“Mommy is going to get your bath ready!”
It’s seemingly perfectly normal phrase for my husband to chime out to our ten-month-old.
Except it’s not my husband talking. It’s me. To the baby. The older our little daughter gets and the more interactive she becomes, the more I find myself talking about myself in the third person.
It’s a natural tendency, I’m sure. I’m certainly not the first mother I’ve noticed doing this; in fact, I spent a nice chunk of my pre-baby life making fun of women who did just these things. And then BOOM! My daughter is born, and I find myself falling into several practices that I swore I’d never do, but they seem so normal now.
Part of it is just baby talk. My child starts cooing and babbling at me and almost instinctively, I respond in high-pitched infantile tones. I know every parent has a theory on whether or not baby talk is appropriate, but I just can’t help myself. My chubby little baby is so cute, I can only squeeze my teeth into a wide smile and squeal at her chunky baby thighs and puffy baby cheeks.
And maybe part of it is maternal guidance kicking in. I refer to myself as “mommy” or “mama” because I want her to recognize that it is my name. I’m calling myself “mommy” the same way I’d point to our Australian Shepherd and say “puppy.” After all, it is my job to teach her, to help her learn to understand and speak and piece things together.
But as a first time mother — and a bit unexpectedly so, I wonder how much of my new habit, this conversing in the third-person, is for me. In the first few months of Iris' life, it was just me and her at home alone for most of the day, and I'd find myself constantly using some variation of “mommy.” Was I vocalizing my new name? Was I affirming myself in my new identity?
Aside from the ins and outs of caring for an infant, I suppose I struggled with my new identity on many levels. I felt too young to be a mother, too inexperienced, too unprepared, too selfish. I felt confused and afraid and a bit depressed about it all. It was overwhelming. For those first weeks, my days were filled with only bottles, diapers, napping, and, let’s face it, hourly calls to my own mom. And maybe, in constantly calling myself "mommy, mommy, mommy," I was reminding my subconscious that I was, in fact, that, no matter how overwhelming.
But at some point, I quit calling my mom seven times a day. At some point, it felt normal to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and prepare a bottle with my eyes half closed. At some point, it stopped being strange that I couldn’t run out the door without forgetting something, being out of the house, in the car, and sometimes halfway down the street before having to go back.
I don’t remember when I officially felt “mommy.” And yet, specific turning point or not, verbalization or not, "mommy" I became.
These weren’t the occurrences that established my mommy-dom. And I hoped that they weren’t the instances that defined my motherhood. I was, after all, supposed to be that mommy with the organized diaper bag and with the nursery full of Restoration Hardware. I was supposed to be the mom who had her body back in a couple of weeks and who fixed her hair and put on make-up every day. I was supposed to be the mom who still had time to write every day, who was successfully both a full-time writer and a full-time mommy from the get-go. Essentially, I was supposed to be the mom who still looked completely like me, just with a perfectly cooperative kid in-tow.
But placing that pressure on myself, on top of turning into "mommy," I started forgetting my other identities. In an attempt to be this picture-perfect mommy for both me and my daughter, the old Sarah faded from existence. In some ways, this must happen. But I’m still Sarah the wife and Sarah the writer and Sarah the daughter and Sarah the friend and Sarah the coffee drinker and Sarah the shoe enthusiast.
And I’m certainly not the mom with the organized diaper bag, designer nursery, killer bod, perfect hair, and wildly successful stay-at-home-mom career.
That doesn’t make me any less my daughter’s mother. She needs me as a mom even on the days when I don’t feel like I am one. And I will be that for her. Some days it is hard, but I love it.
It also doesn't make me any less me. I just have to make sure that I remind myself who I am too, that in all this third-person perspective I'm consistently docking to my first-person too.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.