No one told me how much I would change when I became a mother.
I don’t mean the obvious changes – in my body from pregnancy and giving birth, in our family as we added one new member and then a second, or in my perspective and capacity to love as my heart swelled to new heights.
Becoming a mother helped me become clearer as to who I am as a person – my own identity.
Growing up, I was happy to please other people. I am the youngest of three children and grew up in very typical Chinese household. My older brother and sister ran the show and I wanted to do everything just like them. I didn’t have strong opinions on many things. I wanted to do what was easiest for everyone. At least, that’s what I learned as I emerged from my tantrum-y childhood – I wasn’t supposed to make trouble.
That continued through my teen years, college and post-college days. I was happy but I often looked to others to take the first step and to guide me. I didn’t like taking the lead or speaking too loudly for fear of offending someone or looking silly. It also meant that I could slip by generally unnoticed.
And then, there came baby. After my oldest son entered into my life, the tables turned. Now, this tiny little person was solely dependent on me to take care of all his needs. I had to set down mile markers that pointed him in a clear and safe path. That meant that I had to know what direction to go. That meant that I had to have strong opinions and to stand tall and be sure of myself.
In tending for my son’s needs, I became acutely aware of my own needs as a person – things that I needed in order to thrive, to be fully present and to be a good mother. I realized that I needed to take care of myself first if I was even going to be capable of taking care of someone else. It made me realize that, after all these years, I do care and that I do have an opinion.
I realized that I had been letting myself be defined by labels – daughter, sister, wife, mother – but I wasn’t being defined by me.
It’s funny that it took the presence of a tiny little person, someone who only knew how to scream and cry to make me realize what my needs are and how to articulate them. He made me realize that there’s more that I want from life than just following the straight and narrow path, that there’s a spark within me that I need to nurture and grow alongside my family.
Christine is a freelance writer, certified yoga teacher, runner and wannabe surfer. She is also the author of the blog Love, Life, Surf, which was named to the Babble 100 Best Bloggers 2013. Christine lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two sons.