Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 6, 2013

Mommy Self vs. Me Self: The War Within

I became a mom at age 38—just about 6 weeks before turning 39. Most of the time, I think that having my child later in life has been a blessing. I have had time to travel, to try out different careers, have some fun, and find out who I am as a person.

I have always felt that being secure in who I am and content with what I do has made me a better mom. Since I feel fulfilled as a person, I am happier; therefore I can be a better mom to my child. I think it worked out best for me.

I find my individual identity under siege from the Mommy identity. Sometimes I feel like I am clinging to an unraveling rope to prevent myself from being submerged completely. I strive desperately to carve out time in the day to pursue things important to me, career goals I have for myself, and get my head above the surging Mommy waters rising around me.

I have thought lately that this striving to keep my own identity apart from Mommy might be a large part of the stress and friction I am currently experiencing in motherhood.

Would it have been easier if I had become a Mommy earlier in life, when I was still forming my identity? Would I have been able to intertwine the two parts of myself so they grew simultaneously? Would the two parts of me have grown together to form a more integrated whole, without the struggle to maintain myself I face today?

My husband pointed out that I work from home, while our daughter is home. That is undoubtedly part of the friction issue. As he said, if I went to an office each day and she went to daycare, there wouldn’t be the constant bumping heads of her needs and mine—at work I would be able to just…work (although I know there’s a whole different kind of stress in being a mother who works away from home).

Another factor is undoubtedly my age. If I were in my 20s or early 30s, I would not feel so much pressure from myself to pursue my writing career with the vigor I am today. I would not mind the idea of taking a few years off until my daughter is in school full time, because I would have felt like I had time to catch up, as it were. While 40-something is certainly not old, there is a ticking-clock pressure from within me because I know I do not have “all the time in the world.” So I feel an urgency connected to keeping my career moving forward that I might not have felt if I were 10 years younger.

How about you, other parents out there—do you have a constant battle within to define yourself apart from your offspring?

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Responses

  1. Kerry, I feel this post! My son is 10 and it took me 7 years to find my way back to ME – and by then I had a whole new identity. It is harder when they are younger. But I have finally let go of the guilt of doing what I love – writing books. My son is old enough now to respect what I do, and share in my creation (as I write for his age group). He gives me time now when I ask for it and I often spend a weekend day at a cafe to write until mid-afternoon – and feel good about this. Why? Because I hope my son sees the hard work that goes into creating something I love (as he may do someday) AND it makes me feel good about myself, so I can be a better mom. If you can start carving out that time now – whether a day or 2 in daycare (good for them to be social!:) or a weekend day alone – then try to make it happen.

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  2. I’m a dad who decided to quit the corporate job (owing to disenchantment) and write (owing to a lifelong desire). I also wanted to make up for being so absent over the first five years of my son’s precious life (I was a workaholic, career always first, first, first). I empathise with you. I feel a constant struggle between making sure I spend time with my son, working (I went back part-time after 6 months out), writing (my novel, my blog) and trying to support my wife with household duties (not doing justice to this at all) – she works full-time, this is important to her.

    I think I am going to pack in the job once I’ve finished my contract and try to get more balance. I got cold feet and took the offer of a job as a way of mitigating the risk. It was a mistake.

    I am very lucky to be able to have the chance to realise my dream and be the type of father that my son will always be able to turn to and rely upon. It is still a mix of selfishness and selflessness, but in hopefully equal measures. I cannot help either impulse. They make me me. But I can make them sing in harmony. I can choose to feel blessed.

    I wish you the best.

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    • Wonderful attitude! Yes, the balance is hard to maintain. As you know, as soon as you get into balance, your kid has the audacity to grow and change and the balance needs to change again!

      Best of luck to you, too. Your son will be so proud when he sees his dad’s book on the shelf!

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  3. Though I am not a parent, I can imagine the complex feelings about making such an identity transition . From what I have heard, balancing career, family, and personal life can be tricky. Best advice: just take the 24 hours you have in your days and do the best you can! One thing I have heard is that when kids get older, they become more independent, which could give you more time to write. I wish you peace and success in whatever you do. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Uriah! Great meeting you at the PWC. I am waiting for the independence stage. 🙂 We all have challenges with our writing and with balancing everything. As you advised, we can only do the best we can. Hopefully that will be enough!

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