Denisse Myrick

7 min Read Denisse Myrick

Denisse Myrick

What We Lose When We Find Parenthood

Giving yourself permission to love what's left

Denisse Myrick

7 min Read

Today, while I’m out, I am completely thrilled to bring you this essay from Denisse Myrick, who is an amazing photographer, a gifted writer, an incredibly fun Instagram follow, and, I am very lucky to say, the Community Manager at ParentData. Having her on my team for the past several months has been truly a gift. 

The essay below grapples with what we lose when we find parenthood. It spoke to me, and I think it will speak to many of you too.  —Emily


Denisse Myrick's daughter holds a popsicle and does "cheers" with her mother's popsicle.
Denisse Myrick

I moved to Arizona in the fall of 2018. Met my now-husband, took a leap of insanity, left my busy award-winning street-style photography career, and trekked across the country to accommodate the possibility of a fuller life. Spoiler alert, my life is fuller. Much fuller. But of course, with such a drastic change came many realizations, lessons, and even grief.

I learned that I had very few friends outside of my work industry. I learned that most people who knew me didn’t really know me, only knew the service I could provide and associated that with our relationship. I learned that once I was no longer able to provide said service, we weren’t really friends. Most importantly, I learned that I had no idea who I was apart from what I did. Now, to be fair, when you’re a creative in New York, you are working to live. The only thing I had time for was my job, because otherwise I’d be in trouble. I had no time for hobbies. I had no time for “Eat, Pray, Love”-like adventures. I had time to strive. My identity became “hustling girlboss.” In retrospect… Gross.

When I moved to my quiet, suburban neighborhood, I realized I didn’t know how to talk to regular people. I didn’t know how to have conversations without being career-focused or discussing dreams and ambitions. Truthfully, I still don’t. I don’t do small talk. I don’t do what I consider mundane conversations. Because where I come from, people don’t care. They ask you how you are and walk away before you can answer. We keep it moving.

How is any of this relevant to motherhood? I’m getting there. But I’m also off Adderall because I’m pregnant, so it’s going to take me a while.

Losing yourself in any capacity means that you had insight and certainty about who you were at some point. If we stripped away our titles, even the ones that are related to motherhood, could we say something like “I’m a self-assured badass who loves cooking and trashy novels?” Probably not. We’d say something like “I’m a stay-at-home mom who thinks my children are drops of manna from heaven [there’s that church trauma] and enjoys the occasional true-crime podcast.” Or “I’m a marketing specialist who loves brunch, vacations, and my dogs!” All very normal things. But usually, all descriptions begin with the title that holds the most weight in our lives.

Maybe to make the most sense out of all this, I would encourage you to write down a brief description of who you are. Not who you want to be, who you were, or who you’re hoping people see you as. Who you truly believe you are. I’ll go first.

Denisse Myrick sits with her daughter in the green grass.
Denisse Myrick

I’m a mother of 1.75 children, a wife, a community manager, and a dreamer. I could lie and say “in no particular order,” but it’s in that exact order.

Stepping into motherhood with no actual sense of identity made the transition even harder for me. I still struggle. Because the reality is that this entire process, for me, will always be about trying to maintain some sort of grip on the idea I’d like to have of myself while holding on to everything else that I obtain throughout my evolution as an individual.

There are days I don’t have the energy to hold on tightly. There are days when I don’t have space to hold for myself. There are days when my hands are full of motherhood, partnership, and work. And on those days, I forget who I am. Because motherhood is the constant back-and-forth between holding space for yourself and stretching yourself to make sure that everything in your life can take shelter. Which can mean throwing yourself off the life raft so that everyone else can survive. It is sacrifice. Or at least it will feel like it.

It’s constantly meeting different versions of yourself. Many of which you will not like, some of which you’ll fall in love with. It’s learning to silence everything around you so that you can listen to what you have to say. All of that takes time. It takes practice. Realistically, for many, it takes means and help. Solo trips and dates. Naps and long walks. Therapy. A moment in the morning when the birds are recapping and your beverage of choice is still hot. Things that unfortunately not everyone has access to.

Random thought: I often think this constant longing for identity stems from how little control we have over what happens in life, who our children become, and how they react to the new Pinterest recipe we decided to go for out of fear of lack of protein. Or what kind of consequences we experience as a result of our decisions and expectations. Listen, nothing will humble you faster than becoming a parent.

As mothers, most of us just want to end the day knowing we are certain about one thing. Just one thing. And usually, that’s the person we know to trust the most: ourselves. So when you end the day feeling like that person is a little further away than they were in the morning, it feels like a failure of sorts.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that one of the joys and sadnesses of motherhood is losing yourself. It’s embracing the ebbs and flows of who you are becoming and welcoming the evolution with curiosity. Because the fact of the matter is that the sooner we can accept that stepping into motherhood is stepping into an agreement with eternal change, the sooner we get to experience new versions of ourselves in their entirety.

Sometimes you’ll grieve who you were. Sometimes you’ll be terrified of who you are. Sometimes you’ll become completely enamored with who you are becoming, only to realize that person is just a passerby, and you’re sad to see her go. Your kids aren’t the only ones with big feelings [insert nervous smile emoji here].

I’ll end with this. My hope is that throughout this lifelong journey, we can learn to hold close pieces of ourselves we pick up along the way. Even when we don’t have the strength to grip tightly the idea of who we are as a whole, we can hold on to the parts that mean the most to us at that moment. Give those pieces refuge, love, and care. And then we can freely let go when we need to, trusting that the next day, year, or decade will introduce us to different versions of ourselves. Because if there is anything that motherhood has taught me about who I am, it’s that I don’t know, and that’s okay.

I love myself in pieces because that’s the pace at which I’m discovering who I am. That’s the capacity I have right now. I have no desire to succumb to the pressures of loving myself in my final form because that would mean I’ve lived all the life I needed to. That I’ve “arrived,” if you will. And although being a human being is exhausting, and being a mother sometimes even more so, I still have a lot of living I’d like to do, and many more versions of myself I’d like to meet.

I hope you give yourself permission to feel the same way too.

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