There was a wonderfully beautiful post on Offbeat Mama the other day — one that resonated with me on several levels — as an adoptee, as a parent, and as a person who loves to ponder the intricacies of identity, of transitions, and of family.
One quote in particular has been bouncing around in my brain: "Sometimes holding yourself back, playing your cards close to the chest, is the only defense we have. Our silence makes us secure."
I'm a very open person, for the most part. But there are things I'd rather keep quiet. I don't necessarily want everyone to know all of my weaknesses. I don't want people witnessing all of my mistakes, my awkward moments.
Before I became a mom, I viewed the transition to parenthood as similar to other transitions in life: the transition to "adulthood" (which, for me, was defined by finishing college, moving across the country, and getting my first full-time job — and a bunch of bills!), the transition to domestic partnership, the transition to married life, and the transition to self-employment. These are all big steps and with them comes a shift in identity, a new role, a change in how others perceive and/or define me. And with any new role, there is a learning curve — a period of adjustment — while I figure out what this transition means to me: how I define this new role and the expectations that come with it, both from me and from others. Do I accept these expectations? Or do I need to adjust the definition of what being a "wife" or being "an adult" means to something more in line with who I am?
With any new role there is the opportunity for awkward moments. New experiences are rife with awkwardness. But in the past I could hide much of that awkwardness. Feigning confidence, self-assuredness… fumbling my way through my first apartment search, my first time filing taxes, my first year of paying bills… I could make mistakes quietly. No one had to know — or at the very least, only a few people had to know.
Becoming a parent is similar to any other major life transition… but unlike so many of those other transitions, I'm finding this one much more public. As I figure out this new role of "Mom," as I integrate it into the other aspects of my identity — my life story — there are many awkward moments. Trying to nurse in public — quickly before Jonah starts screaming for the milk. Trying to get Jonah in and out of the Moby wrap the first few times. Trying to get the car seat adjusted properly. Trying to change a diaper without getting peed on. And because I refuse to stay shut up in my house, these things are all happening in public. With onlookers. Everyone out there is witnessing my transition to motherhood — my awkwardness and my fumbling. I can't hide this part of me. I'm a new mom. And my baby is so darn cute, people can't help but stare (haha, that's what I tell myself!).
Luckily for me, I'm not too easily embarrassed. Like any other transition, the newness will wear off. I will find my groove — in many ways, I already have. I'm so much more comfortable taking Jonah out and about. There will always be awkward moments — children aren't the most predictable creatures on the planet, after all. But I'm not going to let a fear of looking/feeling uncomfortable stop me from exploring the world with my son. I'm embracing this awkwardness. It feels uncomfortable now, but it already feels less so. My 22-year-old baby adult self would have been horrified to be seen making a mistake or not knowing exactly what to do…my 30-year-old mom self is just going to shrug it off and kiss Jonah's big squishy cheeks. I have WAY more important things to concern myself with these days. So bring on the awkwardness!