The Mom Identity Crisis

Blog Everything Else May 23, 2012

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I was someone before I had my son.  Once I became a mom, who was I other than my little man’s mom?  And was I going to become “someone” again?  And if so, who?  Or what?  And how?  And when?

After the little man entered my life, I discovered pretty quickly that my legal career, while at times exciting, generally prestigious, and certainly lucrative, was no longer working for me.  I saw other people “pulling it off”, but not in a way that appealed to me and what I wanted for my new little nuclear famliy.  (Please don’t sound the horns – OMG – she’s judging me for wanting to go back to work right away after having my baby!!!  No, it’s the opposite.  I am celebrating my own choice to be true to what I discovered I wanted for myself.  What I want for you is to be true to yourself, whatever your truth is.)

My own mom is an attorney, and had a very busy law practice while we were young kids.  And she was at our basketball games, our swim meets, our debate tournaments…  If anyone had an example of a full-time career woman working mom as a role model, it was me.  But, alas, I wanted to take that first year to just be with my kid.  My husband wanted that for me (and for the little man) too.  And for that, I am incredibly lucky.  And grateful.  And when my own mom prodded me about “wasting” all that education and experience, and stepping off the “trajectory,” I reminded her that when my older brother was born, she hadn’t yet begun her career, so she didn’t have to make the choice at the time.    It wasn’t until toddlerhood that she enrolled in law school.

So, with the support of my spouse, and to the complete shock of many close family and friends, I resigned from my law firm and allowed myself to wholeheartedly indulge in the glorious joy of full-time parenting.  I navigated the terrain of the new mom world, from playgroup etiquette to weaning, from pureed pears to overnight diapers, and from a strong sense of identity as a high-powered career woman to a full-blown identity crisis.  Who had I become?  Was I still the poster girl for strong, smart, independent, tough-as-nails women making it in a man’s world?

My identity crisis was never more pronounced than when I would go to networking events with my husband.  I knew I wanted to have a career again, even though I didn’t know exactly what it would be.  So, I thought of networking events as opportunities to meet other educated professionals and see what else is out there that people do, as part of my search for what I would do next.

For that whole first year, however, I really dreaded these events.  On the one hand, I wanted to get out of the mom/baby world and feel like an adult again, having adult conversations, but on the other hand, I found those events to be ego-crushers for me.

Any time I’d meet someone and they’d ask what I did for a living, my answer went something like this:  “Well, I’m an attorney, but I’m not practicing at the moment.  I’ve made a conscious choice to be full-time with my son for his first year, and then I’ll figure out what’s next.”  The response was consistently, “Well, good for you!”  And then my fellow party-goer would find a reason to strike up a conversation with someone else.  And I would find the bar.

Was this cocktail party rejection all in my head?  Was I just feeling insecure about the fact that I no longer had this lawyer identity – with all the trappings of feeling prestigious, successful, and intelligent – to put forth at cocktail parties?  Were people actually judging me, looking down on me, finding me uninteresting now that I was just a “stay-at-home” mom, even if only temporary?

It doesn’t really matter whether it was real, because it certainly felt real.  And that feeling sucked.

The more I talked to other women about this, I realized that I wasn’t alone.  That we all go through this.  In fact, many moms felt this way regardless of their circumstances – whether they intended to stay-at-home, go back to their prior careers, launch a new career.  It didn’t matter.

It’s our most important role, yet “mom” is a descriptive term that doesn’t really say much about us at all, other than that we birthed or adopted a child.  What about the fact that you were state champ in tennis in high school, were the first woman elected student body president at your university?  What about your management skills, your ability to work a room, your White House internship or your graphic design prowess.  What about the fact that you’re a gifted potter, or love to go on long bike rides?   What about your talents?  Your hobbies?  Your interests?  Your passions, your gifts?

We’ve gotta stay true to that stuff too.  Because while you’re a great mom, that’s not all you are.  You are a full-blown, complete woman, with a mad set of skills, talents, interests, and uniqueness.  Let her shine through too.  Even if not for you, do it for your kids.  Because they are watching.

What is one thing you can commit to to stay true to yourself.  One thing you can do for you to stay connected to the woman you are?  Please share it in the Comments below, so we can all support you in staying true to yourself.  xx

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