You are not a label

Becoming a parent is a funny thing. Before I had Marko, I was carefree. I moved out on my own at age 20 despite the wishes of my well intentioned middle eastern parents. I went to school full-time and worked nearly as much to keep up with my tuition fees. At night, I went out dancing with my girlfriends and then walked my blistering feet to the nearest diner for a poutine and other random junk. It was delightful.

In my mid-20s, my life took on a slower and steadier pace. My career in corporate communications was already in full swing and I had begun building a name and reputation for myself. I was proud. I was on the road to being a career woman.

Careless and free on a beach in Barcelona circa 2012.

Ironically, I was also on the road to becoming a wife when I finally got hitched at age 25.  I felt whole, yet my identity was being questioned. You see, I chose to not take on my husband’s family name and this decision puzzled many.

Part of me was baffled considering our modern times; part of me was offended because it was expected. I was labelled a wife.

Marko and I, three weeks into motherhood.

At age 29, I became a mother for the first time. As any first time mom, my life felt like a mess. A colicky baby, leaking tits, milk vomit on my clothes, hair unwashed in who knows how long. I had left my job thinking that I could really only be a great mother if I focused on this particular area of my new life. The baby would come first. My family would come first. I’m a mother after all – this was my new label. I should love EVERY SINGLE MOMENT.

Truth is – I didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade the time off I had with both my children in their early years for anything but i’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss everything else. My freedom. My carelessness. My career. My pre-baby body. My girlfriends.

In one recent book I read, All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior, the author states:

“Allowing ourselves to accept feelings such as boredom and annoyance with our children, and not self-accuse ourselves of being terrible parents for having these emotions, but letting them simply be. Letting go of guilt and shame for not enjoying kid games.”

This one part heightened my self-awareness on so many levels. I had been carrying around with me guilt. Guilt for not taking my husband’s name. Guilt for leaving my career behind to become a mother. Guilt for not always loving being a mother. Guilt for missing my careless days, despite having it all.

It is then that I realized how these labels have impacted me. Based on the self-imposed identity I took on at each stage of life, I made myself believe that I had to conform to expectations and make some pretty black and white decisions. Each choice I made would impact how people judged me in my current role (whether mom, wife, career woman). Through talking with other fellow mothers, I began to realize how many of us carry around the same guilt. If we wanted to return to work early, we must not be dedicated mothers. If we wanted to stay home longer with our children, we must not have any career ambitions. If we go out with our friends, we must not be committed to our relationship with our partners.

WTF guys. Honestly. I’m consciously stepping out of this bubble. I want it all, and I honestly believe I can have it all. Dr. Tracy Dalgleish (@dr.tracydalgleish), clinical psychologist specializing in working with professional mothers and couples, and a personal friend of mine said, “In life, you get one watering can. Where are you going to choose to put your water?” She used the analogy of individually potted succulents or herbs. “Where do you put your water?” she asked.

I have so many pots I want to fill: my kids, my marriage, my career, my friends, working out, keeping my house to my standards, travelling. “You only get one watering can, no more, no less. You get to choose where you put your water, and what you help to grow in your life.” But she also talked about the importance of being flexible. That this doesn’t have to be rigid, an all or nothing kind thing – I’m not all mom, or all wife. I can be mom AND wife. I can be professional AND home. And she said what matters is allowing yourself to SHOW UP in how we water the things that are important to us. “It comes down to how much water you put in each pot, and whether this fits with what is important to you in that moment, or in this time in life.”

My vision board: figuring out where I need to “increase” the water and where I need to “reduce”.

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