My “Who am I” Era: Identity in Motherhood

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For some reason, I naively believed the thirties were meant for “arriving.” My twenties were filled with missteps, the freedom to attend a spontaneous 8 PM dinner, and a multitude of girls’ nights out and first dates in loud bars with bad Chardonnay. When I got married, I still held out hope that the next decade would usher in the certainty and self-assurance that I so deeply craved. Spoiler alert–I’m inching toward forty with many more questions than answers; I have not arrived.

Perhaps one of the greatest surprises of motherhood for me has been the wandering. I often feel I’m further from arriving than I was pre-kids. Rationally, I know parenting is something none of us fully master, but it’s so all-consuming I can’t help but try. Unfortunately (but seriously, thank goodness), the births of my three children have humbled me in ways I can’t even begin to articulate, but here goes. I have yelled in the Target toy aisle, made empty threats like “No trick or treating if you don’t take a nap!”, had entire weeks where our days consisted of Bluey and sugary snacks because I was just tired, and most notably, been seen without a bra by way too many of my neighbors because any one of my kids has decided to park it in the middle of the street at 7 AM as an Amazon driver barrels toward them. This is just a very short list of what I’m willing to admit publicly.

I’ve become well versed in apologizing to my toddlers with the help of Dr. Becky and have been brought to tears countless times with my kids’ ability to offer forgiveness so freely. I’ve also become increasingly familiar with my inner critic, constantly wondering if I’m permanently damaging them with my own imperfections and insecurities. Despite my best efforts, I compare myself to other parents constantly. I’m the queen of excusing myself from Instagram because cute holiday activities, healthy meals, and screen-free proclamation posts send me to a dark place when I feel like feeding and bathing people day after day should have earned me an Olympic gold years ago.

As hard as it is, the beautiful part of parenting is that there is often a moment of clarity to accompany every moment of comparison, unrest, or doubt. Okay, I’m lying. There are way more uncertain moments than clarifying ones, but learning to oscillate more comfortably between these moments has been a surprising gift I wouldn’t trade.

My kids pelt me with questions all day long. I’m practicing (although it still feels unnatural) offering an “I don’t know. What do you think?” response, and it’s freeing. I’m much more hesitant to respond to adults with this posture for fear of sounding uneducated or apathetic. But the truth is, I desperately want the freedom to be unsure, to wrestle, to question and acknowledge my fears like my kids so readily do. So, I haven’t arrived; I’m very much still wandering, but I am also finding immense joy and satisfaction on this winding road that is parenthood with no known destination. My kids have been my greatest teachers as I settle in and get cozy with my questions.

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