I was part of an all-female, girl-power podcast early a few weeks ago.
The topic – of course, because it’s me – was parenting. The hosts of the show were all young women, none mothers and then the real invitee (who brought me along) was a new mom to a 9-month-old boy.
I felt a bit lost, having already retold my parenting story to death for over a decade, but yet still excited to talk about it from the perspective of parenting Max, who (for all intent and purposes) is growing up as an only child and making me feel like I’m starting all over again. (My oldest is very immersed in teen-land with the nonstop drama, high school, friends and life.)
As the conversation started rolling, we talked about breaking the news to our parents, the relationship with our baby-daddies and other related drama. It was all good – and then the other guest said something that stuck out for me, but that I didn’t get to digest until I reheard the episode.
“…I’ve been a non-mom longer than I have been a mom…”
I know my roles as a woman, daughter, Latina and sister have always been intertwined with motherhood. It’s actually the one thing I often try to separate – with a lot of fail – in my life.
From the moment I found out I was becoming a mom, everyone always reminded me of the repercussions – friends stopped talking to me and adults scooped in to help me learn about this new, immense role.
It was only natural for me to develop into that, so I took to it the best I could. Often sacrificing the other pieces of me that still needed to grow up, while also – and more often than not – struggling hard to become this multidimensional person.
My mantra suddenly became: “Yes, I am a mom—but look at what else I can do.” As I made my way out into the world.
I’m the first to admit that I know very little about being a woman/woman in all her singleness. I didn’t date or go out a lot – even before having my daughter. I was, contrary to what folks like to think about young moms, a homebody to the core; always reading, writing, painting and already enrolled in one of the best universities in the country.
I’m still also with my kids’ father, who had grown up with me on this insane, lifelong adventure.
So for me, self-exploration as a woman was with and through these simple things I loved, and that included (of course) my daughter. None of my relationships were typical. Absolutely none. Nothing of me was spared when I became a mom.
Think about that for a second: 19-year-old, raising a child, while going to college, maintaining a relationship with her father and trying to build something for her future.
Yes – at nineteen with little to nothing to call my own – I was raising a child. The biggest thing I had of anything was a shoe collection that I accumulated by working at Aldo’s Shoes. I definitely put the 50 percent employee discount to work.
Years later, when the shoes no longer held up or new fashions rolled in, it hit me how badly I had used my money and I swore never to misspend like that again.
But back to relationships, because this is at the core of that podcast discussion.
I grew up with my daughter. All those things I loved doing, well I started doing them with her; we painted together, visited museums together, strolled parks, traveled, checked out restaurants – always together. When I met with friends, my daughter more than likely also tagged along, because I couldn’t afford a sitter or the thought of leaving her behind for too long bothered me.
I then became closer and better friends with mothers that had kids, and as the universe would have it, I met other moms that were my age. These became my playdates. I’d managed to combine my different worlds – yet again.
But it was a detriment. She developed relationships with my friends, and often herself experienced the drama I went through with them: the good and the bad. That meant if they were flaky, liars or selfish – because let’s remember, these were all still early twenty-somethings – she experienced it as well. I didn’t realize my friendships and other relationships (until much later in life) were too intertwined with my kid.
It wasn’t until my daughter was a little older, able to stay with folks for longer periods of time, that I was able to begin exploring things of my own. By then, I was in my mid- to late twenties, when others my age were looking to settle down (maybe) or already well into their partying ways.
For me, I was just getting started. Still a mom, but learning more about me. I broke up with her father only to get back together a few years later. I felt
There are times I think back on the young me – before becoming a mom – and wonder “What would she think?” or “What would she do?”
Because unlike a lot of people my age, my relationship to that cut-off part of myself is very strong. I admire that young girl so, so much more than I think anyone my age will ever admire themselves at 19.
I admire her for taking on this role, risking those relationships in the past, to build a different relationship with myself. I’m better for it. My family and friends are better for it.
So yet, most of my life has been as a mom, and I don’t know much of anything else – but it’s been with my flavor of it and my terms and for that I’m forever grateful for it.