Recently, I wrote this on social media:
I am being reorganized by motherhood. To call it a “major transition” is to underestimate it, dramatically. I’m being reorganized, rewoven, repatterned. There is a lot to grieve in that, and a lot to celebrate. Can anyone else relate?
Those words needed to be said. They needed to pour out of me. And I needed to know I’m not crazy.
Turns out I’m not. So many of you wrote about how you could relate, and your words were honest and wise.
It’s New Year’s time, and this is certainly not a typical New Year’s post. This is the time of year when we usually talk about how we are going to shape our lives, our futures. It’s all about our personal agency, our thoughts on what we want to change and how we’ll change it.
This is a post about the opposite. It’s about the things that change us.
Our culture celebrates the individual that changes his or her circumstances, but we don’t respect as much how circumstances change us. In part, I understand that – when we overcome and respond to with what life hands us, that’s where the light often comes through, where courage comes in, where goodness can triumph. And yet, there is something that deserves more time and space in our collective conversations about this other kind of experience, about the way life changes us.
In our culture we also celebrate times of clarity, but do we give enough respect for their inevitable partners – the times of being unclear? I’m in one of those times now, as motherhood reorganizes me.
This morning I had the thought – “Oh that’s why they call it a transition period” – there is a period of time (as in longer than five minutes) that is neither A nor B but the transition.” I somehow didn’t quite know that, or at least I forgot it. I had been thinking of transition as change, as the swift, active movement from A to B, or as the time when you’ve got some A left in you but lots of new B…a sort of mix moment, a transit moment–but it’s not always that. Sometimes transition is also the strange period of mushiness and messiness and confusion that you live in for a while, between living in A and living in B.
I often don’t know how to write about living in one of those periods. I am being rewritten by motherhood and one of the markers of the hugeness of that transition is that I am not even sure how I am being rewritten. I can’t quite give you an update on it yet. ☺ The part of me that used to be there to interpret and watch changes is also in motion, also shifting, unavailable to give a tidy report.
But what I am learning is this: to be human is not just to change our circumstances, but to be changed by them. It is not just to direct the current, or find a way to use the current, but to be washed over by the waves.
It is to let go of old selves, and to face the next chapter. To let them go with some gentle tears, or a few sobs, or a wink and an open hand through which they can slip away. It is to meet old selves again, years later, in the moment you’d least expect to. It is to surrender to change.
What in your life experience—parenthood or other rites of passage—has rewritten you? What was it, is it like, for you? And what do you want this new mama to know?
photo credit: Benjamin Punzalan
Join the discussion 54 Comments
Tara, In response to your beautiful post, I am looking at it from “the other side”, as my children are now adults with children of their own. So I am being
rewritten, and am actively rewriting myself as well,
by the significant changes I, who have been a mom for 50 years, experienced when being a mother is no longer my primary role. I have had to re-learn how to put myself first, which is a priceless gift! Change is such a fact of life, and of being alive, and you expressed my feelings about it masterfully. Thank you.
First congratulations! It is true that becoming a mother does change you however it is also true that you decided to change your circumstances by becoming a mother. So this is a celebration of both of those transitions!
Here’s what I want to share with you – parenthood will rewrite you over and over again. Every stage of your children’s lives will rewrite you. You may now be in B1 but then you will be in B2, B3, etc., etc., etc. In may ways this ongoing transition is just a mirror of life because you will welcome and perhaps push some of those transitions, and there will be others that will drag you along kicking and screaming. And, as your children become adults, you will have little or no control of the transitions you will go through. I was clueless and, now that I can see what this was all about, I can suggest that you enjoy the journey and know that you will experience the grieving and the celebrations many times.
Happy New Year!
Yes, motherhood changes you into someone who has an automatic override – always to respond and to care and protect, no matter what else is going on. How to remain ‘yourself’ when that concept has just stretched to include another semi-independent being. I forget who said, it’s like half your your heart grew legs and is walking around outside your body.
Speaking from the other side (my boys are 21, 20 and 12 now), I have recently come back full circle to many of the same interests I had as a youngster pre-children, but abandoned for years as impractical. Looking back, I wish I had held on to them better, though it is never too late! Some parts of you won’t change, but they can easily get submerged and forgotten if you let them. Remember how to want things for yourself, it is surprisingly easy to forget. Good luck to all of us!
Thank you for this post. This is exactly how I felt the whole year suffering from burn-out and depression, quitting my old job without having a new one and no general direction to go.
Like you I thought change is a swift thing and totally forgot that there could be a transition period. It is difficult to rest in uncertainty and to be ok with not knowing. Our society values clarity, strategy and output so much that times of barreness are not appreciated although we could see and experience a yearly reminder in nature during winter.
Happy New Year to you and your family.
Becoming a mother was the biggest and most difficult transition I’ve gone through to date. At first I felt like I had completely lost myself. This little baby (who was very colicky, to boot–which made me feel like a total failure as a mother) was so demanding of my time, my body, and my mind 24/7, it was completely overwhelming. It truly is as if you’ve been plunged into the deep end without having any idea how to swim. It takes a while to get your bearing. For me, there have been many challenges and many, many joys along the way, but nothing was as difficult and disorienting as those first few months. I clung onto work for some sense of my pre-baby identity, and gradually grew into some small measure of competence and confidence as a mother–but it took a while. I sought out support, and found a great book, A Circle of Mothers, and mother-baby group at the Soho Parenting Center in NY, which helped. Having some kind of “road map” and wise counsel and sense of community helped a lot–motherhood when your babies are young can be very isolating–but soon enough it opens you to a whole wide world of connections and community. What motherhood has taught me over and over again is how much I don’t know, can’t control and have to learn to go with the flow and learn to let my children be who they are, not who I envision them being. The good news is it got better and better, and now that my children are 14 and 17, and I am so proud of the young men they are becoming, I can feel that, while I’ve made many, many mistakes–we all do!–we and they have also done a lot of things right and I can feel good about the mother I’ve been to my children and the family we’ve become. I also had to learn–a lot–of patience! Not my strong suit! Just remember that it’s okay to take care of yourself, to put yourself first when needed, and to have a life outside of being a mother. Your child(ren) will benefit from you being a happy, well-rounded person also. Sending you love!
Last May we floated the idea of selling our house, the house where we lived for 25 years and raised three boys, the only house they’ve ever known, the neighborhood where we ourselves grew up from young parents to mid-life adults. Just mentioning it out loud, boom! A bunch of folks heard and came wanting to buy it, and short story, we sold it in one week. We dismantled an entire family life and moved to a completely different kind of house, a house where our growing family can gather now. It’s just in the next suburb over, but I have been surprised by the grief, by the adjustment and challenge of finding new routines and new shops and new paths through the day. We have three sons. Two of them got engaged at the same time we decided to move. So here comes 2015, a year of weddings. And finally, in December, still reeling from the changes and still trying to feel like this is home, my husband had back surgery.
Life shaping me in sometimes frightening ways. Life has me by the scruff of my neck and is shaking me, causing me to wonder who I am, if I know anymore. I did expect to be challenged. i did expect change. I didn’t expect fear and self doubt and grief. I didn’t expect to lose my bearings quite so much. That old life with kids in that house, I knew how to do it. I don’t know how to do this life yet. But life has begun to happen here, so I am learning to live it. I am in the throes of it, so I can’t offer you advice. I do remember that life with small kids shaped me more than I shaped it. I do remember trying to live with intention, yet getting knocked by the waves of young life. Maybe it’s always like that and we are never settled. Thank you for your words. You named my experience, and that helps me to deal with it. I said to my daughter-in-law, who has small children, that I was cleaning my house the other day because cleaning is what i do when I can’t control things, and she responded, “um, I’m pretty sure we can’t ever control things.” A lesson I keep learning!
I can only say YES! So profoundly. I am a homeschooling mother of a 5.5 year old and a 3 year old. I never thought I would be here. Many homeschooling moms I’ve met, always thought they would have 15 children and live bucolic lives with children chasing chickens and learning to count with acorns. I barely decided to have children when – at 36 – the warning lights of the door closing were starting to blare. I owned a small business and spent the first ten months of my son’s life trying to make bank deposits, manage employees, and still be the same hip me. Over a period of years I transitioned to where I spent mornings exploring brightly colored Ikea plates and cups on the kitchen floor with my children because I had nothing else to do. And when I taught my daughter to recognize and match colors that morning a small light inside me started shining a little brighter. That light has inspired me to slow down, slow down, slow down and allow those moments the space they need to happen. The moments I’ve had since slowing down are not always teaching moments, but they are moments of connection. They are healing. They are moving. I feel like I could slow down much more. And I feel like I am still transitioning 5 1/2 years after the birth of my son (I don’t know how long I’ll keep homeschooling for instance. And still am seeking the “me” I want to role model). The funny thing is I gave your book to another mom I know who is also finding the need to focus on slowing down. She said “playing big” seems the opposite of what she needs right now. I still have to write her and tell her how “slowing down” can be the “playing big” goal (or, one of her many). This little quiet goal has made for some of my biggest, shiniest moments.
I have no words of wisdom, but I wanted to thank you for your beautiful post. You put words to what so many feel and that is truly a gift.
I really loved your post. You have put into words some of my emotions. I also read this post, another mom who is putting words into this in-between place: http://mamalode.com/story/detail/the-complications-of-motherhood
I thought you might enjoy!
Happy New Year!
(mom of two boys under 4)
Motherhood has rewritten me significantly in good ways and in ways that I miss parts of my former me. But I’ve learned, now that I have a 7 year old and a 3 year old, that I wasn’t rewritten once as a mother. I’m constantly being rewritten. So I go with the flow of wherever we are as a family, doing my best to operate at the pace of my children, but then I re-evaluate every 3-6 months to see where we all are now.
For practical purposes, this means adjusting all our schedules, for example last spring I was able to add workouts in the morning before everyone woke up. But in the fall the kids were waking up all the time so I had to do my workouts at night. Sometimes we add more structured activities, sometimes we add more free-form family time based on what the kids seem to need right now. As the kids grow, during some phases I’m able to bring back more of the old me that I liked (exercise, book club, drinks with friends), but during some phases I need to let some of those things go to accommodate my family. Now that I’ve been through this cycle a few times I don’t feel so stressed when I let things go that are meaningful to me because I know that I may be able to bring them back in a few short months.
“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even
recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or
weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur
to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us,
that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming
larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to
feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth
as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant.
Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most
unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods
when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its
breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become
the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize
that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in
all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be
revealed.” Alice Walker
I loved this post. And I love that you are allowing motherhood to change you. Good, bad or indifferent, I don’t believe it is possible to do otherwise. Personally, I am one of those mothers who would have had 20 kids, if it was possible (well, I say that but who knows, I only have 2!). They are teenagers now, but in raising and homeschooling them (for 8 years) I learned WAY more about MYSELF than I ever expected….sort of like starting a new business. ‘-).
In any event, thank you for your insights. Beautifully written.
So profound. I loved your post and it came at such a good time for me. After climbing the ladder at my current place of employment for nearly 20 years, there has been a major change in the executive management team that has left me stunned and has also left me with the realization that after all these years, I am not part of the new team. I am being rewritten by the high probability that I have hit the glass ceiling…something that I believed only happened to other women. For the past year, I have been trying to make sense of things and contemplate where to go from here. Do I look for a new job where I hope to have a larger leadership role, do I retire all together and try my hand at being a stay at home Mom to my 7-yr old daughter (my only child), do I venture out into the unknown and start my own consulting firm, or do I stay and make the most of a lucrative paycheck but with limited growth and voice. I totally connected with your thoughts on the messy and muddled feeling of living somewhere between A and B. Some days I know exactly what to do and others I feel back to square one. Thank you for sharing your very encouraging post. It’s good to know so many of us are on the same journey!
Hi Tara. Thank you for putting my struggles into words.
My oldest daughter was born 3 months prematurely and spent 2.5 months in the NICU. During this time we learned she had brain damage but would not know how, or if, that would affect her. Two years later she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.
She’s now 7. She cannot sit, walk, talk, crawl, go to the bathroom, feed herself or do anything independently. However, she has a sharp mind, which is wonderful but frustrating since she cannot clearly express her feelings and ideas.
To say that this journey has changed me is an understatement. All of my ideas of motherhood and dreams for my daughter have been altered beyond recognition. It’s been 7 years, and I’m still in transition. Still searching for my new identity while desperately clinging to my old self.
I now have a 2 year old daughter, who is everything I could have hoped for and more. I try to celebrate both of my daughters individually, as they are very different.
As 2014 ends, I pray that 2015 will help me find myself and the peace that I desperately need. Your posts have been wonderful and healing, and I look forward to having a clear mind to read and experience your book (which I have).
Happy New Year and best wishes for love, happiness and health in 2015.
You say it so perfectly that there’s nothing I could really add, except the wish that you’d found that realization 6 years ago so that I could benefit from it when I most needed it. Lol. I admire you so much and I know you’ll find your place of stability. Goodness, it is so hard when a child turns everything topsy turvy and you become a zookeeper in addition to all your other roles. BLENDING them is the tough part, I think. Love and light to you in the new year.
Slowing d o w n. It’s the only way I have found to extract joy in the mundane and be present to the magic that resides in the simplest of things.
When I had my first baby, I was surrounded by other young parents insisting that this new addition would change nothing about their lives. After an overnight camping trip with a nursing 3-month old I quickly realized this was just dumb. I had new needs (e.g. constant access to clean, dry shirts) and the baby did too. Now the baby is in high school. We’re always adapting, constantly in transition.
I have really struggled with the idea that we are must change ourselves rather than experiencing life changing us, which can seem passive (but isn’t, if you’re engaged). I have felt crushing social pressure to actively “improve” myself with outward things that look like change (a new class! a new job!).
But the true and valuable changes I have gone through are much more internal and complex. I am still sometimes troubled by the invisibility of it all, though.
Thankyou for opening your motherheart. One day I left my profession of twenty years to welcome my adopted son and become a mother. I learned over the last 23 years that B does not necessarily follow A. Motherhood is not, in my experience, linear; I come to W, then to C, then I’m off to P, and right back to A again several times a day. Remember, you have a well of resilience – drink deeply. Your little one (all little ones and big ones) will learn so much from the your shared vulnerability. Bless your work.
You are an “old soul” in the swiftness of your realizations and insights.
I’ve never been a mother, but in the last decade or two have faced the major changes of aging, not all of which I have yet accepted. I am becoming, have become, an old woman.
What I would say to you is something I believe you have already told us. When I first saw my face becoming wrinkled, my thick hair thinning, and felt my reliable legs sometimes aching or shaky, I anguished, then mourned. Now I begin not to count the changes and losses, because they have finally awakened me to reality: Power and control are chimeras, passing illusions.
All life is a gift, undeserved, unearned in every sense. We receive it by grace, that’s the bottom line. Or the top line.
Thanks again for your sheer honesty and vulnerability,
I recently finished reading your book, and it is an excellent resource. I am grateful that you organized your thinking/feeling life and expressed yourself with such compassion and clarity. You offer so many valuable concepts, exercises and paradigm shifts. Thank you!
Congratulations on the birth of your baby. Motherhood completely changed my life (18 years ago) when my only son was born. My reflection: I paid attention to the moments, the everyday details that build a life. We raised him with perhaps an old-fashioned philosophy: limited electronics, and an emphasis on real-life engagement: play, conversation, literacy — which all adds up to valuing the art of learning. As a young man, he exudes a passion for life, even with all the challenges that a typical family will inevitably face. Yes, our choices have consequences. Find your True North when it comes to being a parent. There are so many ways kids can be distracted from being kids. Be the guide and the light and the love. Cherish your precious time together — it goes by in a flash. xo
Hi Tara. You are so right. Sometines it is not about just letting the waves wash over you as going with the flow. Sometomes you come out a bit bruised but you survive. Happy New Year!
All the previous posts say it best. Motherhood is life-changing. For me, it was the greatest gift. My sons are now 34 and 29, being creative and productive in the world. Let other women and men support you. I was a single mother going for a doctorate when my sons were growing up. While my women supported me, male role models built computers, tied ties and (TMI) showed the boys how to pee standing up.
Guess what? Those same women are supporting me to reorganize and rewrite myself. Those same men are having my sons teach their sons. The Legacy continues.
You are a strong messenger and I thank you for these nuggets that get us thinking. Motherhood hosts many of my transformations, you say changes. Many of us have been affected by motherhood in a powerful way. My advice for you is to seize the trust you have in yourself as a woman and writer. From reading your book and blog I know you have worked hard on this. There will be many moments when a messenger comes into your space and causes a disruption in what you know you to be true about your baby and your performance as mother. Remember to always trust your motherly instinct. ALWAYS! Yours in rewrite, Jeanne
The greater understanding for the transitions our own mothers went through is another treasure we should gain from our own. We know and accept that we try hard as parents, yet are still sometimes fallible – but sometimes neglect to bestow that same compassion on those who transitioned when we were born and as we grew.
Thank you once again Tara, for expressing so beautifully that which reveals itself through your life, in a way that speaks for so many of us. And thank you sisters who have added your wisdom to Tara’s here.
While never having been a mother, I have lived 59 years now, and for some reason I continue to be surprised by the ways in which life continually delivers me into the wilderness of the Unknown. Whether through relationship, work or other life changes… I find I must learn over and over that there is a Mystery unfolding that is much bigger than me.
I heard a speaker recently (Nancy Schneck) describe the state of Exile, as being a time when all categories that we have used to define ourselves, are blown wide open. And that this is what allows us to enter more deeply into relationship with the Mystery that informs Everything… to move past more limited definitions of ourselves, so we may be introduced to larger and larger experiences of who we really are.
I believe these experiences of “being rewritten” (such a great phrase!), like motherhood, and loss, and entering the unknown… offer us gateways to deeper and more expansive ways of being. And they also necessitate the loss of the former, more limited, identity that we have believed was who we were. Each step in this liminal space asks us to relax our grip on who we think we need to be, to relinquish the stories that run in our heads about doing it wrong, and to trust in something we can’t see or name or control. Yikes!
great post, lovely to hear your truth. Naomi Stadlen writes beautifully about Motherhood – “What Mother’s Do – especially when it looks like nothing” and “How Mother’s love’.
Its all about transitioning. Since I had children I stopped flying – but this Christmas we went to Italy and it made me realise how quick one can move from one country to another without thinking. There was a strain and my daughter was travel sick. Staying in one place becomes quite important for children and their sense of home. Coming home to myself seems to be part of this and I don’t realise half the time. Small things like going back to school are transitions, being with dad, being with relatives, its through observing this subtle stuff I realise how sensitive we are to every change. And thats OK, relax.
Tara – I love reading your posts. This one especially hit a cord. I love how you expressed that we are rewritten by things that change us. So true. It allows us to work with what life has given us and how we can create our world around that. All these changes are gifts that challenge and brings us to new chapters of our lives.
Fabulous post Tara!
Welcome to the community of mothers — an amazing, life-changing experience that you have done a great job of describing. One thing I would add — the journey continues — my kids are 18 and 14, and I am still being changed. One book that has truly helped me address my parenting (even now with teenagers!) is “The Conscious Parent” by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. I think you will really appreciate it. Best of luck to you throughout this new year!
I add my kudos to those of others…as a fellow mom and follower of your blog and professional contributions.
When my son was born 17 years ago and we came home from the hospital with him (we couldn’t believe they actually let us leave with our tiny bundle without some training or license), I sat on the couch and cried and cried.
I wrote a post about it on my expatinistanbul blog two years ago, when our son was going off to camp, another experience that I sought out for him but which highlighted again my reason for sitting on the couch after he was born and crying and crying:
I had changed. I was forever vulnerable. The blog I titled “The Worry” but, of course, it was much more than that.
Having a child is a gift. It makes you realize how truly deep and wide love is. And how vulnerable this precious gift makes us because, unlike all our own experiences which we can control in terms of our own reaction to them, we cannot protect or choose how our children respond to theirs. We can only help to shape their own journeys as positively as we can. To arm them with the best tools we can.
It is a gift and also, yes, burden, that I would never change. It has added a dimension to the lens thru which I view, live and experience life for which I give thanks daily.
And, yes, I still worry.
Love your post naming the period between changing from/changing to. Thank you! I often think of these times as the time between trapeze bars, letting go of one, then flying through the air (also called trust and faith) for a time before grasping the new bar. I have also heard it referred to as the space between breaths. What is happening during the mysterious time between breathing in and breathing out when there is little ‘to do’ other than embrace uncertainty, as we let go of the known and step into the unfamiliar?
And so it goes, and will continue to go. Life as transitionalists, that’s what we are… welcome sweet Tara.
The well of your soul is experiencing new and infinite waters. Sometimes i swim, sometimes I float and often I tread water, but on a good day I can do this believing I am a mermaid. 😉
So much love and gratitude to you for putting your life into words.
Oh Tara, I feel that you put in words what I’ve been living for a couple of months now. I left everything over a year ago to start and finish my second masters degree…or so I thought, because now I’m being asked to resubmit my dissertation, so not so much about “finishing” it. So now I’m working on a position in the ladder that I had years ago (and earning accordingly), living with my parents (all the money went to pay for a master’s degree abroad) and not finished with my master’s. And this messiness, and confusion, and state of constant “irresolution” is taking its toll (after 2-3 months). I’m thinking that all these things are rewriting me, forcing me to do all this “shifting” that I probably have been resisting for quite some time. Better late than never! 😉 Best wishes to you and thank you!
I am so encouraged by your post. A working Mom to my 5 year old preschooler, your book has been inspiring but I wondered what motherhood would do to your message. I believe in everything you wrote but I do feel like I’m in the transition period and only wonder if it’s another 13 – 20 years-til he’s securely on his own- that I’ll be here. Is it really all my decision? I like this in between and have to constantly filter the advice of others to commit professionally or at home full time. It is tiring. I wonder if there is anyone who isn’t so sure exactly what I should do and how, other than me
Thank you for this lovely post – it expresses beautifully how I felt when I had my first baby, and how I continue to change as my children grow up. I spend time sometimes thinking on how I want to influence my children, the values I would like to pass on to them, the kind of role model I want to be – but your piece has reminded me that my children, different as they are, are shaping me as well. My daughter who is sometimes anxious and worried about the world has helped me to find my sense of inner peace and safety in order to reassure her; and my daughter who is so responsible and loves learning has reminded me that we all need to make time and space for fun in our lives. i never expected that my children would change me so much, and so often…but I am much wiser for the journey they have taken me on.
[…] 2. THE THINGS THAT REWRITE US […]
Hi Tara – My kids are older now…a little less rewriting, but more knowing which roles to keep and which to let go of is the trick. But my marriage to their dad ended several years ago. Still in major rewriting mode, and as this new year dawned, every aspect of my life seems to be in a state of uncertainty. I was thrilled to cross paths with you again, as your words (esp, the interview on Good Life Project) gave me an idea of where to ground myself as the world changes around me. Oh, and if we’re recommending books (lol), may I suggest “The Tao of Motherhood”. Short, sweet juicy bite size pieces to breathe with.
I can relate totally with where you are right now. I my self have a 3year old and a 9month old. You put to words perfectly how I feel and I must say that most days I have fears that I may have bitten off more than I can chew.
You see, before I became a mum I used to think I could multitask so well. Nothing however, prepared me for the shock of tagging on motherhood to my plate which was already full with running a business.
I do not have any words of wisdom but it does feel good to know one is not alone and for that I will say “thank you Tara” and thank you to all mums (and dads) out there.
Tara, you already get it and are exactly where you should be. Please continue to be the voice for the women who do not have the courage to admit that sometimes what they thought motherhood would be is different in reality. We expect to feel one way; I call it the rose-colored glasses scripted version of motherhood. When we don’t -and if we are honest that is mostly true- we feel guilty, incapable and dare I say not worthy of this tiny being that we are now responsible for. When I had my first child 25 years ago I was surrounded by mothers who never complained and seemed to be born for the role and unaffected by it. When I said, “At times I feel that this being a Mom thing really stinks. Some days I am not sure if I am capable enough, or really want to do this.” I was amazed at the floodgates that opened up when given permission to be honest and imperfect. I was not alone in my doubts, fears and guilt. I was however the only one with the courage to express it. I loved my son from the beginning but it was several weeks later that I fell in love with him. I had two more children and the space in between, though still there, was easier to be present with, and shorter. The greatest gift a mother can give to another is to say it is OK, you don’t need to figure it all out now. I made many mistakes, and still do. I continually learn from them and that has made me a better mother and woman. My life is not only being a mother -though it is the part I have loved and learned from the most- My children know and respect this. They learned independence, perseverance, go with the flow (plans will change) and respect for a parent who has a life outside of being their mom. A Mom, who is not perfect, dared to be different, challenged them and their capabilities, loved them unconditionally and sometimes appeared flawed. If you love, nourish, encourage and respect your children, and yourself, you already are “Perfect.”
Thanks for this post! It really rings true for me in so many ways. Part of life happens ‘to’ us whether we like it or not (or even admit it). We can control and drive much but sometimes things are unexpected and/or beyond our control and there’s no doubt… we are changed. Sometimes for the good and sometimes, not so much. Parenthood (congratulations to you!) is one of those wonderful life events that come with some preconceived insights but SO much is unexpected and unanticipated… as you are now experiencing. Parenthood definitely rewired and made clear what was most important to me and also pushed me in ways I never expected. It’s a responsibility that tests every fiber of your being… EVERY FIBER! Physical, emotional, spiritual. But the reward is the most gratifying. Embrace your new source of change and know that it will be on-going. It’s not a transition, this is now threaded into your life journey and you will be forever influenced, inspired, overwhelmed and impassioned by your child. It’s a beautiful source of your own development and growth.
I love this post. I struggled mightily with my entrance to motherhood, and had quite severe post partum depression for the first few months of my first child’s life. With many years of perspective I see now that this had a lot to do with my struggling against the notion that something was going to rewrite me, as you so beautifully put it. Surrendering to that, as someone who’d always thought if I just tried hard enough I could basically bend the universe to my will, was really, really hard for me. Of course since doing that, I’ve realized the enormous power of surrender and how illusory any feeling of control was anyway. xoxo
Oh WOW, I could’ve really benefited from the wisdom of this post six years ago when I was reprogrammed and rewritten by motherhood. That is truly the most honest and true way to describe the shift and SO tremendously validating.
I couldn’t define it properly until now – thank you!
Thank you so much for your post.
I am a young woman, not yet a mother, but your post SO resonated with me anyway.
I am a year and a half out of college, I’ve held a few seasonal positions and quit my first full time employment knowing it wasn’t the direction for me (scary!); I’m self-employed as a freelancer at the moment, but I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing. I’ve been raging against that inside my head, because my self identity is so tied into being DRIVEN, hardworking, and confident.
I can still identify individual actions that are in line with my “self”, but the pattern as a whole is entirely unclear. Walking to the farmers market with a friend, that’s me. Reading late into the night. Getting satisfaction out of a job well done. Feeling inspired by certain artists and social change makers. And some of them are old things I recognize, and others are new. But it seems to me that what this transition PERIOD means is that while the individual pieces are discrete, instead coalescing into a whole.
Anyway, I’m sure it doesn’t compare to new motherhood. But I just wanted to say it IS so hard to be patient with this internal process, to not be able to MAKE anything happen with it and instead just have to wait until the circumstances make themselves into what they are. So thank you for your words.
My motherhood experience resembled what you have written, Elin. It was very disorienting at first, until I could reach a time where I could see the shape and pattern we were becoming together. I think it is very disorienting to move from thinking pretty much only about oneself, to thinking about another so fully…relentlessly. Like skating forward, pushing each leg with power and gaining momentum, and then flipping around and trying to stay upright while skating backwards. At first you fall a lot, but you improve over time as you figure out ways to maintain your balance while looking in a whole new direction than previously.
Being changed by our circumstances! Powerful stuff. I was changed first by chronic illness, untreatable let-a-lone incurable. Everything changed for me. Everything I had ever wanted was taken away, my studies, my career, my friends, my social life, my relationships right across the board. I couldn’t plan anything, not a week, a day, not even an hour ahead of time as a “crash” could happen at any time. Eventually I learnt to embrace the change, celebrate the things I couldn’t do before, the things I didn’t have time for or felt guilty about spending time on. I played computer games when I could or watched marathon runs of tv shows and began to explore food.
Years later, still chronically ill but no longer bed bound or housebound 24/7 and we decided to have a child. It was AMAZING and scary all at once. I actually went into a type of remission at 6 months pregnant and stayed that way until my son was 18 months old. I had my life back! I could be a “real girl” again. I wrote my new self completely around my little boy, every moment of energy I had was for him and I loved it. And then I crashed again. It was the first crash in years and it was one of the worst. It lasted for months. I went from being a full-time mum to having him in childcare full-time, it sucked. I became lost. I was being involuntarily rewritten, for the third time in about six years.
Eventually we found a balance again, we made things work, I found the little things I could celebrate, the moments I could indulge and worry about consequences later.
For so long I let my illness or my roll as a mum define me. Compromised EVERYTHING as it related to those two things, and I was miserable!
What I want to tell you is this, celebrate the changes, enjoy motherhood, it’s amazing and frustrating and you will grieve and you will celebrate, but above all else, YOU need to decide what makes you happy first. If you let these changes control your life, just go along with it, you are going to wake up one day and realise that you’ve forgotten who you are. Forgotten that this body that grew a person, cared and nourished it actually belongs to you. You need to be comfortable in your skin again, own it again, settle into the old familiar parts and become familiar with the new stuff.
Don’t set your responsibilities aside, embrace them, embrace the constant changes that come with young children, but also make yourself, your identity, your hopes and dreams, a priority. They can be little things, like a day in bed with a book once in a while or to be spoilt rotten for a day – make sure you tell those around you what YOU want and need and embrace that side of you as well.
My 2015 is also about change, but change on my terms. I’m all about cutting away the dreams I can’t have. No more ghosts hanging about, making me feel bad for not being the person I wanted to be. It’s all about embracing the person I can be.
[…] Mohr talks about how the life-changing experience of motherhood is rewriting her. There are many life-changing experiences that do this – some chosen and some not. […]
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I completely understand. I too had not thought about the transition as being its own period of time. But I realize, after being in this period for the last year with no end in sight yet, and after you so graciously put it into words, this is where I am too. I am in that period where I long to hold onto my old habits, my old way of life – a life that had me as a stay at home mom, with a husband, people to care for, but no time for myself. But that’s not my life anymore. And the life I am headed for, I have no idea what it looks like, what my relationship with my children will evolve into. I know that this transition is about rediscovering myself as a person, about embracing my strength as I parent two special needs children on my own. About how to care for myself when there is even less time. About creating something beautiful out of the ashes of my former self. The creation process deserves to be recognized on its own, rather than as the transition from one place to another. The journey.
Thank you Phyllis for your words. They are coming at the beginning of my new experience of not being a full-time parent anymore. With my only child in college this fall, I see both of our lives in transition. At first the loss was overwhelming, but now I see the potential and beauty in it.
To Tara, it seems like yesterday when my child was born and indeed the transition was a big one. I loved your words about accepting that the transition takes time, patience and understanding.
Such a heart felt and honest post. My girls are teenagers now. Our family roles seem to be changing all over again as they become independent young women. Nearly a year ago, my father died. My mother died ten years before. My last year has been lived in that murky timezone between point A and point B. So many lessons to learn as I embrace and accept life without my beautiful parents. Both birth and death have much to offer us, if we are open to being reshaped and ultimately – renewed.
I, too can relate to your reaction to the change that has been impressed upon you. No doubt, it is a welcome and joyful change yet, truth be told, change and growth in this new or amended version of yourself can also be painful and a little scary. However, the joy of a child and the wonderful, amazing opportunities to grow with this new little person is going to be the most powerful and influential thing you will ever do with your life. And, while that is wonderful, it IS scary! 🙂
I have had change foisted upon me, too. I am in my fifties and my husband’s health is failing. I am called upon to play a bigger role is his care that neither one of us had anticipated and this brings with it a host of new responsibilities that take up a lot of my time. I am also self-employed and this ‘health upset’ has impacted my work and my ability to work in a significant way. But, work I must – and the need to re-invent my work persona around these new responsibilities is a challenging one. Your article helped me to see that there will be a period of “mushiness, messiness, and confusion” and that’s natural. We are all in transition, one way or another, some of it harder than others but the need to move through and work through the things that may stumble or thwart us is part of growing. We’re always growing and needing to cope with something; understanding and recognizing that is part of overcoming the resulting challenges that may otherwise weaken us and make us want to quit. But onward and forward we go!
Tara, A wonderful reminder about surrendering to change..and living the emotions and practicalities that being a mother and working and marriage all brings. A fine art of balancing the priorities by listening to our within.
[…] phase for me it: it is about deepening my understanding of living a life within a family, about mothering, and about partnerships – both personal and professional. It’s about digging deeper […]
[…] Mohr talks about how the life-changing experience of motherhood is rewriting her. There are many life-changing experiences that do this – some chosen and some not. Education […]
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