Every kid gets asked the same question at some point: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s meant to be a fun conversation starter that gets kids thinking and their imaginations going. But I never had an answer — not even the ol’ astronaut or ballerina standby.
As I got a little older I would always say, “I’m going to be a pilot.” That’s what my dad was and it was far more acceptable than, “I don’t know.” In college, the question shifted to: “What are you going to do after you graduate?” Despite graduating with degrees in both English literature and psychology, I was still at a loss.
The first time I was truly sure of anything in my life was when my husband asked me to marry him. A couple years later and we had a beautiful baby girl. It wasn’t until a few weeks after she was born that I realized I’d finally found my passion. I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life: be a mom.
Of course, there was a learning curve. I wasn’t always good at it. I second-guessed myself a lot. But there was a burning passion in me that I’d been lacking and looking for my whole life. I felt like I was finally on the path to discovering who I was.
Whether that was something simple, like deciding who got to hold my newborn or figuring out whether that rash required a visit to the emergency room, I realized I had the gumption to make the tough choices when it came to someone I loved so fiercely. Through sleepless nights, hours of crying, and a million diapers, I found a strength I never knew I had.
As my daughter grew older and I began to teach her, I discovered I had actually learned a few things along the way. Here was a new little mind and it was my job to give her the tools to be the best person she could be. I was no longer afraid to share my knowledge and life experience. I was finding all these little hidden pieces of myself coming together and making me a whole person.
Part of finding myself was accepting that emotions are just part of the journey. This may sound simple — silly even — but I was so used to repressing my emotions. Then I had a baby. Now I’m the person that cries at movie previews or reads a sweet birthday card. I finally understand that showing emotion isn’t weakness, it’s just a different form of strength — one that acknowledges my feelings and gives me an outlet for understanding them. Emotion was liberating to discover and made me feel so much healthier — so much more like me.
Experiencing motherhood helped me realize that I have things to say, opinions to share, and questions to ask. I wanted to share my journey, but was afraid to step out and make myself vulnerable to the world. Yet when I looked at my daughter, I knew I had to be better for her because I wanted her to be better than me. That love gave me the courage to chase my dreams.
I found an outlet through writing and discovered something startling along the way: I can’t teach my daughter about self-worth if I don’t have any.
All the big, little, hard, confusing, scary, joyous moments of motherhood have revealed different aspects of who I am. It has brought forth strength, compassion, love, protection, and self-respect. And that’s just one of the many reasons I’m eternally grateful to claim the title of “mom.”
I’m proud to say that I was lost until I found motherhood, or rather, until motherhood found me.