• Mon, Mar 10 - 9:00 am ET

If Being A Mom Is Your Reason For Breathing, I Won’t Judge

shutterstock_172726682There’s an interesting paradox going on in the mom community, especially online. I have been guilty of this judgment myself, time and again.

When I first got pregnant, I wanted to be a wonderful mother. Who doesn’t? Once you realize that you’re going to have a child to love and raise, I would guess that the majority of women aspire to be a great mother and treat their children well. This can be evidenced by the billions of parenting articles online that explain, discuss, and even argue the best way to parent.

So, we all want to be good parents. But there seems to be an invisible line on either side, and if you cross it, you’re going to be judged. If you’re too bad of a parent, you’ll be called negligent and every other name in the book. And if you’re too good of a parent, you’ll be accused of being fake, sanctimonious, andworst of allmaking your child your identity.

Like I said, I’ve judged many women in this manner. I do believe that it is healthy and normal to maintain your own personal identity after you have kids, and sometimes it frustrates me to see women do quite the opposite. It’s easy to poke fun at sanctimommies that appear utterly obsessed with their kids and make it their life’s goal to raise the most perfect of people.

But recently, I got to thinking. No matter how you slice it, we all have something that defines our identity. If a woman is 100% into her kids and even considers them her identity, who am I to judge? Likewise, who am I to judge a hipster with a typewriter or an intellectual with a PhD or a Real Housewife of Orange County?

The judgy part of me says, Just you wait, sanctimommy… Once your kids leave the house, you’ll be all sad and alone because you never cared for yourself and established your own personal interests. You’ll be creepy and overbearing, and your kids will grow up to hate you.

Well, this may be true, and it may not. I do have separate interests from my children because it makes me feel more well-rounded and balanced. But the more that I think about having an identity as a mother, the more I realize that it’s not much different from drawing your identity from any other source.

(Image: altafulla/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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  • Jell

    “You’ll be creepy and overbearing, and your kids will grow up to hate you.”
    She is creepy and overbearing and while we don’t hate her I certainly don’t have a great relationship with her. I’m talking about my own mother, of course, who lived solely for her children and now seems to exist solely for the possibility that I might give her grandchildren. I won’t– but that’s a whole other discussion.
    As the offspring of someone who’s sole identity is Mother, I think it’s wonderful when people don’t judge that. But it worries me to see it in women. Not because it’s my business– it’s not– but because I hope they will be better about it than my own mother was. Between the ages of 0-13 she was THE BEST MOM and then once we weren’t tiny, easily comforted, and completely attached she became High Strung Overprotective Mom and then when we grew up and moved out she became Passive Aggressive Needy Mom.
    Throw your life into parenting, by all means, it beats the alternative by a mile. But make sure that you can evolve to meet your child’s needs at all the life stages so they can meet yours too. My mother is so completely dependant on her mom identity that now that we’re capable adults we don’t have a chance of meeting hers.

    • rrlo

      Wow! You should write a book. That was the best written comment I have ever read.

    • Bethany Ramos

      AGREE – I was about to say that I love her comment so much!

    • Jell

      oh lord that’s so kind. I probably *could* write a book just on my mother, goodness knows she gives me enough material. But isn’t that common sentiment among offspring and offspring-in-law.

    • Brittany Anne

      Wow. I think we might have the same mom. And you described it more perfectly than I have ever been able to.

    • K.

      I totally agree!

      No child wants to shoulder the responsibility of their own parents’ happiness.

  • EmmaFromÉire

    I just don’t UNDERSTAND it. What do you do when your kids grow up? Or when they want to spend less and less time with you because they’re teenagers and want to spend all their time with their friends or whoever they’re dating (unless you’re one of the weird STFU Parents Mrs Bates style parent)? Cultivate your own interests and hobbies. Try meet people, make friends with people who you didn’t push out of your vagina. Being a mother is amazing, so many people dream of being a mother, but don’t let it be the only thing that defines you.

    • Kelly

      The parents I’ve known like this start pushing for grandchildren as soon as their own children grow up. I know one mom who has been pressuring her daughter to have babies since she was 16. It’s sad. Her kids keep trying to get her to find a hobby.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      I can’t even believe that, I don’t understand the attitude. My mother has told me since I was thirteen to get through school, go to college and get my shit together career wise before even thinking about having kids. My dad is the same, they’re in no rush for grandkids because they know i don’t want to have kids yet, and because they want stability for the kids.

    • Kelly

      See, my parents told me college is for ugly girls and then called me a moron when I didn’t marry for money. I don’t understand that attitude either but I know it exists.

      There are lots of different kinds of parents out there. It sounds like you have the good kind. LOL They aren’t all the good kind.

    • JLH1986

      I’m a month away from my Master’s, I’m 30, married, full time job, own my own home, have 3.5 animals. My mom told me at Christmas “I want grandbabies, I want you to use your degree, but I’m ok with grandbabies whenever you’re ready now.” Of course by the 3rd glass of wine it became “I just want grandbabies!” But I appreciate that was able to hold that in.

    • rrlo

      I have found that those with identity wrapped around their children (and Grandchildren) are unable to pay attention to any conversation outside of the kids (or stuff their kids are into) for more than a few minutes. They come off as incredibly self-absorbed. And I meet these people ALL the time. I think some people’s brains break when they have kids.

    • Justme

      My MIL is/was this type of mother. She made her life all about her children and has had a difficult time understanding that her son is now making his own life apart from her. It caused a lot of problems when my daughter was born, because my MIL instinctively tried to create that same dynamic with her granddaughter. I’m not that type of mother, nor was my own mother so it really caused issues when my MIL was more obsessed/involved with my daughter than I am or was.

    • K.

      I once told one such mother my opinion on this sort of thing, which is that I’m really my child’s custodian until he’s an adult and it’s my job to prepare him to be an adult in the world (ie, independent of me).

      She got all glassy eyed and did the clutch-the-pearls thing, gasping, “But being a mother is for LIFE!”

      Jesus, I felt bad for her children. I mean, yes, my mother is still my mother and I love her very much, but I don’t want her mothering me into my thirties.

    • JLH1986

      And she shouldn’t be! My mom is my friend. Certainly if I ask her for opinion or advice she gives it…but so do my friends. She wasn’t always my friend until I was in my late teens she was a parent. But eventually she started to loosen the reigns and now we are friends. But that’s how it should be (for me, I’d be NOT happy to be mothered at 30)

    • Véronique Houde

      I think that parents like this truly believe that by giving their children all of their energy and love, their children will unconditionally take care of them and hang out when they become adults. I get the sense that they have this image in their heads of their child becoming their best friend when they become adults. And they’ll be the first one to find out that their kids are expecting, and will be completely involved in the pregnancy, and then they’ll throw themselves completely into grandparenthood.

    • AP

      Ding ding ding! You just described my mother-in-law. Except her kids have lived hours away by car and then plane due to work, so she’s had to sort out a Plan B at age 60. The years of sorting out her Plan B were not pretty for either child.

      Her story was so sad my husband said that being a SAHM is something he never wants me to feel obligated to do, because he doesn’t think anyone should risk ending up like his mother, sad and alone with no real resources.

    • ted3553

      I was planning to make my little one sign a contract as soon as he can print that says he will take care of me forever. I did not know you shouldn’t do this. Why even have kids if it’s not a guaranteed BFF and nurse?

    • Kendra

      I’m having some trouble with this because I don’t know if I am one of these moms. I don’t really have any friends, and I don’t have any hobbies. That didn’t change since I had my daughter, but that’s how it’s always been. Right now, my main identity definitely feels like “mom”. But I’m not really sure if I’ve made her my entire identity.

  • JulySheWillFly

    Certain moms are just annoying. I don’t judge their worth or value. But I can still find them annoying. Or boring.

  • Kelly

    I try not to judge people who have no identity outside of their children. I really do try. I have to admit that I do feel sorry for their kids. I have friends with mothers like that. It’s very hard on them. I don’t even have a relationship with my mom but I certainly don’t envy theirs.

    I won’t hang out with parents like that either. We just don’t have enough in common. If a woman’s only identity is being mommy then all we have in common is that we have kids. That’s not enough for me to consider being friends with someone. I need more than one common interest for that.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Yes, I’m totally with you on that one. Your identity is your choice, but I do have a hard time clicking with moms that I don’t seem to have anything else in common with.

    • Bic

      Isn’t that the same as people without children too though? You need to have something in common with them and to share at least some interests. Why would having children makes you automatically friends, that would be like saying all women should be friends simply because we are women.

      I think for people who don’t really have any hobbies it can seem like they don’t have a life outside of their children especially if they are stay at home parents and don’t have work to talk about. While I’m sure some are overly focused on their kids, I don’t know if it’s quite as prevalent as it seems online.

      I’d also guess that some of them are just overwhelmed and end up totally immersed in childhood as a coping mechanism.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Yes, absolutely. For me personally, it is really hard to make friends with someone with straight up “mom interests” because crafting and play groups are not that interesting to me. I am not being stereotypical either because I’ve met many moms that fit this profile IRL.

    • Kelly

      Yeah, it’s the same for people without children. That’s why I can’t really be friends with anyone who focuses 100% on one thing and has no other hobbies or interests. I don’t want to only talk about or do one thing all the time. That person just isn’t friend material to me. It doesn’t make them a bad person though, just not one I want to hang out with.

    • brebay

      Mary Kay ladies.

  • Angela

    Meh, I really don’t care how other people choose to love their children as long as I’m not asked to “like” and “share”

  • Kay_Sue

    I don’t think this is a phenomenon that is exclusive to mothers.

    If someone’s entire identity is wrapped around only one thing, there tends to be a judgement about them. It doesn’t matter whether that is their children, video games, cats…anything, really.

    I may find it eye-roll inducing, and I reserve the right to be annoyed by it, but I’m not going to judge them on it. Now, occasionally, if it crosses into them judging my life and parenting…well, in those cases, I’m likely to rise to the occasion.

    • Angela

      People can get obsessive with anything but it does seem to be more common among moms. I’ve yet to see the most ardent cat or video game lover gush every day on FB about how their cats are their reason for breathing and that they would gladly sacrifice their life to save them. If gamers started raving about their games like that we’d have them committed. I also never see fathers acting this way about their children even though there’s plenty of loving fathers out there.

    • Kelly

      There are gamers who become so obsessed that they lose their jobs and families. I remember reading about a couple whose baby died because they became too immersed in a video game they were playing and “forgot” to take care of it. It does happen.

    • Angela

      Very true. I just tend to see it as different because with gamers it’s an addiction. Addicts don’t necessarily adore the things that they’re addicted to but they can’t make themselves stop. I was more referring to the gushing adoration kind of obsession which seems to be more than moms. And while I do know pet owners who post just as much about their pets it seems that a lot of moms really amp up the intensity. I’ve just never known anyone to fantasize about throwing themselves in front of a truck to save their pet (though I’m sure someone somewhere has).

    • brebay

      Wasn’t that an SVU episode?

    • Kay_Sue

      We apparently don’t share similar Facebook friends. ;)

      I definitely have one crazy cat lady (she calls herself that) and several gamers that only talk about that on there. The gamers are particularly bad because they will not even be on Facebook–their Playstation Network automatically updates Facebook with their achievements…it drives me nuts! (but is also easy to hide, thankfully)

      I said to RRLO above that I agree that it’s easier for moms for a lot of reasons. I just don’t think it’s exclusive to them. My point by that is that I don’t see it as unusual to be tempted to judge them–it’s not because their identity is Mom, but because their identity is Exclusively This One Thing, you know?

    • Angela

      Lol, I do have friends that post pretty exclusively about pets and other things but my FB feed has a constant deluge of memes like, “If you have a child that is your whole world and who you would gladly endure torture and death for, and you worship the ground they walk on, etc” Which to me really ups the intensity of the obsession. I do have some dog lover friends who are constantly sharing cheesy memes and heartbreaking stories from the humane society but I’ve yet to see a pet owner gush about how they can’t wait to die for their dog.

    • Kay_Sue

      I get spared most of the mom ones because I have few moms with young kids on my Facebook. Most of the moms are related to me, and have older kids–teenagers and above. Maybe that is a sign that there maybe hope for some of the ones that are so wrapped up in it later on?

      Unfortunately, though, that means that my only experience with them is in person, where I have no hide button. Wouldn’t that be a nifty option for real life? ;)

      You are right though, pet lovers don’t gush in the same way. Even in person.

    • rrlo

      I do have an obsessed Dog lover on my Facebook – she only talks about Dogs and her allergies. I am beginning to think maybe she is allergic to her dogs – but that would be a tragedy of epic proportions…
      But I do tend to see more of the obsessed mother than any other category of obsession.

    • Kelly

      Yep, that’s true. I had a friend who only talked about her work in the adult industry. Every conversation led back to how she used to make porn. Every joke, every comment, every introduction led back to her “work.” It got really old. I felt bad for her when I met her because she had no family or friends but goddamn, it became obvious why no one wanted to hang out with her soon enough.

    • Kay_Sue

      Yeah…I’m not a prude, but that would get old really fast.

    • JLH1986

      How boring…after the 8th joke I’d be done.

    • rrlo

      It isn’t exclusive to mothers, but it seem to be more common with mothers than other groups – probably because it is easier and much more socially acceptable to be wrapped up in your kids than video games. I run into these mothers ALL the time. It is telling when a woman’s Facebook profile photo is exclusively of their children.

    • Kay_Sue

      I agree to an extent, at least among adults past college age. But I’m sure we’ve all seen the guy with a house full of Barbies–that’s his identity. He’s the Barbie man. And I bet we’d all agree that’s pretty weird too.

      I think it’s easier for moms to become wrapped up in it not only because it’s more socially acceptable but because we are often pushed to. That “good mother myth” seems to say, “You aren’t a good mother unless your every thought, and every fiber of your being” is entirely devoted to your children.” That’s a hard force to fight against, you know?

    • rrlo

      I have never met the Barbie man! He sounds like a hoot :). I also find that those who have more unresolved insecurities (about their appearance, marriage etc.) to begin with tend to fall victim to the mom-trap more easily.

    • Kay_Sue

      He really is. I need to find a link for you…he’s very interesting to read about, lol!

      Your mom-trap observation has been my experience too–the moms that I have met that are totally into being Mom tend to fall into that category too.

      ETA: I found a link! http://abcnews.go.com/US/barbie-man-florida-man-owns-2000-dolls/story?id=18691681

    • rrlo

      OMG – he sleeps in his Barbie room! He would have been my ultimate hero when I was ten years old!!! Thanks for sharing.

    • Bic

      I wouldn’t agree that he’s weird, I wouldn’t necessarily find him interesting to talk to for very long, but if it makes him happy and he’s not hurting anyone who cares.

    • Kay_Sue

      I don’t think he’s weird. I think his choice of hobby is weird. It’s a small distinction, but a significant one for someone that’s been considered pretty weird the majority of her life. ;)

    • Bic

      Okay, I still don’t find it weird though. It’s a hobby and it makes him happy.

    • Kay_Sue

      Nor do I expect you to.

    • Véronique Houde

      OH I HATE IT when people make their profile pictures pictures of their children. Like, are you your child? Does your face look like that? NO? Then stop. And put your own damn picture there.

    • guest

      I’m vain and I think look old, my kids are much cuter then me. That’s why they are my picture. Quit reading so much into people’s actions.

    • CW

      Plenty of people have pictures of them with their spouse/fiance(e)/S.O. in their FB profile- do you judge those people? Or is it just moms with their kids who bother you?

    • rrlo

      OMG, no one is judging. And it is not mom’s with kids. I have plenty of pictures of myself with my kid on FB. Stop reading so much into my comments. I do think it can be a sign of losing one’s identity when a woman’s Facebook photo is always, exclusively OF THEIR CHILDREN, And I would feel the same way if a woman (or a man) only used their cat’s photo or spouse’s photo or mother in laws photo as their profile picture exclusively.

    • Williwaw

      If a non-parent is totally wrapped up in one thing, I probably wouldn’t judge them if this did no harm to anyone else – adults can do what they like. If you’d rather spend all your time playing video games than have a social life, have hobbies, or whatever, I don’t have a problem with it. Being a parent is a bit different, though, because your kid(s) (and in most cases, a spouse) is/are involved). What you do impacts them. So, in this sense, there are more legitimate reasons to judge a parent who is completely wrapped up in their kids than to judge a single person who is obsessed with one thing. That said, though, I try to not pay too much attention to other people’s lives, or judge them, because unless I see someone being grossly harmed, it’s not my business, and I have other things to do.

    • Kay_Sue

      I agree with conditions, I think. We tend to assume that single people have less responsibilities, but I don’t know that I can commit to that entirely. My aunt is single, she always has been. But she’s still important to all of us, and being able to call and chat with her would be incredibly missed if she suddenly devoted herself to some other pursuit to either the purposeful exclusion of anyone else, or to the point where she was no longer any fun to talk to. Would it kill us? No, but I think any time you look at someone that damages relationships with a single-minded pursuit, you have to acknowledge that it is sucky. I don’t know a better way to describe that.

      I do think that anyone in any relationship has a responsibility to consider how their decisions impact that relationship, and for parents and partners, that’s an especially important responsibility.

  • Guest

    I completely understand the desire to become a mom being so strong that you focus on being “the best” mom. My mom was great, made some mistakes, but all her kids have a pretty close and healthy relationship with her. My MIL feels the need to be mommy to her kids well into adulthood and let me tell you what a hot effin mess that has turned into. My inlaws just stayed with us for four days and their 30+ year old son decided he should come spend all day every day with them…at my house. He brought his ten year old son (they can’t go home anyway because of a jail/divorce/crazy soon to be ex-wife situation going on anyhow). He doesn’t work (lives off disability) so he spent ALL DAY EVERY DAY with them while my husband and I went to work. Then when his parents had the audacity to go get coffee with an old friend while they’re in state, he called them out saying they should have stayed longer because they “can’t cram 30 years of people into a couple days”. They aren’t trying to cram anything in, they’re in state visiting who they feel like, and leaving when they feel like it. He also, since his life started really crumbling as of late, has started calling them dozens of times a day. Do you want this to be your adult son, DO YOU? Don’t make mommying the entire center of your universe and your kid’s only view of you…you could end up with one of these.

  • Jen

    I think we need to distinguish between those sanctimommy types to MAKE their kids their lives by choice, and moms who are just in the trenches trying to get through the day w their kids. I know plenty of the annoying types-crafting, play grouping, Facebook posting “my loves are my reason for breathing” types. Ick. But I know lots of moms who are just busy w their young kids- at home, trying to keep them entertained. Maybe not enough time/support for formal outside “hobbies” at this stage of life. But that doesn’t make them annoying or anything like the first type. I know for myself, I used to have lots of interests and hobbies pre-kids. Now I am home with my 4 y/o, 2 y/o and newborn and while I have a desire to have all these great “adult” interests and hobbies, I simply don’t have time or energy at this stage. Any free time is spent catching up on sleep! I don’t have a lot of family support for babysitting etc either. I know this is just my situation but I know plenty of other moms in this boat. I don’t like the idea that we are being labeled as either “boring” or “too into our kids.” We are just trying to muck through the early childhood years. And yes it can be lonely and hobby-less for a while. But that is sometimes where we are in life.

    • K.

      Okay, so probably a snarky unpopular thing to say, but I’m gonna say it anyway:

      If you (not you Jen, but like, the abstract collective ‘you’) tell me that crafting and play-grouping and cooking your kids gluten-free gourmet breakfasts every morning means that you consider your kids ‘your life,’ then I automatically assume you are dumb or naive or hiding something or insufferable. Probably all the above.

      Because MOST people consider their kids ‘their life.’ And I’m sorry, but as someone who works long hours and saves pennies and does those garden-variety things we all do for our children, the sanctimommies pointing to their glitter and Montesorri blocks as evidence of caring more or better parenting can bite me.

    • Jen

      I think I understand what you are saying. I love my kids. We all do. My world would truly crumble if anything were to happen to them. And yes, they are my first priority always. I think most people feel this way. And of course many of us do nice things for our kids (I actually have a gluten free kiddo too and he gets eggwhites made to order and gf waffles every morning so I feel you!) :) And yes, I do projects with my kids to keep the entertained, take them places, and generally try to enjoy their company. I guess the point I was making is that I don’t ADVERTISE that they are “the light of my life” to everyone that strikes up a conversation with me. I don’t post pics and updates of them on social media every 5 minutes, I don’t look down on other parents for doing it differently. But I also don’t have many hobbies and interests outside of my kids right now. No time (and I am not saying this in a “sanctimommy” way….I am not being a martyr. I am just busy and tired!). So what I was trying to say in my comment was that moms who have no hobbies outside of their kids are not automatically those sanctimommy types who throw it in your face that their kids are their world. Some of us are just a little too tied up right now in the little kid stage to have many interests and hobbies outside of our kids. But I don’t think that automatically makes us boring or “creepy” or any of the other things that some commenters are suggesting here. So I think we mostly agree, no?

    • brebay

      I do get this, because I remember feeling my whole identity was a mother until they were in preschool, and I was okay with that. It’s hard not to conceive of that when you are with them 24 hours a day. I think it’s mostly mothers of babies and toddlers who think this way, and that’s understandable, because in a real sense, you are THEIR whole world, and so it actually works for them to be yours. It’s the parents of school-aged kids and teenagers who still talk like this that make me a little nervous, because you are supposed to be raising them to not need you, so it does change, like any relationship. Of course that is totally separate from how you would feel if you actually lost them.

    • brebay

      I don’t know, I think most people consider their kids THE most important thing in their life, that’s different than BEING their life.

  • rrlo

    I have a perspective on this based on one of my closest friends. She is an absolutely amazing person but ever since having children, she has lost most of her identity outside of children. Because I have known her all my life, I have a good idea why it happened to her.
    She is from a very traditional background and married a wonderful but somewhat old fashioned man. She is also a huge people-pleaser and ALWAYS yields to the desires of others over her own. And when kids were born – this behaviour continued. Over time all her relationships suffer as a result – because resentment is inevitable.
    Finally, she gets too much attention and praise from everyone when doing “mom-type” things like cooking a big Christmas dinner days before delivering her second child and it makes her feel good.

    • CW

      You’re making some awfully big assumptions- have you actually talked to her about how she feels? Maybe she enjoys cooking and other domestic activities and considers them hobbies. One of the big perks for me since becoming a SAHM is that I now have more time to cook, knit, and try my hand at things like canning & preserving, etc. My friends from high school and college might think I’ve become brainwashed into the perfect little Suzy Homemaker but I’ve always enjoyed these activities. I just didn’t have much time for them when I was spending 45-50 hours per week in a stressful corporate job.

    • rrlo

      I am not making any assumptions. She is one of my closest friends and I have known her, intimately, for twenty years. I have seen that her identity over the years after having children have gotten lost in being a Mom – in ways described in this article. It isn’t a criticism of her – I love this woman. I was offering a perspective on why I believe she lost a big part of herself in motherhood.

      Also – she isn’t a SAHM and this has nothing to do with her career. If she were to quit a job (that she really, really liked) because of some perceived benefit of her children, then it would only further support my fear that she is losing herself in her kids.

      This isn’t an attack on you or any other SAHM.

  • Williwaw

    I don’t agree with you that being “too good of a parent” is ever synonymous with “losing your own identity”. I don’t think being so into your kids that you lose your own identity is ever a good thing, and I don’t think that people who do that are good parents. Teaching your kids that everything (including every iota of their parents’ existence) revolves around them is not a good thing – it just produces entitled brats. It also sets a bad example. How does a kid grow to be a whole, rounded adult if they don’t know any whole, rounded adults? I also don’t think it’s psychologically healthy for the parent, which means it is likely to be bad for the whole family.

    A lot of parents are very wrapped up in their kids when the children are
    young, to the exclusion of hobbies, social life, etc. – sometimes it’s
    hard not to be, because young children have a lot of needs. Young kids are also a lot of fun. That doesn’t mean these parents have lost their own
    identities, it just means they don’t have a lot of free time, and need
    (or choose) to spend that free time with their kids. That doesn’t mean
    the parents have no interests in things other than their kids, or that
    the parents don’t care about the rest of the world. I think part of
    being a good parent is teaching kids that what goes on in the world
    matters, and you can’t do that if nothing matters to you but your kid.

    • rrlo

      I agree with you that “too good a parent” is not the same as “losing your identity” – actually I am not even sure what “too good a parent” even means. In my mind I see a person, obsessing over every minutia in their kids lives- and that is definitely a good recipe for losing identity.

      And ironically, kids of obsessive parents (at least in my experience) do not necessarily make entitled children. I find that those parents who are too much into their kids end up demanding – often unfairly – a LOT from their kids as they get older.

      As a parent of a small child (with one on the way) – I think there is a distinction between losing your identity and not having time to pursue hobbies or social life as well.

      The only time a parent can be “accused” of losing identity is when they lose all interest in life outside of their kids and can only talk about their kids. It is one thing to not go out dancing because you have a new born or not have the time to read a book because of young kinds – but some people stop even being interested in all the things they loved to do before kids.

    • Williwaw

      Good point – a lot of obsessive parents are actually pretty needy.

      Good luck with your soon-to-arrive child!

    • rrlo

      Thanks! 8 more weeks of aching to go :D.

  • keelhaulrose

    When I was first pregnant my mom told me children are not to be born with a job, and that being my only reason for living counted as a job, because if I give them a job and they fail to live up to that job resentment would grow on at least one side and I wouldn’t be able to be the best mother I can be.
    I’ll be the first to admit my kids take up most of my time, and much of my life revolves around their schedules, but that doesn’t mean they always make me happy, or that I can’t stand being parted from them for a few hours while I go pursue another interest. Hell, I love the fact that my older daughter is in kindergarten at the same time my younger daughter is napping because I get time just to me so I can spend an hour or two every day doing what I want to do.
    Your kids should be the most important thing in your world, but they shouldn’t be the only thing.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Born with a job is an excellent point, and that’s how I felt as a kid – like I had to fix my parents’ bad marriage. I think Dr. Phil has also said this too, and I love me some Dr. Phil. #sorrynotsorry.

    • brebay

      I think he’s sometimes a smug, sexist pig. But I find myself quoting him fairly often as well…

  • Alicia Kiner

    I think for most of us, we’re the first generation of women that actually are expected to have an identity before having children. My mom’s generation (50s) was expected to be moms and maybe work outside the home, but as a secretary, or something simple like that. My grandmother’s generation (20s) was expected to be a wife and mom, not work outside the home, except the rare nurse or teacher. So I think we’re struggling to figure out not only how to do it all, but how to be who we are. We really are trying to figure out how men manage to have careers, dreams, identities, and be fathers, all while living up to these standards ingrained in us.

  • Crusty Socks

    I totally agree! And you shouldn’t judge me because I draw my identity from being an internet troll

    • Bethany Ramos

      Never.

  • Paul White

    I tend to suspect that being entirely wrapped up in ONE thing is unbalanced and unhealthy. I’ve been there myself–I used to not care about anything much apart from reptiles for about 4-5 years. I think in the past society’s given a bit of a pass to parents that do that because frankly, parenting is necessary for society; collecting barbies or playing video games isn’t.

    I don’t know if that counts as judgement or not though on my part

  • JustAGuest

    I don’t particularly have trouble saying that I think it is unhealthy to sublimate your identity to the extent of considering kids (or anyone else) “your identity.” Important to you, sure. A major piece of who you are. A key aspect. Whatever. But if you literally define yourself purely in terms of another person, I think that is unhealthy.

    People on this site get very wrapped up on the idea of “judging” others, which seems fairly nebulously defined; at the very least, I think it is entirely possible to say “Yes, that person has made choices which are probably less good for them in sense X, Y, or Z.” You can even acknowledge that those are their choices to make and *still* hold that the choices are less good for them in some sense. After all, almost all of us make choices than aren’t ideal (I know I do); other people are the same.

    I thus think there is a difference between “judging” me for the fact that I can’t seem to get a good routine going for flossing and acknowledging that, yes, my dental hygiene could use improvement. While the latter might be incredibly rude to do to my face, I’m not sure why you have to refrain from the thought in your head.

    • Paul White

      Yep. There’s this undercurrent that judgement is always wrong/bad/whatever and while I think it’s a stretch to judge a person as a whole unless you’re pretty familiar with them, I damn well feel like you can judge actions.

  • SA

    I have wrestled with this a lot. Working full-time with an 18month old, life has pretty much revolved around her when I am not at work. I feel guilty for all the time away and she is growing so quickly that I do WANT to make her my focus when I am home. I keep trying to force myself to feel differently but I just can’t right now and am just happy when I admit to myself that I am happiest when I am caring for her. However, I do know that as she gets older she will need me less and less and I plan to use her growth of independence as my time to reclaim my former interests and find new ones. (I do still keep up with some interests just not as much). I think that is probably the biggest issue is when parents don’t want to accept their child growing up because that focus and role has to change for them as well.

  • brebay

    Here’s the thing. If I lost a child, I most likely would just want to stop breathing. One of the Columbine survivors’ mothers killed herself shortly after. She couldn’t bear seeing her once active daughter a paraplegic, and the depression got the better of her. She walked into a pawn shop, had the guy show her how to load the gun, and promptly shot herself in the head right in front of him. I totally get that. That being said, just because you would be lost if something happened to them, doesn’t mean they have to or should be your oxygen WHILE THEY’RE HERE. That’s not even good for them, it’s too much pressure for them to be responsible for your every breath. You should still have a life outside them and a sense of yourself outside being a mother. I didn’t when they were babies, and I loved it, but you start to realize they’re going to need you less and less, and it’s good to find your way back to a balance. That doesn’t mean they won’t always be the most important thing, or that you could survive their loss, it just means they can be free to grow and fly without worrying that they’re taking their mother’s ENTIRE LIFE AWAY if they go off to college or move abroad and only call once a week.

    • Bethany Ramos

      This is outrageously sad – but you made a great point.

    • Guest

      That is horrible. The poor kid is now a paraplegic without a mother! :-(

    • brebay

      Yes, it is. The mom did have some existing mental health issues at the time, and though she did leave a note, it hasn’t been made public, but her family said that she wanted to free them to focus on the daughter. Obviously she was clinically ill and had some other things going on, people don’t take mental illness seriously enough, but depression does kill. The daughter struggled for a while, especially when the father moved the family to a remote mountain home, where she felt isolated and depressed, but did eventually finish college and works in retail.

    • whiteroses

      If something happened to my son, it would absolutely break my heart. I love him with my whole being, like I love my husband.
      But at the same time- I would do my best to go on. Because the other option isn’t an option for me.

    • brebay

      hope you never have to find out!

  • ted3553

    I had a friend in high school who’s only goal was to be a wife and mom. I remember thinking that she was insane because I had about 8 million other goals. As I got older, I realize that it’s ok if you really want to be a mom and aren’t thinking about having a career because you want to stay home and raise the kids but you still need to have an identity. The kids will grow up and need you less and then what? My little one will be raised by working parents and his day home lady (because he’s there full time, I absolutely agree that she helps raise him and she’s fantastic) and the odds are that he’ll be well adjusted so having to only have being a mom as my identifier is tough for me to understand. Can’t you be a mom and a knitter or basketball player etc?

  • Dulcie

    Except that your job or your PhD or your stint on Real Housewives of X is not another person, with their own identity, and your child is.

  • jordana

    This is a really interesting perspective! With our generation being so determined to right our parent’s wrongs, no wonder we have so much of our identity wrapped up in our kids. Great post :-)

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you!!

  • whiteroses

    I was engaged to a guy who was, generally, great. We were happy for two years. I got along with his family and I genuinely thought he was the one. Then he proposed. His mother freaked out. She focused every single breath into her kids, and despite the fact that they were grown, she managed to guilt trip them all into doing whatever she wanted. She refused to speak to either one of us until he broke off the engagement, which he did. I found out later that she had done this with every single significant other that any one of her three children ever had. When things got too serious, she didn’t want them to be part of “her family”. She liked the fact that her kids came to visit her every weekend and barely had time for their own interests.

    Did it hurt? Hell yes. But I somehow knew then what I am completely sure of now- I dodged a bullet. When you make being a mom your whole identity, your kids are eventually the ones that suffer. As far as I know, my ex fiancé hasn’t had a relationship since he and I broke up. In the meantime, I got married and had a kid.

  • CW

    I’ve never met a single woman who lost her identity after having kids. Even the most gung-ho Attachment Parenting disciples who considers parenting to be their vocations still have their own interests aside from their children. Frankly, I think the whole fear is a way for critics to go around bashing SAHM’s.