I had my daughter at 19. It is a fact that I am never afraid to share. It is a testament to my strength and perseverance over the last 6 years, but it is also the most complicated layer of my young life. I entered college right before my 18th birthday and I had my whole life planned out. I knew I wanted to be writer, I had prepped myself for this since I was 8 years old. I selected a university that had one of the best communications programs on the west coast. I was ready to chase down a career in entertainment or corporate Public Relations. No one could have told me that almost a year to the day I stepped foot on campus, I’d receive news of my daughter’s imminent arrival.
August 2, 2008 changed my life. Not only did I find out that I was expecting but I was already 21 weeks along. With less than 5 months to prepare for my new arrival my mentality shifted immediately. At 19, I understood fully that my life was no longer about me but instead about this child I was going to bring into the world. My dreams, my aspirations, and what little innocence I had left was relinquished at that point. I was afraid and confused. Not only was I not financially prepared for a child I was not mentally prepared. My grandfather had just died and everything seemed to be moving in fast forward. While I was surrounded by family and love, it was still a very lonely and isolating feeling.
As time went on I began to adjust, my daughter arrived on December 12, after 40 hours of labor and 15 weeks of anxiety nothing could prepare me for the overwhelming love I felt the moment I heard her voice. From that point on I knew that I was a mother, a woman, and a role model. There was no turning back, and although I was only 19, childhood was behind me.
Six years later a lot is different from that snowy day in December. The father of my child and I have split and we have been happily co-parenting for the last 4 years. My daughter has just started kindergarten, taking her first steps into the real world, and now she’s capable of developing life long memories. That last fact is one that concerns me the most. It causes me to second guess every decision and re-think every idea. It has also forced me to revisit what I want to be and who I want to be, as a woman my daughter can look up to, and as a mother she can be proud of.
Motherhood and womanhood are not one in the same. For many years the traditional idea of gender roles made this to be true, but in an era where woman are choosing to be career women first and wife and mother second that idea has become outdated. So for a modern career woman and mother it becomes a bit of a conundrum to solve. Where is the line between the two and how do you become definitive in both arenas?
I am nowhere near feeling like an expert in motherhood, I feel the way I assume most mothers do. Every year is new. New clothes, new milestones, and new challenges. No amount of parenting literature can prepare for the experience of raising another human life, but just as I mentioned at the beginning of this, couple it with the fact that I just turned 25 and am at that crucial point in adulthood between finding yourself and defining yourself. I love being a mother, I love walking my daughter to school, reading her bed time stories, and playing with her dolls. I love nursing her when she’s sick, putting band aids on her “ouchies”, and teaching her to conquer her fears. I love every second of it but I am afraid of being nothing more than a mother.
I wanted to do great things and I still do but I often wonder how I can balance my responsibilities and my dreams, and does chasing dreams make me less responsible. Do I have time to be a mother, a wife, and my own person? Most importantly how do I define myself and my womanhood? The fear of being mediocre and average terrify me every day. I wonder if other young mothers feel as I do, or if I am fighting something that is inevitable.
Don’t get me wrong for 25, I am doing pretty darn well. I live in a small 2 bedroom apartment that sits on the beach, I have that great corporate job that I dreamed of, and my daughter is amazingly bright and intuitive. What I want, what I always wanted was to inspire and motivate, to help. I want to give a voice to those that feel lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, who dream of things beyond the typical 9-5. So I am writing you as a mother who wants to teach my daughter and the world that dreams can come true, regardless of the adversity we face.
For a huge chunk of my adult life I have spent so much time putting others before me. My daughter will always come first. She's at an age where its essential that I put her and her needs first, but friends, family, and significant others have also taken precedent over my needs and wants. My goals have slowly morphed into something I no longer recognize. I've been chasing the idea of a family, because I never had one and also didn't want my daughter to be deprived of that experience either. The results have been damaging. My sense of self worth has become dangerously tied into my success in a relationship as a girlfriend/wife in training. I've tried to play all the parts of a Superwoman without having that "Superman" to depend on. I've damaged myself and others trying to subscribe to some textbook way of living that is neither realistic or healthy. It's left me empty and depleted. And now I'm not really sure what direction my life should move in, what my goals should be. Cause everything I cared to accomplish required the implicit faith in an another person to love in the way that I do. And I don't think most people are capable of that. I am too needy at times, and too distant at others. I'm full of contradictions. I'm flawed, broken, and still recovering from the realization of my existence.You know, that moment you realize how fucked up your family is and subsequently how fucked up you are because of it. I'm living all of these things right now.
I'm a kickass mother, and I don't have the best of everything but I'm sure my daughter doesn't realize otherwise. She is loved, she is intelligent, and she is confident. She stands up for herself on the playground but is still gentle and loving enough to understand the needs of small children. Her greatness reflects light onto me that lets me know I'm doing a great job at mothering.
Being a woman, and defining exactly what that means is what I struggle with. The first thing I've had to let go of, is being a woman and how it is defined has nothing to do with the man in your life and everything to do with the standards you set for yourself. I'm still learning what those standards are for me. Still learning my own authenticity. I have taken the good things from grandmothers, aunts, and my mother have shown me and decided I wanted similar but different experiences, but the different I was experiencing was not one framed for me, but for someone else by someone else. But I know I'm on the right track and while things in life aren't perfect, and I continue to be imperfect. I am still trying. Even if I fail today, I'm still trying. And at 25, even with all my uncertainty I know that the woman I am now is still powerful and courageous in ways that my daughter will be proud of, and that I can be proud of also.