SAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.
I am a young mother. Well, okay, I’m not so young anymore. I’m 31. But I was young when I had my first child—I was only 20—and I remain a young mother compared to the parents of both my children’s friends. This was never something I felt particularly good or bad about. Don’t get me wrong, at times it felt problematic. I was mistaken for the nanny when my kids were really little. Now, I am sometimes mistaken for the older sister. This is neither flattering nor is it annoying. It just is what it is.
For a while, when I was still under the age of 25, I would lie about my age and say that I was 26, because I thought it would appear more acceptable, I guess, or at least lead to less questions about my life choices. I don’t know! I was young. In retrospect, it seems absurd that I was pretending to be older than I really was, but I do somewhat understand my impetus for it. I just wanted to fit in. I wanted the other mothers to embrace me and understand that I was just like them—a woman who cared immensely about her children and their welfare.
In a world—meaning New York City, circa now—where people become parents at later stages in life than they used to, my relative youth was always an anomaly. As time went on and my kids got older and I got older, I stopped thinking about my age and formed real relationships with other parents in our community. It really didn’t matter how old I was, just who I was. Were some of them, perhaps, initially confused about the fact that I was 26 for three years in a row? Probably! But my days of being 26 are now long behind me and, while I might be young for a mom of a child in middle school, I never really think much about my age anymore.
Well, at least I didn’t think much about my age anymore until I started working. I work in a relatively youth-driven industry — where the hours are demanding, not only because of time put in during the day, but because a certain amount of socializing is expected at night. Most of my colleagues who work at the same level as me are about five years younger. And the ones who are my age? They still don’t have kids.
When I interviewed for my job, part of the interview revolved around my social life, as it would be a key element in my potential professional life. I was totally honest about having children. I actually wielded that fact in a way to show how I was different, how I was unique from the other candidates. And while I don’t talk much about my children in the office, the reality of being a working mother is certainly not something I hide from my co-workers.
And, yet, sometimes I find myself hiding some of the details of my life from people that I meet at parties or other places that might involve networking. If I have to rush home to relieve my babysitter, I am more likely to say that I need to go walk my dog instead. In fact, I find that I am far more likely to talk about my dog or show pictures of her scraggly, furry face than of my children’s unscraggly, unfurry faces. And not because I’m not proud of my children or proud of being a mother, but because I don’t want to be “different” right now.
At this stage of my career, which still feels nascent, I am trying to establish that I fit in, not that I stand out. So while I would never lie about having children, I don’t tend to offer up stories about them, I don’t tend to include them as part of my professional identity. And, honestly, I know that I’m not doing anything terrible, but I still feel guilty about it. I feel guilty because I don’t think I would be where I am today—in my career or in my life—without being a mother.
Motherhood has given me so much in terms of confidence and a new kind of intelligence and—let’s face it—disaster-preparedness. These things have all formed who I am today and allowed me to be better than I would otherwise be. I’m sure at a certain point—just like how I wound up being 26 for multiple years—I will feel at ease enough to talk freely about my kids without feeling like being a mother renders me somewhat irrelevant. But, for now, it’s something that I don’t talk that much about, just like how I don’t talk about highlighting my hair to hide the scattered grays.