Here's the truth: despite the fact that I loved my kid more than anything in this world, I wasn't too thrilled about becoming a responsible grown-up when I had him. A recent Guardian article, "Growing-up for goths" by Louise Tickle, brought back memories of that first year with the baby and the whole idea of giving up your identity when you become a parent.
In the article, Tickle talks about the goth subculture, how they keep their lifestyles far into adulthood. She writes how other groups -- punks, ravers -- usually drift off from their scene and abandon their previous life in the name of adulthood (though I tend to think that some of the hardcore punks or ravers end up on the margins of society due to their lifestyles). Unlike any other group, goths seem to have easier time adapting to life as a grown-up; toning down their appearances to fit into the office culture, for example, by rubbing black off of their fingernails or keeping the hair dye to minimum. At the same time, they remain faithful to their subculture by keeping the goth friendships and listening to the same music and donning gothic outfits (though perhaps outside of the more conservative offices).
I've never subscribed to any subculture, so I didn't have to make any major adjustments like that when I became a grown-up, but I certainly went through a period of rebellion when I became a mom. When I say rebellion, I mean, having a feeling of not wanting to give up what my baby-free values were -- independence, lack of responsibility, spontaneity... In other words, the ability, for example, to slam the door behind me and getting on the plane to Europe just because I felt like it (or not even doing that, but just having the assurance that I could, if I wanted).
You see, I kind of thought that giving birth would automatically and naturally turn me into a bouncing, bib-juggling, broccoli-mushing machine who felt self-fulfilled because of motherhood. But it didn't. Having a baby was equivallent to a mini nuclear bomb going off in my mentality. Baby-care repertoire bored me and I became quite defensive about what I thought was expected of me as a mom. I felt so lost. I took care of the infant and I loved (LOVED) being around him, but I still often felt like I was playing a mom in a movie about a mom. It always seemed like I would be able to yell, "Cut!" and the motherhood would stop for a second while I took a break to reflect on it. It didn't. It kept going and I kept trying to run along with it, improvising my lines and gestures.
I felt alienated from other moms who I thought were having a much better time being moms. I made myself feel alienated too. I didn't want to do mommy activities: baby yoga, or chugging along fellow stroller-pushers, or dunking my kid in the pee-warm swimming pool while talking about stretch marks with other mommies at the local Y. I refused to participate, but not because I wasn't feeling lonely -- I was totally feeling lonely -- I just worried that I couldn't muster the proper amount of enthusiasm and people would catch on to me faking being a satisfied mom. Every mom I met seemed so on board with the whole baby thing!
After the baby was born, I became obsessed with the fact that having a child equaled being old(er) and I think I tried to convince myself that I didn't have to be older, that I still got it. What 'it' was exactly, is a mystery to me now, but I think it was a combo of seeing many of my peers still baby-free and me generally not being psychologically prepared to be a mom (long story, but I had no one to ask about that whole motherhood thing during that time). I think the 'it' was that freedom and spontaneity that I thought was no longer available to me because there was a little person attached to my boob, permanently.
I did some stupid things too, to counter the reality of having the baby and being a grown-up. For example, I went out to bars a few times but because of general lack of sleep, I'd usually end up half-napping by myself beside my defiant pint of beer instead of getting on fabulously with my new friends and chatting up the bartender or dancing up a storm on the shaky table (thank god). What a rebel! But I struggled for a while. I recalled with some nostalgia DJ shows that would start at 5 a.m., costume parties with men who kept electric chairs in their libraries, puking discreetly (yes, I missed that) behind mammoth speakers in underground clubs because the bass was set too low, dancing in my big platform boots with wrist-thick Velcro straps, and so on. But even the regular, average rebellions like reading all night long or breaking into a public pool on a hot August night -- I missed those too. It was as if I was in constant mourning over the past.
But as time went on, I realized that I didn't want those things either anymore. I mean, I've already done them. Repeating them would be too pathetic, tragic even. Nostalgia is great but one should never try to rebuild experiences from it. It took me longer to adapt than most moms I know, but, eventually, it dawned on me that just because things have changed this is not necessary a bad thing. It's natural for things to change and my inability to adapt was not a sign of rebellion or free sprit but rather, it signalled closed mind and rigidity. So I gave into change. And I kind of love it now.
Originally published on theydonttellyou.wordpress.com.