The Fear of “What If?”

I was the kid who pretended to be “mommy.” I wrote lists of possible names for my distant-future children. I aspired to be a mother while others dreamt of space exploration or royal appointments. I am now immensely fortunate to be living that dream.

I adore my present life season full of sleeplessness and snuggles, tantrums and tea parties, playdates and potty-training. I treasure the countless memories so much that I frequently attempt to recount past events so as not to allow them to fade from my mind.

Because of my love for this harried but beautiful stage, I fear what lies ahead. I worry about the days when my children don’t want me around as they do now, the days when errands can be quick and bathroom trips can be solitary. The days when people don’t look at me and immediately know I am a mom.

Part of me wants to pull back from my present stage, to stop myself from so wholeheartedly adopting the “mom” identity. The drive is fear for the future — an assumed future — and self-preservation. If I allow myself to dive deep into motherhood, how hurt and confused will I be when the tides change? Who will I be when I am not so completely needed or wanted, when my days and nights no longer center on giving of myself in every way?

There is another part of me — the hippy side, the tender side — that tells myself to revel in the fruition of my life dreams. This is but a fleeting moment in life, but it is a fulfilling one. It is what I’ve always wanted. Why not allow myself to experience it fully? Would I not chastise myself in later years for hindering my own experience due to the fear of “what if?”

Lawyers identify as lawyers, musicians identify as musicians. Why, then, should I not identify as a mother? When an individual’s career path shifts, the challenge to find one’s new identity is considered normal. Why would mothers entering new seasons of their career not be expected and afforded the right to experience the same upheaval?

Life is change. We change continuously throughout our existence, sometimes on imperceptible smaller scales and other times in abrupt, quaking shifts.

I must learn to accept the eventual change without allowing fear to rob me of my present. I am a mom. I will always be a mom. Each stage will simply be different. And that’s ok.

Lost and Found

It’s easy to lose yourself in the weight, the grind, the excitement, the worry, the messiness, the monotony, the beauty of motherhood. Rarely does one become a parent and remain the same person as before. This is good. Growth is good. Change can be good. This can also be very challenging.

When your mind, body, priorities, worldview, and life change so drastically, it can be hard to maintain the friendships you had prior to the upheaval. Often, we moms go through a lonely adjustment phase during early motherhood. We don’t quite understand who we are, what we’re doing, or where our old self went, but we realize everything has changed. Sometimes old friendships can grow with this shift, but often not. Many new moms go through a period of shedding as they try to determine who they are. It’s mournful. It’s lonely. It’s confusing. It’s temporary.

Then, one day, you realize who you are, you’re more comfortable in your stretch-marked skin, more self-aware and self-assured. This confidence allows you to make new friendships and even rekindle old ones. Your mom friend circle grows but, more importantly, it strengthens. These friends are your pack, your village, your treasures.

Growing up, I never quite felt I fully belonged. I was told I was wiser than my years, that I had an old soul… perhaps I was simply awkward. Whatever the case, I often held one or two individuals close and enjoyed a smattering of widely varied acquaintanceships with people who often would not be friends with one another, despite their ties to me. Looking back, I note the commonality among them: genuine individuality. These people were unflinchingly themselves — unabashedly outspoken, shy but funny, quirky, hippy-chic, goth-punk, soccer player, preppy, music enthusiast, etc. — every one was different but each held my admiration because they were uniquely themselves.

This ability to fearlessly be myself didn’t come until I had my second child. I’d finally come out of the first-time-mom shedding fog and was realizing who I was. I was content with myself. I began making friends that I hold dear… friends I know hold me in the esteem I hold them.

Motherhood may have initially caused me to lose myself, but the new self I found is better. The friendships I’ve made and rekindled are stronger. I am a better me and, consequently, better friend now than I was before. Motherhood helped me grow. I am a mother.