In honour of Mother’s Day 2023, we asked our amazing global team of writers to tell us, in their own words, what it means to them to be More Than a Mother. Here’s what it means to Lyndsey.
There’s this one photo of me that I really love. Taken at a music festival in 2016, I’m mid dance – mouth open in laughter, a pair of headphones over my ears and a pair of Chuck Taylor classics on my feet. I’m going to be very honest and say up front that I am a little bit buzzed. I’m in my happy place – both geographically (New York) and situationally (a music festival). I’m happy, carefree and totally in my element.
The person I was when this photo was taken was spontaneous, sarcastic, adventurous, ambitious and always-up-for-anything. I was sure of who I was – someone who lived for fun and hated anything cutesy or effusive. I lived in New York and relished all that it had to offer – the art, the music, the food, the architecture, the people and the opportunities.
These days, photos of me are a little more wholesome. They typically feature my one-year-old-son and, usually, my dog too. These photos might be taken at the local park or even just in my living room. If I’m buzzed, it’s because I just had my third coffee. My smile is still as wide as it was in that photo taken seven years ago. I am less carefree but deeply happy and still 100% in my element.
Why? Because I am the same person in the present day photos as I am in the ones from 2016. I am still spontaneous, sarcastic, adventurous, ambitious and always-up-for-anything. I am still sure of who I am (perhaps even more so) and still live for fun and hate anything cutesy or effusive.
Having a child is, of course, life changing and soul shaking. It is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s important, powerful, satisfying, challenging, beautiful and frustrating. I am not saying that having children doesn’t change you, because of course it does. I am definitely more patient than I once was and, weirdly, I am also way more relaxed.
Sure, becoming a mother changes you – but it does not erase all of the things that you once were.
So why do some people have such a hard time recognising this? Why is it that when you become a parent, there are people out there who see you only as that? Someone who is incapable of talking about anything other than your child’s sleeping habits or bowel movements? Someone who, with the birth of their baby, shed all of her individuality and all that made her unique?
Why is it that parenthood seems to create such a singular view of a person’s identity?
When I was on maternity leave I frequently used the line: “I’ve had a baby, not a lobotomy.” I used it on the colleague who implied I shouldn’t be “worrying myself” about work as I now had a child. I used it on the friends who asked the same, tired questions around my son’s feeding and sleeping habits instead of engaging me in our usual chats about current affairs. I used it on the people who, however jokingly, implied that my life was now over because I was a mother and that was all I would ever be from this point on.
They could not be more wrong.
I have made it my mission to stay true who I was before my child because I am damn proud of that person. She is messy and has made mistakes, she has been selfish and has given her heart to the wrong people. She has been immensely kind and also extremely mercurial. She has been successful, she has failed, she has been fun, she has been a burden. She has lived. And it is for all these reasons and so many more that she is exactly the type of person I want raising my son.
There have been times where I have questioned if I loved my son enough because of my desire to talk about anything other than him. Because of my refusal to shape my whole identity around being his mother. Because of my determination to not only return to my career but to continue progressing in it. Because, if I am truly honest, while I happen to think that my child is the best thing since sliced bread… baby sensory classes, Mother’s Groups and planning my days around nap times is just not for me.
I have felt inadequate because, somewhere along the line, we’ve decided what a mother is supposed to look like and how she is supposed to act. The line between motherhood and martyrdom have become so blurred that the two feel one and the same. Apparently, a mother is supposed to give up work and showering, read every baby book, breastfeed exclusively, sacrifice her own mental health to cater to her children’s every need, talk exclusively about them, no longer indulge in the things that make her brain feel alive, cherish every (literal) shit storm, feel sentimental about the “last time” something might happen and make relatable “mum life” social media content along the way.
Well, let me tell you. I did literally NONE of this.
And yet I love him. I love my son obsessively and unconditionally. When he says “mama” my heart skips a beat. When he randomly throws his arms around my neck for a cuddle I feel like the entire world melts away. When I make him laugh, nothing else compares to that feeling.
Maybe things would be easier if we realised that motherhood looks vastly different from person to person. If we just chilled the eff out on social media and stopped telling other mums that they need to have exactly the same experience as us, otherwise they are terrible. Maybe it’s time to start celebrating all of the things that make us uniquely, imperfectly us because at the end of the day, all of those things led us to where we are now.
Yes, we are mothers. But there is so much more to our stories – people just need to want to hear them.
To read more from our More Than a Mother content series, click here.