Look, I have a pretty simple response to the idea that we “lose ourselves” in motherhood and Matthew McConaughey does a pretty concise job of explaining it for me:
“It’s bullshit Carrie, and you know it.”
I mean, there are a lot of articles out there about how we lose ourselves as mothers; how we struggle to find ourselves again once our children are no longer infants. I have read some really brilliantly funny articles about the layers of mothering that crowd into our pre-children self.
The new self that walks around with baby sick on our shoulders and hair that used to be washed twice a day now once every few days. And the self that doesn’t have the same ideas, friendships, work ethic as before. Some improved (working with a newfound drive and purpose?); others a little shaken down (ideas about perfect parenting may be a myth after all).
So, we wonder: Who am I now, other than ‘mum’?
But then I actually thought about it and I gave myself a massive slap and realized that this was a total construct! Or, thank you Matthew, for saying it like it is: total bullshit.
I haven’t lost any part of my Self by becoming a mother.
Unquestionably, I have lost the chance to go out, hang around not-so-salubrious venues, to sleep in until my head has stopped pounding. I have lost some of the murky and vague way I used to view my “future,” which is now quite brightly lit by the four people I am watching change daily.
But what has happened to make us think that motherhood obliterates the self? Motherhood is just part of us ― albeit, admittedly, in these early years of intense parenting, a fairly large part of our self.
There is a whole narrative around the idea that our selves are waiting to be rediscovered, away from our parenthood.
But there is a fundamental problem in the notion that we should somehow be able to envision of ourselves as separate from being a mum when, in fact, being a mum is a facet of ourselves that we shouldn’t need to try and shrug off in a journey to self discovery.
Priorities definitely shift. Our ideas about the world ― or on a more minor scale, our ideas around what constitutes a good Saturday night ― definitely change. But our self is as there as ever, welded to motherhood and not any lesser because of it.
In fact, not to rely on Matthew McConaughey and his calling bullshit ideas too heavily, but I would go a step further, to say that my self is even more evident now that I’m a mum. Because I have a pretty good reason ― or, four good reasons ― to ignore any fakery or facade. Four good reasons to be me, loudly me, just a me that is a little more tired than before.
Hannah J is themumandthemom. Follow me on Twitter @themumandthemom , or find me blogging at themumandthemom.com