Almost 10 months into this gig, I still find it very strange to me to see a picture of myself with Silas. I am the photographer of the family, so while there are countless pictures of Silas, and tons of him with his daddy, with his grandma, grandpa, etc, there are very few of me and him, alone, except for the occasional self-portrait with child. It's as if my vision of myself hasn't fully adjusted to my new role: like getting a drastic new haircut or glasses, and for a few days, constantly startling oneself when passing a mirror. Is that really me?
I didn't expect motherhood to come with such an intense identity crisis. I have always wanted to be a mother; I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. The man I married is the best friend I ever had, and the most amazing father. Our journey to fertility was long and difficult, due to a thyroid problem. This baby is very much wanted. This life is the life I have always wanted. Yet daily, I find myself wrestling with questions of self-identity. What does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean for me to be a mother? What sort of mother do I want to be? What sort of mother am I capable of being? (Two questions which, as I was much chagrined to find out, may have little to do with one the other.)
In bed the other night my husband and I were discussing this. It's not like that for men, he said. There is no fundamental shifting of their ground of being when they become fathers. It is as I suspected: on this point as in many others, motherhood is a bum deal. (Don't get me wrong: it's an honor and a privilege and a tremendous joy. And it's also very, very hard.) As is often the case though, DH cut through the fog of my neurosis with a comment of piercing and illuminating clarity:
"Silas knows that you're his mother."
My son is not confused about my role in his life. He does not wish me to be any other sort of mother. No matter how shitty or doubtful I feel about myself and my capacities (or perceived lack thereof), he accepts me fully, gladly, exuberantly. I am the one he wants, always. I am his mother. Looking at myself through his eyes, seeing what he sees, I see that all those brambly, thorny questions are just mind clutter. I do not need to figure out what it's like to be a mother. I am a mother. What I do everyday is what mothers do. There is nothing else, nothing to figure out.
In this matter, my son is my greatest teacher. He helps me to grasp and accept the truth of who I am. He cuts through my bullshit. He knows what's up. He is unrelenting in his teaching, yet filled with nothing but love and acceptance.
I am so very fortunate to share my life with two guys whose vision of me helps me see myself more clearly. Baby and all.