“But What About You?” The Search for Self in Motherhood

“But what about you? What are you doing?”

After a long catch up with a family member about my job, about my kids, about my husband, I was asked those two questions. She went on to ask what I was doing to prepare for “The next big things” in my life and career. Though well-intentioned and asked with love, these questions left me feeling like the person asking them thought what I was doing with my life and my everyday moments were not enough. Or that in becoming a busy, working mom, I lost some of my self–what makes me “me.”

In this season of my life, I have young kids, ages two, six, and eight. The moments I spend with my children, with my husband, the hours I spend working–that is me, that is my self, and that is my life. There’s not time to plan a girls’ weekend or some other fun adventure. There’s not time to take a cooking class, let alone go back to school for another advanced degree. There’s not time to work on “The next big thing.” Some days, there’s not even time to take a shower!

Where does all that time go?

Into reading stories, discovering new movies, or playing board games with my kids.

Into watching my little girl learn to do one-footed spins in her ice skating lessons.

Or being proud of my son who couldn’t bear to put his face in the water finally learning to swim and tread water for two whole minutes.

Into petting a barking two-year-old who tells me she is a “tiny baby doggy.”

Into talking with my husband over dinner about the latest goings on at our offices or finally getting to spend some time together after we’ve gotten the kids to bed.

Into trying to take care of myself and exercise every day.

Into working my butt off at the office, sometimes slogging through 12-hour workdays, training new staff, and making sure all the big projects are taken care of.

Those are the everyday moments that make up my crazy busy mom life. They might not be glamorous and exciting. They might not be working toward “The next big thing.” But they make me happy, and they’re my big things for today. Right now, they’re enough for me.

My oldest took this picture without me realizing it - capturing my girls piling up on me for snuggles. Moments like these are my "big thing" for today.
My oldest took this picture without me realizing it – capturing my girls piling up on me for snuggles. Moments like these are my “big thing” for today.

So, moms, in case you need to hear it today like I needed to hear it after that conversation, I want you to know that I see YOU amidst all the crazy busy-ness of our mom lives. I don’t think that you’ve lost your identity–you’ve just added to it in a big way by being a mom. And, though it’s hard to find the time to go get that cup of coffee and chat like we always say we should, I do have a minute to tell you something important. Who you are and what you are doing today? You are enough. 

I don’t think that you’ve lost your identity–you’ve just added to it in a big way by being a mom.

Who you are shines through in all the everyday moments. The mommy moments, the work moments, the fun moments, the hard moments. When you take your kids to practice, I see you. Watching, giving skills advice after the game, hugging your kids when you are proud of them or when they are sad. That’s all you, winning at the whole mom thing whether or not your kids are winning the game. Grading papers, taking work calls, or working on your laptop while your kids are at dance class, sometimes even just staring off into space because you are so worn out, or being determined to chat and relax during the one hour you get away from the baby today. That’s you, too, struggling to find the balance and make it all work. You’re working hard at this whole mom thing. I see you and I respect you. You’re doing all you can, the best you can, and it’s enough.

If all those little everyday moments seem to take everything you’ve got and not leave a lot of room for you to do “The next big thing,” believe me, I get it. I’m not running a marathon or writing the great American novel this weekend, either.

Someday, when my kids are a little bigger, I’ll take that cooking class, I’ll plan that girls weekend, we’ll finally manage to get that cup of coffee and chat, and we’ll talk about our plans for “The next big thing” in our lives. But for today, I’m a little busy petting a barking two-year-old. That’s who I am right now. And it’s enough.

Laura is a mom of three who works full-time from home as a Development Director for a children’s charity. Laura grew up in Maryland, spent her 20s living in Southern California and South Carolina, and has spent her 30s and now 40s in Iowa, moving to Iowa City in 2010. Laura loves dancing, reading, baking, and music. She and her husband Ryan started dating in college (gasp – over 20 years ago!) and they have been sharing life’s adventures ever since. Their biggest adventure is, of course, parenthood. With three kids, the action is non-stop - which is just the way Laura likes it.



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