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Owning Motherhood: How I Gave Birth To A New Identity As A SAHM
I wake up every morning to the same sight, at 7 a.m. sharp no less: my 9 month-old wobbling around in her crib, trying desperately to hold on to the railings while she grins at me, hair disheveled and mopped at her forehead. I groan, turn over, and bury my head in my pillow, praying desperately that she will entertain herself for a few more glorious minutes of sleep. Of course that does not happen, and I am forced to wake up, nurse her, free her from her sleep sack, change her sopping wet diaper, and then go about our daily routine, which consists of nursing her every three hours, feeding her three solid meals, playtime (peekaboo is her current favorite), two solid naps, and then an hour-long bedtime routine, followed by FREEDOM at 7 p.m. This is our current routine at least, but it will probably change again in a few weeks as she reaches new developmental milestones.
I have two degrees from Northwestern University, and close to ten years of experience hustling in the world of financial and corporate communications. I was raised to be an independent and ambitious young woman who prioritized education and career over everything else. But today, this is my life. I’m a full-time, stay-at-home mom that spends my every waking hour taking care of my little baby. And I am proud of my new identity.
It has taken me a while to fully come to terms with and own this transition from a working woman to full-time mother. I always figured that I would find a way to balance the two, just like all the incredible women whom I have had the privilege of working alongside with. I knew it would be difficult to balance, but a challenge that I could manage. If everyone else could do it, then why couldn’t I? When I went back to the workforce after my three-month maternity leave, my “village” banded together to provide the best support system they possibly could. My mom flew down for a few weeks to watch my daughter as a temporary solution while my parents figured out how they could move to Chicago full-time. When my mom had to fly back home, my husband and I moved into his parents’ home so that they would watch our daughter.
Yes, I realize I am incredibly lucky and privileged to have all this amazing familial support. To even have the luxury of making a choice between work and home. Many women do not have the luxury of quitting their jobs and need to face the enormous emotional difficulty of returning way earlier than they are ready and working insane hours to support their families. So when I realized that I wanted to leave my job to be at home with my daughter, I felt shame. And immense guilt. Women have been fighting for years for equal opportunity in the workplace. How could I, a woman of immense privilege, resources, education, and access just walk away from it all? It felt irresponsible and selfish. In today’s lean-in era, I felt like I was letting down my community, and taking steps backwards in the fight for equality.
But then I realized that I was not helping anyone by trying to make other people happy. I had to be honest with myself and follow my heart, which so strongly yearned to be at home with my baby. At least for now. Isn’t feminism about having a voice? About the ability to have opportunities, to understand all your options, but to ultimately make the choices that you want to make? Not the decision that you think your partner, your parents, your coworkers, society, or anyone else wants to make. I knew in my heart that staying in a job that I was not passionate about in an effort to maintain an image as a powerful working woman was not helping anyone’s case.
Feminism is about being true to yourself, and today, my truth is motherhood.
In a few years, this may change as I’m ready to re-enter the workforce with a reinvigorated sense of career and ambition, and there is absolutely no shame in that either. As women, we just need to stop being so hard on ourselves, on scrutinizing every decision that we make, and agonizing about what “others will think”.
Let’s make a pact to be true to ourselves, own our decisions, and lift each other up for the paths we choose.
Written By: Godhuli Gupta, a Chicago-based poet, writer, and mother. Her poems explore the trials of motherhood, the South Asian immigrant experience, marriage, and relationships. She is a former “third culture kid” who has grown up in six countries around the world, studied in Evanston, worked in Toronto and Chicago, and currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago raising her two children with her husband. She wrote this piece shortly after her first child was born. You can read more of her work on IG @wordsby.godhuli
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