This is a question that constantly fluttered in my mind throughout my pregnancy, and one I asked myself many times after giving birth. It’s a difficult one to answer and I would assume that every mother has a slightly different answer.
It’s a question I am interested in exploring almost two years after the cataclysmic event – though I would also assume my answer may change as the years go on.
There are so many articles online and in print about this and it’s also the subject of many slots on daytime tv chat shows. Man, I’m so glad Netflix was around by the time I went on maternity leave or I would have wiled away far too many hours watching such shite.
To explore the question, one has to delve into the exact meaning of personal identy, as well as explore the actual meaning of motherhood and the fundamentals around. Are you on board?
The definition of identity is probably completely subjective. It can encompass many different things according to different people, and more importantly, it changes. It evolves.
Who you are is not a permanent, unmoving thing.
Haven’t you ever pulled a Madonna and completely remade yourself at one point or another? Haven’t you ever looked back at who you were ten years ago and thought ‘sheesh’?
I certainly have.
However, the core of me remains the same. I am today who I fundamentally was at 17, but my identity has changed a lot and in so many different ways.
Which leads me to conclude that a person’s sense of self is influenced by so many exterior things.
What makes you who you are?
A few things that I think make up one’s identity and have the power to alter or influence that identity are:
- Family relations
- Your occupation
- Emotional journeys
- Your likes and dislikes
- Your passions, your interests
- How you feel about yourself
- Pain and emotional trauma
I would say that having a child impacts on every single thing on this list. And can also be the cause for the last ones.
So with this in mind, I think that motherhood does absolutely change your identity. It is all-consuming and it’s very easy to lose yourself in the wake of the cataclysm. However, I do believe this is not the same for everyone and I also believe that your identity is not irretrievable.
It’s possible to claim back, isn’t it?
It’s most probably a hugely feminist issue, to discuss motherhood and how it impacts the woman and her sense of identity. As a woman who is not terribly clued up on the ins and outs of modern feminism and its intricacies, I would venture to say that reducing a woman’s identity to mother is despicable and not something any woman I know would stand by.
It does change who you are and how you live your life yes, but does it become everything you are? Of course not.
But is it possible to go on as you were? Do and be everything you did/were before having that baby?
I’m not so sure.
I think this would greatly depend on your circumstances. It’s easier to imagine a woman of unlimited financial means living just as she did before, after having a baby. This is if she has full time help and as I said, unlimited funds to spend on her body, wardrobe and leisure. But would her emotions not have changed? Would her core not be shook by the arrival of her own flesh and blood? Surely.
It must depend on culture too.
So just how much does motherhood change you?
In the name of research, I read some 800 quotes on motherhood by everyone from authors to actors, to politicians and philanthropists, just to get a comprehensive perspective and was fascinated to find a complete range of pictures of motherhood.
One particular quote which made me weep was “Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”
― Jodi Picoult
This resonated with me as I have felt this many times when cuddling my child, feeling like he is an extension of my own body. I will probably feel this less and less as he gets older but for now, it’s an intoxicating, terrifying sense of unity. And identity. Who he is is who I am.
His achievements, his pains, his fears, his tears, his smiles – they all are mine too. So he is as much part of my identity as my fears, my achievements and my passions. He is all of them!
It took about a year after he was born to start feeling ‘myself’ again, but I was aware that whilst I had regained my identity in some respects (my fashion sense returned as did my ability to talk about other things, my interests in other things, my sense of humour, my social life, my career, my friendships, etc) my identity was still fundamentally different to what it was before.
I was now Zachariah’s mummy – along with all the other things I still was.
An essential component of my own identity.
I would be so interested in other mum’s opinions and stories on this subject if anyone reading would like to share in the comments. You’re most welcome.