I remember very clearly, as recently as five years ago, I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get the women I saw around me, in person, on social media, anywhere really, who were primarily defining themselves as mother’s. I didn’t get how a smart, educated woman would list her top accomplishment in life as being a mother. I thought these women lacked ambition. I thought these women were settling for less. If I’m being totally honest, I felt sorry for these women. In reality, I should have felt sorry for myself.
I knew at that point in my life that I wanted a child. So it wasn’t the whole “motherhood” thing that I didn’t understand. What I had trouble wrapping my head around was the concept that of all of the other impressive things these women had done in their lives, they were saying that the best and most important accomplishment was becoming and being a mother to a child or children. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated that being a mother and having to take care of a tiny person was important and wasn’t easy, but I knew these women and knew their degrees and their resumes, and I just didn’t understand how or why they would chose to define themselves so stereotypically – or so I thought at the time. I naively thought that when I had a child, while I would make that a role a top priority and it would be important, I would still want to define myself as something other than a mother.
This amazing little person changed me. Suddenly the most important thing about me became that I am her mother, and I am happy and proud of that fact. Yes, I have a law degree from a well ranked (and expensive I might add) law school. Yes, I have what some might consider an important job doing important work that helps the American people. But that’s just something I have, and what I do. It’s not who I am, and I am grateful for that. My accomplishments and my career are nothing compared to this little girl’s smile and hugs. My ability to be there fore her comes before everything else, sorry American people, if she gets sick and needs cuddles, you have to wait.
I realize there is truth to the statement that you can’t understand until you have a child of your own, and that it’s not meant to be condescending. It just is true, until you take on the responsibility of ensuring the health, happiness, and well being of a small person who is totally dependent on you – whether it’s by giving birth, adopting, fostering, etc. – you just cannot fully understand the magnitude of the task or how it will actually affect you. I’m not trying to say that I think all women who become mothers feel the way I now do, or that they should. What I am saying is that I had no way to understand these women I saw because I wasn’t a mother yet. I had no way to know how being a mother would affect me, because I wasn’t a mother yet.
Five years ago I knew I wanted to be a mother, but I didn’t really know the person I wanted to be. Five years ago if someone had posed the hypothetical choice of being the most powerful and influential person in the world or being a mother, I would have imagined that I would at least have an internal debate and hesitate before responding. Now, without pause or hesitation I would say mother – and let’s be honest, being a mother makes you the most powerful and influential person in at least one little person’s world.
So no, at 31 I am not the woman I imagined myself being. I am better than the person I think I would have otherwise been. I am better because she makes me better. She showed me who I am, and who I can be. She showed me my passions and interests. She makes me brave to try new things. And for that I am grateful and honored to have this little girl call me mommy, even at 4:30am.