Can a Woman Be a Mom AND a Person?
A couple of months ago, a close friend of mine was having a personal crisis, so I dropped my two kids off at my mom’s before heading to my friend’s house to console her. My sister happened to be at my parents’ house when I got there and, after hearing my plans for the evening, smirked and said, “I’m sure your kids will understand when you abandon them to help your friend.” She even went to the extent of using air quotes when she said the word “help.”
Was I a bad mother for wanting to be there for an old friend? I knew my kids were being well cared for, but what my sister (who has no kids of her own) had said still stuck with me. I found myself preoccupied all night with mom guilt; wondering if I should be with my kids instead, even though I rationally knew that they were perfectly fine. And, as a result, that preoccupation made me less of a friend to someone who was hurting and really needed my undivided attention. My sister made me believe that, because I was a mom, I couldn’t also be a best friend.
So, this incident poses an interesting question…on the day a woman becomes a mother, does she stop being a person?
All of you women with children, think about this for a moment. How often does someone refer to you without mentioning your children in some capacity? When someone introduces you, do they say “This is Jennifer,” or “This is Tracey.” No! It’s always “This is Madison’s mom, Jennifer,” or “This is Liam’s mom, Tracey.” The kid’s name gets top billing.
When you go out with a big group of friends, does the Facebook invite call the event a Girl’s Night Out? No! It’s always a Mom’s Night Out, as if we’ve been trapped in the prison of our own motherhood and are in desperate need of alcohol and adult conversation (which is almost always true). Adversely, if a group of dads gets together, is it called a Dad’s Night Out? Of course not. They’re just hanging out with the guys, even if those guys have kids. The phrase “Dad’s Night Out” doesn’t exist in the American vernacular. And I guarantee they don’t spend their whole night talking about little Sophia’s upcoming dance recital.
And let’s consider the double standard of professional adults. A man, who has children and a job, is just a guy with a job. A woman who has children, who also has a job, is considered a Working Mom. How many times have you read an article about a smart, accomplished, professional woman where they don’t, at some point in the story, mention the fact that she has kids? A woman can be a brain surgeon or district attorney or superintendent of schools but, if she has kids, she is still considered a Working Mom. There’s no such thing as a Working Dad. They are just professionals.
Final example…if a man who has kids is good looking, he is simply a hot guy. If a woman with kids is good looking, she’s considered a M.I.L.F. (Google it, if you don’t know the acronym). Even our sex appeal is defined by whether or not we’ve procreated.
It just seems that, as women, the moment we have children we lose our identity as human beings. We become defined by the fact that we have kids and we are mothers first, people second. And we are guilted by society – deemed selfish bad mothers – if we try to be otherwise.
Now I understand that there is a biological, as well as sociological, discrepancy between moms and dads. Those children came out of our bodies and some of us even fed them from our own breasts. And it’s unfortunate but very few companies offer paid paternity leave so a father taking time off may cause financial hardship to the family. So, women are the ones who stay home. I also understand that there are exceptions to this rule and there are some awesome stay-at-home dads out there. But I guarantee that, when those dads go out with their friends, they are just one of the guys.
Reluctantly, I’m posing a question without an easy answer and I doubt anything is ever going to change. But, if I can offer the mothers out there any piece of advice, it’s that it is ok to be a person first and a mother second. Don’t be ashamed to find your own identity outside of your kids. Be proud of your professional and personal accomplishments and know that your children were totally ok in the time it took you to achieve them. And I guarantee your kids are proud of you, too. Ultimately, feeling better about who you are on your own is making you a better mother.
So, to all you beautiful mothers out there, remember that you are a super smoking hot chick! You also just happen to be a M.I.L.F.