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Reflections on parenthood: Am I still the same person?

maman et bebe

I mentioned I was rooting around a bit in the mama blog world, and there are one thing that keeps coming up again and again make me realise that my experience and attitude differs so much from (I’m assuming) the rest of their readership, which is the statement that becoming a mother changes you so irrevocably that you are not the same person any more. “You might think you’ll be you with a baby, but you’re not. You’ll be taken apart and put back together as a whole new person” they say.

And I have no idea what they’re talking about.

I think that’s exactly what I am, me, but with a baby. Yeah, I have a different life and different priorities, but I’m just not sure in what I would be expected to change. I still have the same personality, the same views and attitudes. I guess they mean that you become less selfish because your life is now centred around keeping alive and developing a tiny helpless person, but it’s not as if I was some mad hedonist without responsibilities before. It’s not as if I went from a 21 year old student getting hammered and going clubbing on a school night to 31 year old mum who can’t even stay awake til the end of Arne Dahl on a Saturday night (that’s 10.30, non-BBC4-watchers). There were loads of steps in between, lots of calming down and thinking about myself and my preferences. A masters, a career, a mortgage, two cats and getting married. I only started thinking about kids in any serious way once I felt we were ready, i.e. myself and Dave had changed enough that we could be responsible parents. It’s not the being parents that changed us, but the having changed that made use become parents.

Another claim made alongside the different person one is that being a mother is so much harder than you think. Those kind of posts always start from the authors saying they assumed it would all be sweetness and light, and frolicking around flowery meadows with their gorgeous well behaved child, and baking organic cupcakes in cath kidston aprons. But who really assumes that? I didn’t even do that much prior research, but I certainly never expected it to be easy. And as a result, I found it easier than expected (and because Milo is pretty chilled and in good health. I’m not claiming it’s in any way my achievement). There were horrible bits I hadn’t seen coming (hello, mastitis) and nice bits I hadn’t expected (hello, lovely hormones allowing me to function on 5 hours sleep), but mostly it’s been weird, yes, but also fun. I don’t even want to say that being a mum has been ‘natural’ for me, but I did find that, like most things that seem really daunting, once you do them, you get good at them pretty quickly.

I do get that people who are very young and/or unprepared, who do expect everything to be lovely and/or where the baby has health or sleep or whatever problems, or their other relationships are not that settled might feel like there has been such an upheaval in their life that they have had to fundamentally adapt their mindset, but for me that wasn’t the case at all.

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  • Rhianne 22 May 2013, 8:16 am

    I love this and your honesty so much! I’m not a Mum – but I love the idea that when the time is right a baby will compliment you, your life and where you are, not feel like its turned everything upside down.

    Also, you look so happy in that top photo, its really made me smile.
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  • Jennifer Brown 22 May 2013, 8:39 am

    Franca, I really enjoy reading your thoughtful comments.

    I’m a mum too and have two sons aged 3 and 7. I have to say I do feel like I changed since having children. Not in the obvious and overnight ‘oh dear, no more clubbing’ as I was older when I had them, and like you had already done my settling down, but I did find the total loss of my independence hard to come to terms with. I’m fairly introspective and have always needed ‘me’ time to wind down and regroup.

    During the baby stage you’re so besotted with them, and living on hormones and adrenaline that you want to be with them all the time, but as things settle down and they grow, and walk and talk even getting 5 minutes to visit the toilet in peace is difficult. At times it feels like I’m not just ‘me’ I constantly have to think about what is happening to me and two other people, and put their needs first.

    Obviously this stage will pass: my older son is already at school and my younger will be starting nursery soon, and I will then begin to get some time back for me, but I can totally understand why some people feel like their world has turned on it’s head.

    My situation might have felt different if I had carried on working after the birth of my second son, but financially it didn’t make any sense. Working Mums have guilt but a sense of their own identity and worth; stay at home Mums have guilt and because they are not earning or contributing to the economy lose their identity and sense of worth. Mums can’t win a lot of the time!

    Sorry for the long comment but you made me think!

  • Houseofpinheiro 22 May 2013, 9:02 am

    I really love your reflections on motherhood.

  • Biba 22 May 2013, 9:10 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have a wonderful husband, we have two adorable children (as much as ‘almost’ teenagers can be described as adorable…) and yes, our priorities have changed in the last twelve years, but I’m still me. With my own needs and desires which do not always include my family. When I first became a mum twelve years ago my world was turned upside down, I admit, but in my mind I’m definitely the same person. My husband and I had been married for five years before I got pregnant so we were what you’d call ‘a solid’ couple, we had been ‘trying’ for a baby for quite some time so we were definitely ready. The birth of our little girl eight and a half years ago was a sheer ‘bonus’ 🙂
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  • Julia 22 May 2013, 10:00 am

    I agree and disagree at the same time. Being a (relatively) young mom (I had my first when I was 25, now 28 with two), I have a lot “mommy-friends” both younger and older than me, for whom having a baby was a total surprise and a long, long journey. I can’t see a relationship between being unprepared (as in surprise pregnancy) or young and having illusions about how easy it will be, if anything, they adapt better and with more realistic expectations. It might be because no matter what they do in the next few years, they didn’t have a very fixed plan yet, and there are certainly enough people out there to tell you about all the potential difficulties in every detail if you so much as look younger than 25.
    On the other hand, I am very often surprised how idyllic some people expect parenthood to be. And I don’t get the whole “I’m a new person”-thing either. Of course, I do different stuff now. And of course, I changed my view on a lot of things, but I still like to read bad novels, love my studies, and need to knit. not to mention a couple of character traits even parenthood has failed to change

  • Debbie 23 May 2013, 11:08 am

    This makes a lot of sense to me. I’m 34 weeks with my first, and in my 30s. And my thoughts about this are the same as yours, though obviously I’m not quite there yet and I might have misjudged things completely. It’s really great to read someone on the same wavelength though! Thanks

  • Rachel 23 May 2013, 11:42 am

    Franca, thank you for putting into words so well something very close to what I feel. I agree with Julia though, I know people who have had a baby later and after a long journey but still struggle and some fairly young who adapted and grew wonderfully, and a whole mix of the two. In my view, it’s down to your mental perspective. Some people want to have a baby, some people want to be parents and have a child.

    I really like what you say about not expecting it to be easy. I deliberately didn’t do much reading and research before my son was born. I made a conscious decision to not try and picture what having a baby would be like and instead just be open and accepting of whatever lay on my path. I too have a found it easier than expected which has been helped by a chilled and happy baby. However, whilst some of this is due to inbuilt personality, a lot is a reflection on you and your parenting. Give yourself credit for that happy, calm boy.
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    • bridgett 1 June 2013, 4:01 am

      Hi there, it’s bridgie from instagram. I am 31 and thought I was prepared but I wasn’t. I struggle with not being able to have as much me time mostly. On top of that, marital issues. I thought we were a “solidcouple” but was wrong. Either way I do still feel like the same person.

  • Kristenmakes 3 June 2013, 7:03 pm

    I am so glad to read this. We are not ready for kids yet but know someday we will be. But I don’t want having a child to change me, nor my relationship with my husband. I feel that what you’ve shared seems to be a sentiment not often shared, but I suppose if you don’t want parenthood to change your personal self and identity, it won’t.

  • Lorena 10 July 2013, 9:30 pm

    Franca I really enjoyed reading this post – all of my friends are always complaining they cannot do things they did before – and i have it at the tip of my tongue ” why did you have kids then ?” but i never let is slip – because of course it would be rude.
    I think the correct, smart thing to do is wait until you are ready to be parents, like you did – and then bring children into your life-
    I just pray to heavens for patience when i hear people saying its so difficult, that they will never sleep again… really, like they did not know that !