So, I'm going to admit something potentially embarrassing and that is: I thought having a kid was going to turn me into a grown up. I mean, that isn't why I did it, but there was hope that motherhood would magically transform me into someone organized and, you know, adulty.
Turns out, I was already a grown up and that all that having a kid did was bestow enough baby weight to look perpetually preggers which allows for people to now call me "ma'am" instead of "miss" which is some kind of patriarchal torture device or something. Newsflash: NO ONE WANTS TO BE CALLED MA'AM. LIKE EVER.
So the best way to describe how I was going to be an adult had to do with the concept of "family dinners" which were somewhat foreign to me as someone who grew up in front of the TV. I was like, "We are going to eat at the table! Have family time! Be GROWNUPS!!!" The reality is is that we eat at a table, but it's the coffee table (where, let's face it, we always have), and now the only difference is that we have a little kid who spreads spaghetti all over everything while we eat and makes us watch Arthur Christmas constantly. She also tries to feed the cats while simultaneously telling them "no" so basically she's gotten the hang of what passes for dinner etiquette in the living room.
Upon analysis, I think that this belief, that I would be "better" as a person, is part of a larger cultural narrative about how to be the right kind of - or good - mother (or, for that matter, parent). I think this narrative works for some - perhaps the people that have always wanted children and have been very clear about it. They're like, I'm good and having a child with make me gooder. (Just FYI, that grammar, in addition to saying that I grew up in front of the TV might mean that my mother never talks to me again). In any case, I think it's a weirdly seductive thought that drives some of the competition that is so rampant among parents these days.
Take mothers for instance. Women, in general, put a lot of pressure on themselves - to look good, to be fit, to be a nice person, and to keep toothpaste off their blouses. This is already waaaaaaaaaaay too much pressure. Then add a kid for whom you are so totally and completely (apparently) morally responsible for that if they sneeze when they are supposed to fart, you might as well wear a Scarlet F for failure to thrive as a decent mommy for the rest of your life. What I'm trying to say is that the pressure for mothers to "succeed" as mothers is ridiculous because it does not acknowledge that every mother is dealing with a wild animal - or a number of wild animals depending on their levels of denial/memory when having another baby becomes a topic of conversation/consideration - and that the behaviour of said wild animal has nothing to with that particular woman's moral fortitude. In fact, it has nothing to do with her value, her success, her morality, her "goodness." Kids go through all kinds of stages (at least this is what I've been lead to believe and continue to hold onto with desperate hope) and some of those stages include eating boogers, throwing things, and even biting animals (which yours truly may or may not have done). Mothers get the brunt of the blame for natural ups and downs in development. Or they blame themselves. And it's not pretty.
So this kind of pressure results in no only perpetual fear and apologizing, but also an impact on mental health, and - worst of all - it impacts a woman's ability to define who she wants to be as a mother because she is so busy trying to figure out which goddamn sippy cup is the most on trend this season. I found that trying to fit myself into the molded expectations about how to be an "appropriate" mother so crushing when I first became a mother that I immediately, with no hesitation, wanted to abandon the title and set course for Jamaica.
In sum, motherhood didn't make me grow up and be more adulty, but it did make me do something that I had not found the courage to do previous to having a child exit my body, and that is define what this new mantle, this new identity, bestowed upon me was going to look like.
Defined for me, by me, and no one else.