These days, being a wife and being a mother are pretty big parts of my life. But if we’re being honest, they were both things that I really didn’t get until I experienced them for myself. I wasn’t sure either of them were right for me, though I took the leap both times. The difference, though, is that with marriage, if you find that it’s not for you, or you’re with the wrong person, you can leave. But there is no exit for parenthood, which made the decision to become a parent much more fraught, because it was a decision that I knew I couldn’t take back.
I never thought of motherhood as a single woman—it didn’t even cross my mind until I met my husband. Having children was his idea, and initially I was resistant because of the image of motherhood that I’d seen throughout my life. In my mind, motherhood was a kind of death—where I’d cease to exist as a person and instead become someone who only lived for her children. My husband didn’t buy into that hype though, and over time he demonstrated to me that we could truly share the responsibility of parenting equally. Those actions (and many conversations) calmed my fears about being a mother, and we conceived our daughter just a few weeks after our first anniversary.
I don’t know if it was the hormones or just a change of attitude, but it seemed like the “mom” switch flipped for me. I embraced motherhood more emphatically than I anticipated, but despite my excitement, I had a small worry in the back of my mind that things wouldn’t go as planned. What if I truly wasn’t meant to be a mother? What if I didn’t love my baby? What if my husband was a big fat lying ass liar who wasn’t as hands-on as he claimed he would be? Could I really end up being the thing I feared the most—a married mother, doing it all on her own?
I took a gamble in becoming a parent. I bet that my love for my husband, and my husband’s desire for children, would outweigh my apprehensions about becoming a parent. I bet that my husband was a man of his word who would not leave the hands-on work of raising our children solely on my shoulders. And I bet that I could be the type of mom that I wanted to be—who still worked and saw her friends and found a way to incorporate her child into her life, instead of giving up her entire life for her children. I took a gamble and it paid off way more than I ever could have imagined. In fact, at least right this second, with a one and half year old, I feel like I hit the jackpot.
My daughter came into this world after forty-one long weeks of pregnancy, and thirty-six long hours of labor that ended in a C-section. The moment I heard my daughter cry, I burst into tears. I knew I was forever changed. (PSA: That doesn’t happen for all women! And it’s fine however it happens for you.) But in that moment, I realized: I was now a mama, and I was Josephine’s mama, and no matter what, nothing would change that. From the moment Josephine (who we affectionately call Phi for short) was born, her dad has been the man that he said he would be. He gladly took on middle of the night feedings so that I could get six hours of uninterrupted sleep. He kept a journal that chronicled every feeding and diaper change. He cuddled and played and taught her how to sit up and hold her bottle.
Josephine is now eighteen months old, and she’s the cutest toddler you’ll ever meet. My husband reads books to her, and he cuddles with her while they watch their weekly Sesame Street episode. He makes meals and does laundry and makes sure the daycare has enough diapers and wipes. He does daycare drop-off and I do daycare pickup, and every weekend we make sure that each of us gets some “off duty” time to spend alone. When she’s sick, which thankfully isn’t often, he’s the first one to work from home so he can be home with her. And to this day, he’s never missed a doctor’s appointment.
By holding up his end of this co-parenting thing, my husband has helped me become the type of mother that I hoped I could be. I am able to continue to be Jareesa, who happens to be a mother, instead of making mother my sole identity. “Mother” has simply become another part of my identity, like “sister,” “wife,” and “friend.” I’m still finding my balance between those parts of myself, but I don’t feel that it dominates or has completely overwhelmed my life.
I mean, parenthood is parenthood, and it’s not all sunshine and rainbows—we have our bad days too. And disclaimer: my daughter is only a year and a half old, and she’s a reasonably easy kid. YMMV. My mileage may vary in the future. But for now, the bad days are outnumbered by the good, and I’m so thankful that I got the opportunity to become a mother after all. And while the balance of good and bad days may vary over time, that last part, about being so grateful to be her mom? That part isn’t ever going to change.
How about y’all? Anyone in the middle of that agonizing should-we-or-shouldn’t-we decision-making process about having kids? Anyone know they’re gonna do it, but scared out of their minds? And for those of you who have taken the leap, how are things going so far?