Saturday, April 25, 2009

You is Mommy

There is a cliche saying that having kids changes everything. And it does. In many ways that you can anticipate, but in some that you don't. I can't even tell you how many of my friends, preparing for their first child, I've warned. And they don't really believe me. On some level they do, certainly. But not entirely. I'm sure that I didn't believe it either. Every single aspect of life changes forever the moment that little person is placed in your arms for the first time.

Motherhood brings with it many challenges, and one of the hardest to confront is the complete transformation of your identity. Before having kids, you are a woman with her own friends, with a social life, with career ambitions, with a name. After kids, you are a mom. First and foremost, and above all other titles, interests, hobbies or ambitions, you are a mom.

When I first had Aidan, and even Ashley, I didn't really realize how much my identity had changed. I was still Kelly, I just had a couple kids. They called me mom, but everyone else still addressed me by my own name. Until Aidan started in his preschool program. It was only then that I realized that my first name would forever be secondary to "Aidan's mom". That teachers, other kids and the vast majority of the other moms I would come in contact with for the rest of my mothering life would refer to me first as so-and-so's mom. That my identity, my personality, my interests and ambitions were not the first thing that people learned about me anymore. They got to know me through my kids.

It's something that takes a bit of time to get used to. Especially, if like me, you always pictured yourself somehow simultaneously having kids and a fabulous career. Balancing everything. I know that I never imagined myself as a stay at home mom. I always thought I'd be that working woman, with a life completely separate from home. With friends that I could still talk about grown-up things with. With important work-related decisions and deadlines. I thought wrong. Life didn't end up that way for us, but being home is a good place to be. I can't lie and say that losing my identity didn't take some getting used to.

Moving to Colorado only enhanced the issue. Not knowing anyone here for any length of time, and coming with three kids, I was never just Kelly to anyone here. I was never that girl who went to USC and law school. I was never that crazed ambitious women who dreamt of working in Bioethics. I was just a mom. And it was hard for me.

These days, after being a constant presence at school for a few years, most of the teachers know me now. Most of them know my real name and everything. I have a decent group of friends and acquaintances that know me, beyond just being someone's mom. I share similar paths with some of them. Once career driven, now relegated to making lunches and driving carpools. They understand. To all the kids at school, I am Aidan's mom, or Ashley's mom or Ally's mom. Soon I will be known as AJ's mom too.

Maybe someday I will get back into the rat race. Go for those goals I once had. When the kids are older, perhaps. My priorities are different now though. I don't mind being just a mom anymore. Because being a mom is the most important job I could ever have.

In the car yesterday, Ally was asking me what people's names are. What are the real names of her friend's moms and what are the real names of her teachers? I told her, then I asked her what my name is. Without a moment's hesitation, she answered, "You is Mommy". And she was right. I am Mommy. And it's the best name I've ever had.

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