Yesterday’s Sunday Scribbling, off topic as it was, got me thinking about motherhood. Combined with a few other blog posts I’ve read recently, and a conversation with Randy over dinner.
It seems like there are two groups of people. (You can tell if you read much, I’m definitely a “categorizer.”) There are those who are completely changed by motherhood – they are consumed by it. While they may continue to have their own activities and their own interests, those things are less important. They are not worried about losing their identity – they have found a new identity. (I’m still me, for example, but how I define “me” has changed.) And there are those who are not changed by motherhood. They are still them, mostly still the pre-parenthood definition of themselves, but now they have a kid or two.
Let’s stop and note right now that I’m not judging either side, and am taking great pains not to give the false impression that I think one is better than the other. Obviously, I identify with one of those groups more strongly than the other, but I have no experience BEING in the other group, so I have no idea what it’s like.
Now. Here are some things I got to wondering.
1. The first group of people seems to be a lot of stay at home moms; the second group tends to be majority working moms. Are they who they are because they work/don’t work, or do they work/not work because of their experience with motherhood? In other words, do people like me (first group) quit their jobs when they have kids BECAUSE they are completely changed by their motherhood experience, or are they changed by their motherhood experience because they have decided to quit and raise their children? Do people in the second group continue to work because holding on to their pre-kids identity is that important to them, or is their pre-kid identity important to them as a side effect of their continuing to work?
2. The first group of people tend to do fewer things without their kids along. Clearly, Randy and I are on the far side of this, we hardly do anything without Wally in tow. The second group of people tend to do a lot of adult-only activities. (TEND to – TEND to!) Again, which came first? Do we tend to do things as a family and not so much adult-only activities because we are immersed (too immersed?) in parenthood, or are we immersed in parenthood because we tend not to do adult-only activities? I know in my case, we didn’t tend to do much of that before we had Wally – we never went out with friends in the evenings, we did go see movies, but we were just as happy (moreso) to stay in, we generally did things just with each other because we enjoyed each other’s company. Do people in the second group tend to do more adult-only activities because they truly need that time away from their kids to maintain their old sense of self, or so they maintain their old sense of self because they have a natural tendency to want to do adult-only activities? Did they, generally speaking, do those things before kids, as well? Go out with friends, go out drinking or dancing, go to movies, etc.
It’s an interesting thing to think about. Am I the parent I am because of who I was long before I had kids? Is there something good or bad about the two approaches? Are kids better off in one scenario than the other? Likely, as with everything, it’s probably that a balanced approach is the best, but in real life, we don’t often get that balance, you know?