I'm More Than Just a Mom

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Wanderlust, a penchant for crunching numbers, and a passion for changing the world has sent me to places I never dreamed possible. I will never forget getting off the plane in Kabul, Afghanistan for the first time nearly a decade ago. There was no electricity at the airport at the moment, and porters were flinging gigantic suitcases around as if they weighed nothing. I silently prayed my own suitcase would make its way to the top of the pile and eventually it popped out, less one exterior pocket, but mostly intact.

A couple days later, as I walked through an apple orchard just north of Kabul, I spoke with rural farmers who had rebuilt their orchards after their land had been decimated by thirty years of war. As they happily exclaimed that they were now selling their fruits and making enough money to support their large families, I remember thinking at that very moment that traveling the globe and helping to run nonprofit organizations was exactly what I wanted to do.

And that I did. Over the next several years I spent more time in Afghanistan, several countries in Africa, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Nepal. In fact, my husband and I eschewed the typical tropical honeymoon in favor of something a bit more adventurous - 24 hours after we were officially husband and wife, we hopped a plane to Nepal and spent the next two weeks climbing to Mount Everest Base Camp.

My identity in my 20s: World traveler, marathon runner, adventurer.

My identity post-baby: Mother.

In the months following my daughter’s birth, my former and current identities felt mutually exclusive. I couldn’t very well get on a plane to Nepal or Senegal while I was still nursing a baby. Nor could I sign up for a marathon while I was squishy and had no motivation or physical ability to run even a single mile.

Once I crept out of the newborn fog, I began to feel listless and longing for those things that made me, me. And then I felt guilty for wanting those things because I had wanted to become a mother more than anything and tried for four long years to make that happen. I was so grateful that my perfect little daughter had arrived, and felt terrible for wanting more.

The desire for your own identity to extend beyond that of “mother” and the resulting guilt is a constant internal struggle. But it doesn’t have to be.

As I struggled to reconcile my pre-baby and post-baby identity, I tried to find a tiny sliver of the old me and took a leap. For me that meant traveling to New York City alone, for 48 hours, to conduct client meetings when my daughter was six months old. It was a short trip and I had to bring my pump and I missed my daughter fiercely, but I felt my identity expand beyond “mother” as I jetted around the city for a full day of meetings. And a couple months later when the opportunity presented itself for me to go to Haiti, I didn’t hesitate to get on that plane again.

Those parts of my identity that I so valued in my 20s now come secondary to being a mom and also look different now - travel isn’t as frequent or long or far from home, and I sure haven’t signed up for a marathon yet - and I am entirely okay with that. The struggle to define your new identity as a mom is difficult and a little scary, but allowing yourself to bring back a sliver of who you were before baby will make you a happier mom. It has for me.