Monday, June 29, 2009

How does one lose oneself?

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.


  1. I totally agree with your post here. I have thought many of these things myself, and you worded them so well!

  2. You can lose yourself even if you don't intend to. I have difficulty "finding myself" still - because I'm a "Mom", I will be a slave to my children for the rest of my natural life - and their children. You drop everything when the kids need you, you don't have a life without them (even after they leave the nest).

  3. Why would I want a life without them? Been there, done that, got to know myelf intimately, wasn't terribly impressed. Almost half my life is over, and aside from parenthood, I still don't have a dream or direction that's soooo important that I'd be upset at its loss.

    Maybe my age makes the difference. You were a lot younger when you had your firstborn. You didn't spend years'n'years'n'years spinning your wheels with no real raison d'etre beforehand.

  4. Hi'ya! I'm just finding your blog, and have read through the archives. It really allows me to understand everything you've been going through better than I did before. Thank you for keeping it! It is very enlightening. =) I'm actually thinking of starting my own blog to talk about my journey through infertility. In any case, I hope you've continued to heal and feel better! Talk to you soon! Mandy

  5. I'm playing blog catch up, so am late on the commenting, but I don't think age is the key factor. I started having children at twenty and never felt as though I "lost" myself. I have a lot more freedom to enjoy interests outside of the children as they grow older, but they are still the priority. If anything, I "find" myself more through seeing the world through their eyes. It's always so much more beautiful than through my own. Children don't have to mean losing your dreams, they just mold them into something a little different but usually better. :-)