PER­SPEC­TIVE

Girl About Town be­comes New Mom and re­flects on a bumpy, joy­ous, in­fu­ri­at­ing, ex­hil­a­rat­ing jour­ney.

Milwaukee Magazine - - Content - By Jenna Kashou

What hap­pens when our Girl About Town web colum­nist be­comes New Mom? Ec­stasy, agony and on-the-job breast milk pump­ing.

A FEW MONTHS AF­TER MY son was born, I missed a birth­day party that I helped or­ga­nize be­cause my babysit­ter can­celed. I texted the birth­day girl to ask if it was okay to bring an in­fant to her 40th at a trendy Down­town spot. She didn’t re­sponded “sure!” un­til 20 min­utes be­fore our reser­va­tion. That was way too lit­tle time to ac­com­plish all the tasks re­quired to leave the house – feed and change my son, get my­self ready, load up the di­a­per bag. So I stayed home and went to bed with the baby at 8 p.m.

I ad­mit it: I’ve hit some un­ex­pected tur­bu­lence in my flight from Girl About Town to New Mom. I call my­self a writer, event plan­ner, am­a­teur DJ and de­cent cook, much of which I used to write about, a lot, in the GAT blog on mil­wau­keemag.com. Last year, I added “mother” to my cat­a­logue of ti­tles, and that la­bel hasn’t ex­actly res­onated as I ex­pected. For me, be­com­ing a mother wasn’t just about a new set of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties; it was about as­sum­ing a new iden­tity, while pre­serv­ing the in­di­vid­u­al­ity that I had spent 30 years cul­ti­vat­ing.

While other lit­tle girls played house, I played of­fice. I stud­ied, trav­eled abroad and then poured all of my en­ergy into my ca­reer and creative hob­bies through­out my 20s and early 30s. When I met my hus­band, we fell in love and mar­ried in rapid suc­ces­sion. As it usu­ally goes, the tirade of re­minders that I wasn’t get­ting any younger en­sued. Know­ing that we wanted a fam­ily one day, my hus­band and I took a leap and for­tu­nately in 2016 had a healthy baby boy in our arms.

It’s true when peo­ple say the love be­tween mother and child can­not be un­der­stood un­til it hap­pens to you. Al­though ex­haust­ing at times, car­ing for my son en­er­gizes and ex­cites me. When he wakes up, his blue eyes twin­kle and a smile stretches across his tiny cheru­bic face. He erupts in gig­gles ev­ery time I tickle the in­side of his hands. There are four dim­ples where his knuck­les will ap­pear some day, and his palms are soft and wrinkly, like a raisin. When he’s tired, he will nes­tle his head be­tween my col­lar­bone and neck. It’s pure eu­pho­ria – I feel present and at peace.

But I don’t think it makes me a bad mother to ad­mit that I also miss hav­ing am­ple free time to pur­sue my pas­sions and dreams. Or just blow-dry my hair. That makes me hu­man. I have al­ways cher­ished my

alone time to re­lax by read­ing, writ­ing, see­ing movies, work­ing out and shop­ping. I still try to fit these things in by en­list­ing the much ap­pre­ci­ated help of fam­ily mem­bers, but some­times it’s more work than it’s worth to pack up my son’s sup­plies and trans­port him back and forth to grandma’s house.

I call my­self a fem­i­nist – most women would. But by fight­ing so hard for equal rights, did we fail to rec­og­nize that whether we like it or not, the onus of the chil­drea­r­ing and house­work will still fall on women even if we’re given equal op­por­tu­ni­ties in so­ci­ety? Yes, my hus­band is a very hands-on fa­ther and hap­pily shares the child-care re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. But even with daddy’s care­ful and con­sid­er­ate help, my son de­pended on me for nour­ish­ment for the first year of his life. And when I phys­i­cally couldn’t feed him, I had to hide be­hind a closed of­fice door at work and ex­tract his food with a loud pump that made me feel like a farm an­i­mal. Is ac­cep­tance the only way to make peace with this con­ven­tional and cov­eted life­style I’ve cre­ated for my­self?

If moth­er­hood has taught me any­thing, it’s re­siliency and re­leas­ing con­trol. And per­haps that be­ing a par­ent is not about you: It’s about your kids, and shap­ing their lives in a pos­i­tive way. And, so I’m told, it’s about be­ing in this for the long term. In fact, be­ing our boy’s par­ents for the rest of our earthly lives.

Ap­ply­ing all that wis­dom to my iden­tity shift might take some pa­tience, but I want my son to be proud that I can be an in­di­vid­ual and a re­ally great mom. That’s my def­i­ni­tion of hav­ing it all.

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