Something that is often noted about motherhood is the loss of selfhood. It’s something that is also often not understood, though. At least going by conversations I seem to keep having.
“Ha, ha. Your English humour.” (Meaning: you can’t possibly REALLY be at all unhappy with motherhood, ever.)
“But that’s not losing yourself. That’s just life. Nobody gets to do what they want all the time.” (But how about SOME of the time?)
“That childfree person has an awesome social life because she actually makes an effort.” (Meaning: you clearly don’t.)
Let’s be clear: motherhood is wonderful. My children are amazing. I am incredibly lucky and I don’t wish them away. I’d do it all over again, even knowing what I know now (and although I totally understand why not everyone would). But it is also amazingly hard, and many of the ways in which it is hard are ways in which my sense of self is being constantly eroded.
These are a few of things that motherhood has (temporarily) taken away from me. I suppose none of these could be considered essential to selfhood, but cumulatively, it feels like layer upon layer of me is stripped away.
1. Music. Because I can’t risk not hearing the baby, or because I can’t risk waking the baby, or – nowadays – because the toddler says “no, no, DONE” and switches it off. Or because, even when toddler allows music to play (say, in the car), I’m not allowed to dance or sing along.
2. Time with my thoughts. Because obviously.
3. Exploring new things. Like the idea of drawing every day, to see if I finally manage to develop some skill. Or practising photography until I get less bad. Or trying a new exercise class. (Or any exercise class.) Or – dammit – sewing.
4. Going to the movies alone. Or with friends. I’m not fussy.
5. Wandering around town, popping into museums and galleries, watching the world go by, getting to know my new city.
6. Going to work. Talking to grown-ups and using grown-up skills.
7. Choosing clothes that make me happy, rather than just covering me as inconspicuously as possible.
8. The right to rest when I’m tired or sick. The right to close the bathroom door. The right to not talk to anyone for a while.
Mercifully, though, I still have knitting – at least sometimes, when small person is climbing into my lap and demanding all my cuddles. Which he generally does as soon as I sit down. Which is honestly not terrible. Without the knitting, I really wouldn’t have anything of myself left. Without the knitting, it would all be over.
It’s not over.