My husband and I were sitting around a firepit in his mother’s backyard, enjoying a bottle of wine and celebrating our first family vacation (4 hours away from home, to be exact). We had discussed an array of pop culture topics as well as political views. The conversation swayed to my career and how it had shifted from being an Admissions Supervisor to a stay-at-home mom, against my original plans and wishes.
After the obligatory, “Do you feel stimulated and challenged at home, or do you struggle?” question was asked, I began speaking about how I had a million ideas for starting my own business. I also started speaking about how I may want to go into an entirely different field, something more creative.
I was abruptly cut off with, “But it’s not about you anymore. Nothing is about you. Everything is about your daughter now.” My mother-in-law was not trying to be rude or even pushy, she was merely repeating what she had likely been told by her own mother who had five children of her own.
But my daughter is not my identity. My daughter is not my whole world. My daughter is an extremely important person that I am responsible for. I love her deeply. Every decision I make ends up circling around how it would affect her negatively or positively, but she is not me.
I have dreams, hopes, aspirations and desires that are separate from my daughter. They existed before she was born and they continue to evolve after she changed my world.
I love being with my daughter every day. I adore the sweet moments of cuddling, laughing, and playing together. I get tired and frustrated with tantrums or difficulty sleeping, but I still enjoy motherhood. I will buy her twenty outfits before I buy myself a new shirt. I have rushed her to doctors and hospitals for serious falls and runny noses. I have missed out on fun events with friends. I cook and clean. I read to my daughter. I don’t let her watch movies or television, and I take her on long walks (my daughter is under two and I hold no judgment towards parents who let their children watch tv/movies, it’s just a choice I made for my offspring early on).
I find it degrading, condescending, and inappropriate to tell women or men that their identity is 100% derived from being a parent. I wholly understand and appreciate the context from which the myth of “You don’t matter anymore” stems. Generations of parents who have sacrificed their dreams and hopes, their money and their time, all in the name of their families. They’re saying, “You don’t come first anymore because your child is more important.”
I have sacrificed and will continue sacrificing the rest of my life to see that my daughter is happy and healthy. However, I refuse to say that I do not matter anymore. That I don’t matter. Once in a blue moon, I might go get a massage instead of taking her to a zoo. Every penny is not going into her college fund, because I want to take a dream trip to Thailand someday. I will ask for a babysitter for an hour or two so I can go window shopping in peace and quiet while sipping my overly expensive caffeinated beverage. All of these small things, make me feel better and make me feel happier at home.
You matter. Your desires matter. Your dreams matter. Your personal goals matter. Your child matters too, but you are not obsolete because you are a parent. Tell your future sons/daughters/their partners in the future that they matter and stop perpetuating the harmful myth of “You don’t matter anymore.”