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Identifying Yourself in Motherhood

Updated: May 22, 2023

A friend of mine left me a voice memo that struck me. She said “I’m proud of you. I think that staying home with your baby the first few years is such a monumental task. It’s really cool to see you doing it and investing in your family.”

Often as a stay-at-home mom, I feel I am falling short. I have yet to accomplish many goals that I had set for myself before becoming a mother. The same friend and I always say to each other “we are young, there is time for everything” because we are and there is. However, it’s easy to get lost in the day to day and no one lives forever.

Mom and little daughter laying on floor with telephones

I became a mom in 2020 and as you can imagine it was a unique experience. Nevertheless, I was blessed with the task of carrying my child during this time and it was a transformative experience for my mind and body to say the least. It’s an honor for me to have been their first home on earth. I can vividly remember the waves of emotion that I felt throughout the process. It was like a rebirth for me. In my view, mothers must greet this momentous change with resilience.

Once you have earned the title of “mom” – follow-up questions arise. Are the other titles you’ve accumulated now less important? How do you wish to carry this role? As a parent and primary role model, what kind of example do you want to set with your children? These questions envelop all aspects of life. So, now what of your career before? Societal pressures lean towards you to do both work and be an active parent. If you choose not to work, maybe you will feel you could be doing more to financially contribute. If you choose to work, maybe you will feel you’re falling short at home. There is no right answer in consensus. In my opinion, the healthiest version of motherhood to me is one in which moms always strive to have an identity outside of their role, preserving what brought them joy in life before children, whatever that may be.

The truth of the matter is once you bring life into this world, you step into this new identity.

If a mother chooses to work then many evaluate whether you’re doing well at achieving the “work-life balance” so highly coveted today. We strive for it but is it practical?

I explored this question with Brandi Davis-Handy, an admired fixture of the Indianapolis community. She serves as Board President of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Indiana and GANGGANG Culture, as well as on the Board of the Indiana Sports Corporation and Women’s Fund of Central Indiana. She is also a founding member of the African American Legacy fund of Indianapolis, an organization that raises awareness and advocates for issues affecting the African American community. Not only does Brandi help others everyday in the Indianapolis community, but she is also a vivacious loving mother of her two children, Ella and Miles, and a lovely woman all-around.

One of Brandi’s key practices as a mother is identifying “What makes Brandi, Brandi” and preserving that.

Brandi has a fresh take on work life balance. She believes work life balance is that it is simply unachievable. She expands upon the topic stating “There’s no such thing as balance or work-life balance, I don’t believe in the notion of balance—I don’t think that’s natural. I believe it’s all about intentional choices. My approach to managing my executive career as well as serving on all the boards and my life at home is to just be honest with everyone about everything. On Sundays, I sit down with my family and lay out the week’s expectations. The kids have accountability, too. We lay out all the priorities for the week with the kids going first. They go through what their week looks like and what they want to accomplish. Then, we say, ‘Okay, this is what mommy’s week looks like.’ I let them know my schedule so they know where they can expect to see me. This week on our Sunday sitdown, I let them know that while it is not a busy family week or work week it is a busy community week for me. With BUTTER 2 happening this weekend (a multi-day fine art fair in Indianapolis showcasing the works of more than 50 Black visual artists from across the country hosted by GANGGGANG over Labor Day Weekend) I will be completely busy and miss dinner 4 days this week. Being super honest and open is the way to go. Once you let them know this is what’s going on you can let go of that feeling that you’re letting people down. Setting the expectations eliminates the guilt.”

What I like about Brandi’s concept of the family sit down is it not only sets expectations, but it aligns them within the family. Prioritization and expectations are set so that at the end of the week harmony is found in the home. To attain a harmonious home life, modern women have evolved into proactive family planners. We want to be sure we can balance the needs of motherhood with the rest of our lives. Many prospective mothers contemplate what they want to be accomplished before having children and many do not. Either way, these decisions come to play in our lives sometime along the way.

Family sitting on floor holding orange telephones

My conversation with Brandi reminded me of a quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person. Your child will benefit from that.” Cherishing our identity beyond motherhood is vital. For me, maximizing every moment I have with my daughter calls for me to show up as my best self as much as I can. What helps me to do so is to honoring my boundaries. Some examples include self-care and quality time with myself as well as family and friends. This practice encourages me to come home to myself on a regular basis. To find peace within, even when life feels like chaos. Creating a life for your children every day is hard work, there’s no denying that. Fortunately, that work does not hold a candle to how much motherhood can enrich your life. And while becoming a mother has the potential to takeover all of who you are, it has the potential to add to who you are, helping you discover all that you are capable of.


Written by Katelyn Wood featuring an interview with Brandi Davis-Handy. Katelyn Wood photographed with her daughter, Stella; mother; and grandmother by Lacy Clagg.

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