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When I welcomed my first son into the world seven years ago, my entire identity changed. In one long, laborious night, I went from someone who had only ever cared for houseplants to someone who was completely responsible for the health, well-being and happiness of another human being. It was a momentous shock and I felt the reverberations from it for many months after my son’s birth.
I was somebody’s mother. The role felt all-consuming, like it had devoured anything else I was before. For me, figuring out my identity as a mom was one of the hardest parts about becoming a parent. Was I a mom who made her own baby food? Cloth diapered? Attachment parented? Breastfed? Was I a mom who co-slept or swaddled or baby-proofed? Was I a mom who worked or stayed at home? Did I raise my voice? Did I put together matching outfits? Did I Google developmental milestones? Did I let my kid eat Cheerios off the floor?
Was I a mom who had any idea what she was doing or why she was doing it? Or was I just flying by the seat of my pants and hoping for the best?
I spent the first few years of my son’s life trying to answer these questions. Carving out a new identity for myself as somebody’s mother. By the time I got pregnant with my second son, I thought the transformation was complete. I thought you only became a mom once, when your first child was born. You certainly don’t have to go through a whole identity crisis again. It turns out I was wrong.
When my second son was born, I found myself in the throes of a complete “Who am I?” moment. This new baby was nothing like my first and I was nothing like the mom I had been the first time around. At every turn, I contradicted myself and my previous parenting choices.
Things I had the time for with one child suddenly seemed unattainable. Things that had felt vital to raising a well-adjusted kid no longer carried the same urgency. I cut corners, shrugged off recommendations and guidelines and milestones, and relaxed my carefully constructed standards, all to survive life with two kids.
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