Before I had kids, if you'd asked me what kind of mom I'd be some day, chances are I would have simply answered, "A good one." Oh sure, given enough thought, I could have gotten more specific. I would be a mom of two funny, well-behaved, well-dressed little people -- a girl and a boy, of course. But the truth of the matter is, I just knew I wanted a couple sweet little babies to brighten up my world. And we'd be so very lucky to have each other.
Once I was pregnant, though, I quickly realized it's not that simple. The most well-meaning people start flinging categories and labels at you from the second you see a plus sign (or don't, for that matter). You're either a mom-to-be who finds out the sex or doesn't. Months later, you're a laboring mom who wants drugs or doesn't. Hours later, you're a mom who believes breast is best or doesn't. Months later, you're a mom who chooses your baby over your career or doesn't. It all comes so quickly, and you can't help but feel that these decisions are the ones that will define what kind of mother you are.
It's all rather laughable, though. Knowing now -- nine years into my motherhood journey -- what I thought my reality would be versus... well, reality.
The first week of motherhood alone knocked any sense of control I had right out from under me. For starters, I was the unapologetic pregnant woman who wanted drugs for the pain -- the more, the better. Only something went wrong with the epidural, and it only worked on half my body. The bad news? It takes both sides of your body to birth a baby. Things were looking up, though, when I was told my baby boy had the best latch in the hospital. But, when we discovered the well was devastatingly bone dry, that sweet little latcher was going to starve to death if I didn't feed him the formula formally known as poison. Yes, within one utterly exhausting, trying week, I wasn't just a mom, I was one of those moms.
The next huge decision I had to make -- though it didn't really feel like a decision at the time -- would turn me into a formula-feeding, nanny-employing, full-time-working, have-to-leave-the-office-by-five mom.
It seemed being able to categorize me made life a bit simpler to navigate for other women (not to mention myself) as they tried to figure out how they measured up in this strange new world of motherhood. It wasn't mean-spirited, I don't think. Just human nature. Goodness knows I played the game too. I envied, judged and related to different types of moms at every turn.
As time ticked on, I picked up more labels -- some of them heavier than others. Daycare-drop-off mom. Mom of boys (note: the plural in this label can be very upsetting to the general public). NICU mom. Part-time-working mom. Mom of a preschooler. Mom blogger. Allergy mom. Mom of two on bed rest. Mom of three (note: the fact that the third was a girl was a huge relief to the general public). Unemployed mom. Mom of a kindergartener. Bus-stop mom. Mom without a dad. Mompreneur. Early-start-program mom. Soccer (and baseball and basketball and ballet) mom. Class mom. Social media mom. Minivan-driving mom. Seasoned mom.
Honestly, there's no limit to the types of mom I am -- or have been along the way. Because motherhood and family life are more fluid than I could ever have imagined. The only thing that doesn't change (besides the constant changing), it seems, is how head-over-heels in love I am with my children, my family.
Over the years, I've come to learn a very important truth. No matter what label I'm wearing at any given moment, if you ask me what kind of mom I am, there's only one answer that matters: "A good one." Because even on the days I'm a forgetful mom, an impatient mom or an exhausted mom, my kids and me are so very lucky to have each other.
Amy Heinz is a San Francisco Bay Area mom of three and the writer behind Using Our Words -- a parenting blog filled with lessons she's learned (usually the hard way), laughs she's enjoyed (mostly at her own expense), and tears she's shed (this mama's got heart). You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
A version of this post originally appeared in the Mosaic of Motherhood Series on Centering Down.