I'll say it again: this holiday is complicated.
I'm sure I'm not alone...I find myself resenting the commercialized nature of appreciating your parent, which hopefully, you're able to do most days...but now that I am a mother, I also find myself wanting the attention.
And let's acknowledge the fact that some folks don't have a traditional mom. Maybe they were raised by a grandma, or an older sibling, or a foster parent. There's a lot of weight in the title Mom, and I've definitely gone through a bunch of iterations with regards to what it means to me.
And yet, amidst all the crazy, what I've been sort of startled to discover is: I'm still me.
Maybe for some women, becoming a mother feels like the completion of a circle, of a thought. Maybe they've known all their lives they would parent. Maybe the transition from not-parent to parent was eager, expected, easy.
I experienced years of time during which the thought of being a mom made me feel physically ill. There are reasons for this, and my therapist and I have mined them thoroughly, but the upshot is that it was important I let that happen. Here and there in the revulsion I would feel pangs of guilt. What kind of a terrible person feels sick at the thought of having a kid? How selfish am I? Might I be some kind of monster?
Because guess what - that biological clock people like to talk about? I ain't never heard that thing tick.
Slowly, after a time, I began to exist as someone who was pretty content to never have a baby. Biologically or otherwise. And as life has a wicked sense of humor and timing, that's when I realized I wanted to be a parent.
One of my vague fears about being a parent was that my identity would somehow be subsumed by motherhood. I've been in the presence of women who talk of nothing but the quantity and quality of their baby's poop, and while I now understand the small obsession with such, I still don't need to make it the main topic of discussion.
I also worried that my career would suddenly slough off, and never regain its trajectory. I love acting and being an actor. I've dedicated a lot of time, money and energy pursuing a career that on paper can seem like the desire of an insane person. It takes a huge amount of energy and it matters to me. A lot. What would happen to it once a tiny, totally dependent human entered the picture? I had enough problems taking care of myself. Was I capable?
Friends reassured me. They spoke of my patience, my humor, my creativity. Yeah, I thought, nodding. But what about my impatience? My intolerance? My surprising and athletic ability to hold a grudge? I examined some nooks and crannies of my personality and found them dark, ill-kept, a bit festering.
And yet, the desire to parent continued. And so did the ambivalence. Ambivalence, my therapist told me, it what makes us human. That two opposing feelings can exist in ourselves at once. It's incredibly uncomfortable, I said. She nodded.
So here I am. A mom. I still care very much about my career, my marriage, my private life. And thus far (knock on all surfaces), those things continue to evolve. And my love for my son inhales around and expands all of them. When a friend recently asked Do you feel like a mom? I had to pause and think about it. I realized I feel very much like myself. Yes, I responded. I do.