not the path she wanted to take. Without a second thought, I quickly blurted out "oh yea, I could totally picture my life without children!" One of the other moms responded: "No, I can't. Having my children changed me. I can't imagine life without them."

I do love my kids
After that conversation I started to reflect. About the path of a young mom, versus one that becomes a mother at a later age. Don't get me wrong, I love my three children from here to the moon and beyond. They are my life. Literally. Every single thing I do is fueled by my desire for my children -- either to escape their grasp for a few hours, to provide them with a new experience, or to share in our fond memories -- and every motivation that exists within me is attributable to my drive to create a better life for my children; while also showing them how to build their own bright futures.

However, I would be lying if I said I don't often fantasize about what it would be like to have a life without children. You see, I became a mother for the first time at the age of 17. And since you are pregnant for 10 months before the little miracle goes live (whoever said it was nine months should be smacked), and the motherhood journey truly begins the moment that test is positive, I have factually been a mom since I was a 16-year-old girl. Who I am as an adult, who I am as a person, is all connected to that single most important fact of my life: I am a mom.

My imagination runs wild
I imagine that becoming a mother at a later age would have been so cool. I could have gone to college straight out of high school. Earned a graduate degree soon after, and then started my career. I would've met my husband in college and we would have worked our ways to the top of our fields, while traveling the world and checking off the experiences on our bucket lists. Once we had thoroughly lived every inch of our late 20s/early 30s, we would've considered slowing down and having a family. At that point, my children would become an extension of my well-lived life. They would become a new perspective, a different motivator, and a joyous way to see life from another angle.

The reality
My life as a young mother is the total opposite of what I described above. Once I had my first child, I ceased to be an individual. I had started a family. Without a clue what I was going to do with my life, I was faced with the monumental responsibility of having to take care of this other little person. I have traveled plenty, and spent lots of fun nights out with the girls, but it's never without preparation. Who is going to watch the kids, what time I have to drop them off, and lots of check-in calls in-between. I don't have a life that doesn't include my children and as an adult, I never have. They are not now, nor have they ever been, an extension of my life or a change to my previous circumstances. They are the core of my being and I don't know any other way to exist.

Motherhood did not change me, it made me
Being a mother is not another role I embody; it is THE role of my life. Everything I am, and everything I have, is because I am a mom. Motherhood did not change me, it made me. It has fueled my career choices, my determination to get a higher education, and my passion for supporting parents and families. Motherhood revealed my path. Motherhood paved the way. Motherhood made me who I am.

So, since I have no idea what it would be like to live a life without children, I often fantasize about the things I could've done or the person I might have been. But at the end of the day, I know that there are no mistakes -- I am exactly who I am meant to be. A mother. Always have been, and always will be.

Carin shares stories about family, life, parenting and relationships on her personal blog: Memoirs of a Clueless Woman.