I wrote this draft post in March but forgot all about it until today, when I came across something on Twitter that got me thinking about roles and whether “Mother” is a defining one.
Basically someone was asking, in a way which clearly indicated where their own personal feelings lay on the matter, why some people feel the need to have “mama/wife/mum of two” etc on their Twitter bios.
In the interests of full disclosure, this is my Twitter bio:
So clearly I come down on the other side of the fence on this one. Although, you may have also noticed my bio has an element of “tongue in cheek” about it so is perhaps not to be viewed as me making a statement, so much as me struggling to sum up 28.5 years of existence in a couple of lines.
Similarly, there’s no way I could limit my opinion to 140 characters either (when can I ever?!) so I decided to dig out this old blog post and publish it, unaltered (aside from a couple of typos!) and here it is:
I think it’s widely suggested, if not necessarily agreed upon, that parenthood has the ability to, at least temporarily, if not permanently alter, blur, or let’s face it, completely obliterate one’s identity.
For me, and I really can only speak for myself here, it started when I got pregnant. I’m sure, in fact I know, there are people out there who conceive babies and grow fat whilst still continuing with all their usual activities. Ok, maybe they stop eating veiny cheese and switch to alcohol-free beer, but generally, whatever they were into before, be it hiking, socialising, live music, running, working themselves to the point of exhaustion in their jobs, rock-climbing, they carry on with it all once pregnant. Ok, maybe not so much with the rock-climbing. But you see where I’m going I think.
I was not one of those people. For me, it wasn’t that everything else ceased to exist, it existed, but it suddenly wasn’t important (to me). All I could talk or think about was the fact that I was growing a human being inside of me. I honestly could not quite believe it, and I suppose if we’re delving into my fragile pysche here (hell, why not) there was probably some part of me that thought that if I did stop talking or thinking about it for a minute, then maybe it would cease to be. A previous miscarriage can do that to a person. But regardless of the why’s or wherefores, that was me, for 38 whole weeks and 1 day. I’m sure anyone who had to spend any iota of time with me during those 9 months will vouch for what a thrill it was. A laugh a minute.
Ok, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. I did watch films, and I did read books, although I really really struggled to finish any, for the first time in my entire life, my concentration was so bad, I’d read a paragraph and then have to go back and read it again. And yes I did go to see Nine Inch Nails about half way through my pregnancy, and I did go on holiday just a few weeks before giving birth, although only to hole up in a quaint little cottage in Whitby where I slept late, ate fudge, drank tea, read Dracula (all the way through!) and walked on the beach.
I did see the world around me, I just felt slightly separate from it, seeing it differently now I was bringing a little person of my own DNA into it.
I also felt differently about myself. I don’t mean because I was incredibly rotund (and I really was)
I actually loved (most of) the changes in my body. But I began to feel differently about me as a person, my personality, my traits, my choices, I started to wonder (some might say, a little late) if I was really someone who should be a parent, who could be a mother. So I looked to society and the images I saw told me this-
Mothers are: married, financially stable although financially dependent on others (confusing much?) endlessly patient, selfless, and sensible. They dress in a way that allows them to blend in, becoming almost invisible, their homes are clean, and tidy and beige, very very beige.
For my unmarried, financially messy, full time employed, impatient, selfish, silly self who dressed like an emo and could never be arsed with housework beyond the bare basics, and detested beige with as much passion as one can detest something so dull, it was bad news. Really bad news.
So I did what anyone in my shoes might do. I got a new pair. For the first time in our (at that point 5 year relationship) I freaked the fuck out about us not being married- although seemingly not enough to actually do anything about it 😉 and we moved into a house where the rent cost about half as much to save money. I cleaned and tidied in a way I never had before, finding myself heavily pregnant stood on a breakfast bar reaching up to dust a light fitting for example. I also cut my (very long) hair (*sob*) and tried (in vain I might add) to dress in a way I thought that someone about to pop a baby out of their vagina might. Because any smart girl knows that in order to play the part, you first have to look the part.
Then I actually did pop a baby out, and discovered that no amount of beige in the world was going to save me. Faking it wasn’t going to work, I was a mother and I’d have to figure out how to be one as I went along, and rely on this tiny little critter to help me work it out.
Thankfully, when he was tiny, who I was, or what I was about, didn’t matter because all he required was sleep and milk and more milk and then some more milk, and we both spent a lot of time in the house, in our pyjamas, attached to one another, emotionally and physically. It was really as he grew and as I stepped out more often into society as this new person, this new mother, that I began to question again: What was my role? Where was the person I’d been and who was I now? Especially when I went back to work, and people were acting like I was the exact same Rebecca I’d been when I walked off the unit 10 months before. Couldn’t they see? I wondered, that I was a different person entirely?! But was it that I was a different person? Or was I the same old me but improved and with accessories? Had I lost myself? Or found myself?
For the record, I still don’t know, and even now as mother of two small boys, I struggle to come up with the answers.
Being a mother is definitely a huge and defining part of my life, and when asked to describe myself and my life it’s often one of the first words that pops out of my mouth. Maybe people will say it shouldn’t be so, and that in allowing it to be, I’m losing my own identity and what makes me me. I’d have to disagree though. We’re all, to some extent, defined by the roles we play and our relationships to others. I could tell you lots of stuff about myself, and what makes me tick, that doesn’t involve my children, and if you’re around me for any length of time I will, quite happily, but when it comes to summarising, I tend to list the roles I play in this funny show called life and often I’ll start with “Mum” because that’s a big fucking role, and I’ll be damned if I aint getting some credit for it.