I have a question. What do people mean when, in response to learning I'm about to become a mom, they warn me, "Don't lose yourself!"?
Or when, like I've read in certain books and blogs, women lament that motherhood has caused them to lose themselves?
I guess these people perceive the road to self-growth and personal success to be Identity Indicator #1, and that setting aside a career or a dream in order to take care of one's children is an enormous, irreplaceable sacrifice.
I dunno. I'm not a parent yet, so maybe I have no ground to stand on. But it seems to me that if someone feels they've lost their entire sense of identity by becoming parents... well, they're doing it wrong.
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They must be assuming that identity is a static thing. Or, worse, identity is how others perceive you, rather than how you perceive yourself. I suspect these people have not finished becoming comfortable with themselves before having children. They must feel they 'lose themselves' because they never finished the struggle to 'find themselves' in the first place.
I'm pretty sure that if you find yourself, and you realize that you're not static, and that that's okay, then 'losing yourself' becomes a moot point. You're still yourself! You've just shifted a bit. Your priorities have changed; your daily schedule has changed; the music you listen to involves clapping your hands and wheels on the bus; the books you read have pictures in them; you can now become exhausted without ever leaving the house.
But it's still you.
What's interesting is when childless friends give me this warning. Or, even worse, childless people who I barely know! I can see why my friends might be unnerved - they've grown to like the married, childless version of me over the years, and they're afraid that mommyhood will consume me like a vampire and turn me into somebody barely recognizable as my old self.
To that I say: so what? You know, I changed a lot when I got married, too. Most of my friends at that time moved on as soon as I got married, and that's fine. If they felt that we had less in common while I had a husband in tow, that's their decision to make. I kept the good friends and I made more.
I changed a lot when I graduated from college, too. I experienced a series of successes and failures that made me feel like a boat tossed about in an ocean storm. Although I took in some water, I eventually came out safely and closer to my destination, although I can't say I was quite the same person.
For that matter, I changed a lot from high school to college too.
Maybe I'm just exceptionally accustomed to change. Maybe I had to 'find myself' on a tighter schedule than most people. Or maybe I'm just one of the rare folks who made it into my late thirties without either a child or a high-powered career, and now I'm having a child without having to give up a high-powered career. Maybe the 'self' I have to 'lose' is less significant than these friends and acquaintances imagine.
And maybe it's none of their business... ya think?!.... and I'm perfectly capable of being a totally devoted mommy whose life revolves around her son because I knowingly and willingly make it so, and trust me, I'll have it all under control. (Well, as much as 'control' can be a factor in parenthood. I'm no dictator; I don't have the personality for it. But I'm also not in danger of whatever terrifying thing that 'losing oneself' supposedly leads to.)
So don't worry! I can't lose myself. I'm right here.