Recently I questioned if “motherhood” should best describe my lifestyle, despite my complexity as a woman and a human being; despite the societal pressure to not be happy as “just a mom.”
It’s a choice, yes. It’s something that happens, too. It’s a “role” we have, among possible other ones, like “partner” or “sister” or “writer.” But for me, motherhood has evolved far beyond the comparatively tidy descriptors of having given birth and raising children.
My expectations of motherhood weren’t that it would be easy or perfect, but somehow I still didn’t expect how difficult normal things would become. Grocery shopping, for instance, was once something I loved doing, and now it’s something I expect neck pains after.
Many everyday occurrences have become near-special occasions. Showers, drinking coffee before it gets cold, driving in the car with no one screaming — these are all activities that, post kids, take slight planning and endurance.
It’s also cliche true that nothing can prepare us for the sensations of love that becoming a parent gift. Yesterday my toddler was fussy and unhappy, so we got out of the house and ran an errand. She fell asleep in the car, and I let her nap a little, while I sat in our driveway on Twitter. When she awoke, we went inside, and my previously cranky toddler was happy. She was smiling. A lot. She was playing with me and doing things like crawling around in a downward-facing dog position shouting, “Look! I’m a lion, Mommy!” (Only it sounded like, “Yook! I’m a yion, Mommy!”) My heart melted and oozed and dispersed throughout my body into a warm, fuzzy feeling of euphoric love.
I’ve found the hardest part of being a parent has been continuing to positively develop my relationship with my husband outside of our current lifestyle of raising small children. To be fair, I was probably more arrogant than most that our relationship wouldn’t change much after welcoming kids into our lives, if only because we’ve been together since we were kids ourselves. We had already been through everything hard and challenging — or so I thought.
Maintaining my relationship with him is hard. We have to either consciously carve out “us” time by planning ahead for other people to be with our kids, or we have to actually stay awake and alert after they go to bed, instead of just collapsing into “Netflix and chill” mode.
More than just my relationship with my husband, my relationships with my friends and people in general have changed.
Wikipedia describes a lifestyle like this: “The term lifestyle can denote the interests, opinions, behaviors, and behavioral orientations of an individual, group, or culture.”
My “job” as a stay-at-home mother — my role as a parent, among these other roles I’ve collected and nurtured — has definitely influenced my interests, opinions and behaviors.
Merriam-Webster defines a lifestyle as “the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture.” Isn’t there a culture of motherhood? Of parenting?
There’s a serious reason the funny jokes parents make about wine, and needing showers, and toddlers interest us — we want to connect with others. We want to feel understood. We want to know our lives are being lived in a parallel way by others. We want to live nestled inside of a community while also being fully present in this often consuming space of parenting little kids.
Being a mom is my lifestyle right now.
When people ask what I do, if I say “writer,” I get a lot of follow-up questions and quizzical looks. However, when I say “mom” I get mostly soft, understanding nods as a response. Perhaps it’s possible for anyone who has ever been a parent to understand at least a fraction of who we are immediately, even if women, mothers, families and people are always unique and complex.
My lifestyle is complex.
My kids are complex.
After having my second child, it really hit me how profoundly individual and special we all are, right from birth. As an identical twin with, sure, many similarities, but also many differences from my “identical” sister, I already knew first-hand that truly no two people are alike. Yet the clear, wonderful differences of these two tiny ladies my husband and I are raising underneath our roof have inspired me to be fair as a parent, while also recognizing that people, and kids, have individualized needs and care requirements.
We should try to understand people through who they are, through their unique life experiences, and not through merely our shared ones. I’m trying to teach my kids to embrace individuality, and that being different is special and wondrous.
It’s equally interesting to me to witness other women, and mothers, battle each other. It frightens me, especially as I bring up two females, to see how women can seemingly get off on tearing one another down — fighting over the definition of what a “mother” is, or how alike and dissimilar stay-at-home “versus” working moms are.
I can’t help but be curious.
I can’t help but ask, what if we saw our current lives as parents with small children as lifestyles — if we could find where our lives overlap, connect and unite, rather than where jagged lines separate us?