I’m Not Ashamed of My Life Before Motherhood

image source: thinkstock
image source: thinkstock

For five years, I kept an online journal — a space where I chronicled my experience with infertility as a single woman. Recently, I allowed that blog to expire. Since my daughter was born, I no longer needed an online journal, and between my little girl and my career writing for professional outlets, I didn’t have time for it either.

But there was more to it than that. When you are documenting your life online on a daily basis, you start to forget that other people are reading. It just becomes a natural part of your day; your walls fall down and you spill your soul out in words.

Becoming a mother made me feel more private and guarded; I didn’t want to do that anymore. Because it wouldn’t just be my story, it would also be hers. That maternal instinct kicked in and I wanted to protect my baby’s privacy more fiercely than I ever even cared about my own.

Before I allowed that blog to expire, I used a service to have my posts bound into printed books. That space comprised five years of my life, documenting the time up to, and surrounding, the adoption of my daughter. I didn’t want to lose those words. They meant too much to me.

So I was surprised by one reaction in particular when I announced on my public Facebook page how excited I was once those books arrived.

“Did you do any editing or did you include EVERY post?” one commenter wrote, followed by an emoticon meant to express shock and embarrassment. “There was just some sharing that I don’t know if I would want my daughter EVER reading,” she added.

I knew immediately what she was referring to. Or at least, I had an idea. Because again, that blog was my journal for years. And having never been married, it documented much of my dating life.

I don’t write about my romantic life anymore. But there was a time when my dating adventures were a big part of what I was exploring with my writing. And as a single woman, it wasn’t uncommon for that writing to delve into sexual exploits. Never anything overly graphic or scandalous — I had a tendency to err far more on the side of humor than eroticism — but I certainly made no secret of the fact that I was a sexual woman.

And this commenter decided it was something I should be ashamed of, now that I’m a mother.

I was surprised for several reasons. First of all, I hadn’t described these books as being something I had bound for my daughter. As much as I love the idea of her reading my thoughts through her adoption process as she grows older, I had those books bound predominately for myself.

But mostly I was shocked that someone who had been reading my writing for that many years would come to the conclusion that things I had shared pre-motherhood, and presumably the things I had done pre-motherhood, would be things I should now be ashamed of as a mother.

Is that how people think? How other mothers feel? Should becoming a mother really mean disowning our past?

Because that just feels like slut shaming.

Look, I am a great mother. And I would dare anyone who has ever been around my daughter and me for more than two seconds to question that. The fact that I have a healthy sexual appetite, or that I have written about it on a few occasions in the past, does not in any way discount the amazing mother that I am. Or that I will continue to be as my daughter grows and learns to become the woman she is meant to be.

Yes, I have made some mistakes. But being a sexual person is not automatically one of them. And even the mistakes I have made, I would like to think that when the time is right, my daughter might be able to learn from some of them. That by being open and honest with her, she might take away lessons I didn’t have anyone around to teach me.

Does being a mom mean I should scour the internet and erase any shred of me that was ever non-mom-like, for fear that my daughter might one day find it? And why should I be made to feel as though I should have to apologize for any of it?

For the record, those conversations that may one day happen — they will happen between me and my little girl.  I don’t feel any need to hide that past from her either.

Because I’m not ashamed. I wasn’t before motherhood, and I refuse to be made to feel so after.

Someday my daughter will find out that I’ve had sex. And that’s okay. I don’t need to erase those parts of my life in order to be a good mother. I think being a good mother is about being genuine, flawed, honest, and real. I want my daughter to know she can always come to me. That I will never judge her or turn her away. And that starts with her knowing that I’m not hiding my past. I’m not pretending to be some perfect person that I’m not.

I won’t let anyone slut shame me, just because the person I was before motherhood isn’t exactly the same person I am today. I liked that girl. She had a lot of fun. She is a part of me.

And I am not ashamed to have been her.

Nor will I be ashamed should my daughter one day happen across something that was written by her.

So no, I didn’t edit anything out. Because why would I? They were my words. I wasn’t ashamed of them then, and I’m certainly not now.

But shame on anyone else for suggesting I should be.

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