Last week, as I was doing my hair before heading out for a girls' night, I was venting to my husband about how stressed I was over some upcoming work deadlines.
"Just try to forget about it," he wisely suggested, "so you can actually have a good time tonight."
When the night was over and I felt way more relaxed, I realized I had no trouble taking his advice; I simply took the burden of deadlines that was weighing on my shoulders and placed it on a shelf, to be forgotten until the next morning.
And that's when it occurred to me why becoming a mom really changes everything.
Let me explain.
The moment I learned I was pregnant with my first child, I knew my life was about to change completely, but the reality was even more upending than I expected. From big things like the size of my heart (which quadrupled the moment my son was born) to little things like my much-earlier dinner time, life would never be the same.
And here's why:
Because while I can go out for the occasional girls' night and leave my work-related cares behind me, my role as mom is one that I simply cannot turn off, no matter what.
No matter where I am or who I'm with, I am now always first and foremost a mom.
With all of my other identities -- writer, daughter, friend, citizen -- there's an off switch. That's not to say that I forget about those roles, or that they're mere performances. It's just that when I want or need my focus to be elsewhere, I can make it happen, at least for a time.
But answering to "Mommy?" That one just can't be put on a shelf. I can't put it aside, or flip the off switch. I'm physically unable to.
(Side note: The only other role that even comes close? That of spouse. And I'm working on elevating that one even higher.)
So, what does it mean? It means that...
- When I'm negotiating a work contract, I'm a mom.
- When I'm writing an article, I'm a mom.
- When I'm on a date with my husband, I'm a mom (which is markedly evident by the fact that we need to schedule date nights, as you don't need to do that before you become a mom!).
- When I'm at the doctor's office, I'm a mom.
- When I'm chatting with a friend about recipe ideas or TV shows or sales on shoes, I'm a mom.
Similarly, my responsibility as a mother is now my top consideration when making almost every decision, no matter how big or small.
Work full-time or part-time?
Live here or there?
Fancy restaurant or kid-friendly chain?
Go to that party or skip it?
White or wheat?
It seems I can't make it through a five-minute span without considering how it will affect my offspring!
And that is why becoming a mom truly changes everything, in a way that other big life events -- switching jobs, moving across the country and in some cases even getting married -- simply doesn't. Because, of all the identities we have, of all the roles we play from sunrise to sunset, "mom" is the one we carry with us no matter what the situation.
This post originally appeared on the blog Pick Any Two.