On being a mother who still doesn’t know who she is

By Fiona Leary Boucher

I am a woman who is 38 years old. I am a woman who is married to a good man who sometimes does not understand her. I am a woman with two sons who are loud and energetic and tiring and funny and sweet. I am a woman who lives in an 1,800 square foot house that is filled with too much stuff.

I am a woman whose husband and boys are hiking on a cold Saturday in February. I am a woman who needs a shower and lunch and also needs this time to herself, because when the boys return they will crack the blissful silence in the house and she will be wanted.

I am a woman who is an introvert, who never raised her hand in class but always thought about what others said. I am a woman does not try to be anything other than what she is, even if it makes her lonely. I am a woman who is not extraordinary. I am a woman who is smart but feels stupid when people talk about Diderot, or physics, or David Foster Wallace.

I am a woman who is coming to terms that her skin and hair are changing. I am a woman who exercises to control her stress as well as the hemorrhoids she developed after giving birth to her second son on the living room sofa. I am a woman with a sweet tooth who sometimes asks her husband to hide the cookies so she doesn’t eat them all. I am a woman who sometimes needs a glass of wine or two in the evening, because even though her boys are no longer babies, five to six o’clock is still the witching hour.

I am a woman who is a home-based-mother. I am a woman who loathes the term stay-at-home-mom because it implies she is a shut-in. I am a woman who, when asked what she does for a living, has come to expect the blank stares and so she quickly adds she used to work in fundraising, because everyone understands the desire to raise money even if they do not understand raising children. I am a woman who is tired of parenting trends. I am a woman who has no tolerance for self-righteous judgment. I am a woman who believes that most people do the best they can.

I am a woman who left her career four years ago because it was stressful and she lost herself as a person among the countless demands from her job, her husband, her children, her friendships, her volunteer work, and her extended family. I am a woman who must return to the workforce and is angry about it. I am a woman who is grateful she could be a home-based-mother even when it was difficult and she would need to hide in the bathroom for some peace. I am a woman who is afraid she will give her best self to a new job and not to the people and things that are important to her. I am a woman who is afraid of losing herself.

I am a woman who wants to earn a good salary because she is tired of putting things off like buying a new car, renovating her kitchen, and replacing her holey underwear because while she is prepared to give her children what they need and be as generous as she can with others, she has a hard time putting herself first even for a new bra. I am a woman who grew up in a family that struggled financially and lived in an affluent town, and so her relationship with money is complicated.

I am a woman who wants a job that makes her happy but feels that it is a myth, a part of the dying American dream. I am a woman who used to think that education was a way to open doors but is uncertain about this now because so many around her are unable to achieve the milestones of adulthood due to educational debt and low-paying jobs that nonetheless require a master’s degree. I am a woman who wonders how she will be able to send her sons to college. I am a woman who worries about her children’s future.

I am a woman who wants all children to have access to a good life and opportunities, no matter what their skin color or gender. I am a woman who worries about the System, and its inherent Privilege, Inequality, and Oppression. I am a woman who knows she is privileged, but is also a woman.

I am a woman who worries about climate change, who cringes when someone says “It’s such a gorgeous day!” when it’s 55 degrees in January in southern Connecticut. I am a woman who convinced her husband to switch to natural gas, who composts, who tears up ripped clothing for rags so she doesn’t waste paper towels, and yet who wants to buy an SUV instead of a fuel-efficient hybrid. I am a woman who sees that consumerism is good for the economy but not good for the earth. I am a woman who is weary of global existential crises.

I am a woman who needs to go to the grocery store and bake a dessert for dinner at a friend’s house. I am a woman who will have to ask her husband to hide the bag of chocolate chips after she takes a cup for the pie so she won’t eat the whole bag.

I am a woman whose husband’s car has just pulled up to the house. I am a woman whose calm is broken, who is reluctant to enter the chaos that is her boys’ homecoming, the yelling about boots and hunger and “He hit me!” I am a woman whose fingers are flying furiously on the keyboard because at any second now her husband’s desperate voice will call out to her, “Babe!” I am a woman who must finish the thoughts that are in her head because tomorrow, next month, next year she may be someone else.

I am a woman who is all these things and still does not know who she is.

Fiona Leary Boucher lives and writes in Connecticut. She is the mother of two lovely and very rascally boys.

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