Independent as a Mother

maintaining independence as a mother
Image: Pexels

About three months ago, I had a baby. I’ve written some posts about what that’s meant to me. To us. I hope these words mean something to you, whether you’re a parent or not. If I’ve learned one thing over the past 10+ weeks, it’s that being a parent is just like any other major life event. It depletes you. Challenges you. And then, all at once, life starts to move on again, and it’s up to you to make sense of the mess all this change has left behind. And what a privilege this lovely mess has been.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for reading.

What happens when you spend 30 years figuring out who you are and nine months stitching together someone else?

All those hours of therapy, quiet moments (my god, the hours) of self-reflection, the easy escape to drinks or movies or books. What happens when all that’s cut away in a matter of 13 and a half minutes?

What happens when, after 30 years of carving out your independence, another life comes first?

I was 31 when I found out I was pregnant with Jude. 31 and ecstatic. After all, does anyone really know what it’s like to be a parent before two strange nurses wheel in a cart carrying a tiny, squirming ball of flannel and leave it next to you like a dessert tray of responsibility?

All of the sudden, those nurses are gone (don’t worry, they’ll be back every two to three hours to blast you with overhead lights, usually after your broken body has just fed and quieted said strange bundle), and they’ve left you with a revolutionized idea of pain, priorities, and, above all, modesty.

In between those moments of blaring lights and doctor’s rounds, I found myself balanced precariously between the deep love everyone expounds about in Instagram posts flooded with natural light (GUILTY) and the question vibrating off my skull: “What have we done?

I’m ten-ish weeks into being a parent, and it hasn’t suddenly turned me into the best version of myself. Many times, I’m at my worst  — usually around 3:00 AM when my bundle of joy turns my well-meaning breast into a punching bag. In these moments, I wonder where those 30 years of hard-fought independence have gone.

But, of course, they remain.

I find them when I carve out time to write with a sleeping babe strapped to my chest. I find them in my ability to ask for help when I need it. I find them when I challenge my child to a cry-off and win so soundly he should feel embarrassed. And I find them when I give myself grace, acceptance, and forgiveness for messing up.

These moments are quieter. And I feel the distinct pressure to write them off as somehow less empowering or important than milestones in my career. But they are not.

The truth is, when I’m stripped down to my most bare and broken — in the early hours of the morning, clutching my child and wondering how the hell things change so fast — I’m amazed that I feel those roots I worked so hard to cultivate.

I have value that wraps around my heart, self-trust that climbs up my spine, and understanding branded into my skin.

Becoming a parent didn’t turn me into a mother earth figure who’s steadfastly calm and innately nurturing. There are times when my son is fussy and my first instinct is to hand him off to my partner. I am not suddenly a bottomless well of patience. I still bite my nails and curse too much. And my little boy has already sat through more episodes of “The Bachelor” than most self-respecting adults.

But none of that diminishes my independence. None of it makes me lesser. There is wholeness in looking at yourself truthfully and honoring what you see. And when I look at myself lately, I see someone who’s independent as a mother.