Was I Wrong to Introduce Myself to My Colleagues As a Mother?

How we introduce ourselves can be pretty revealing.
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Mary Rose Somarriba
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How we introduce ourselves can be pretty revealing.

“I’m a mom of two kids, one girl who’s 3 and one little boy who’s 1—they’re so sweet, although the boy is allergic to everything under the sun, which can be a challenge. Still, he’s the biggest cuddlebug. We all just moved from Texas to Cleveland, and it’s great to be back near family. I work from home, so I’m happy to finally have the chance to meet you all!”

That’s how I introduced myself at the first of what would be a series of monthly work meetings. I was surrounded by colleagues, some of whom I’d never met and would probably have benefited from some ounce of context as to my professional background. Maybe mention the different publications I worked for? Or at least mention that I worked in the editorial realm at all for the past several years? Maybe that I’m passionate about the company? These statements are all true, but for whatever reason my mind went straight to motherhood in that icebreaker moment.

What is wrong with me?” I thought immediately after the introductions moved to the next person. But it was too late. You know what they say about first impressions.

There’s a lot to be said about how people introduce themselves. Living in New York, I’d often be asked, “What do you do?”; in Washington, D.C., more often it was some form of, “What’s your position on X?”; in Ohio I’ve been asked, “Where do you live?” as if locals are just trying to map me out in the community.

Perhaps most common throughout America, though, is this tendency to define ourselves by our work. Maybe because it’s our passion or perhaps because it’s what we spend a lot of time doing. But the same could be said of motherhood. Having two young children means that, for me, “mom” is a big part of my identity, sometimes more so than “journalist” or “editor.”

According to Pew research from last year, 93 percent of moms surveyed said that being a mother was either “extremely important” or “very important” to their overall identity. One stay-at-home mom confessed to The Atlantic that the “What do you do?” inquiry causes her more anxiety than any other question; it causes her to feel less than for not working outside of the home. Some outlets suggest alternate questions, such as, “What are you working on?” or “What do you like to do?” as better ways to identify people across a range of lifestyles. But for me, “mom” seemed the most apt title for me to decree myself.

I love my work, but having kids has been life-changing in ways I can hardly explain. Pregnancy, labor, and those seemingly endless sleepless nights with a newborn were among the most challenging things I’ve gone through. Before, I might have thought that writing a college thesis or working on a huge investigative piece of journalism was hard. But motherhood has shown me what hard means. More than any other event, it shifted the focus of my life from self-centered to other-centered, and it pushed my husband and me closer together as if trial by fire. Few things in life are as formative.

Perhaps it’s this shift to focusing on the others in my life that has changed how I see myself the most. Pre-children, my work felt mostly for myself and my interests. My editorial passion has been women’s issues for as long as I can remember. Yet becoming a mother opened my eyes to women’s issues of a whole new kind. So maybe it makes sense that I’d introduce myself as a mother—my two roles are now intrinsically linked.

Who knows why I said what I said, in the end. To be honest, all this can probably be chalked up to the classic “mommy brain” that everyone talks about. That is real, I can tell you. Somewhere along the way in evolution, Mother Nature decided that when it comes to things ranging from energy to attention span, in the early days of conception and birth, they are best spent on the babies than on us moms. It makes for a number of humbling moments, for sure. Like forgetting what came before altogether. Including, say, our careers.

So, let me try this again.

My career has brought me a lot of joy. I started out in journalism interning at magazines. I worked a couple office jobs before working as managing editor for three different publications, including Verily. About the same time, I completed a journalism fellowship on the connections between sex trafficking and pornography. I found some scary stuff, and Verily published a chunk of it. Later I transitioned to being the culture editor here, and it’s been a joy to merge my interests in writing and editing with my passion for women’s issues. I also had two kids and moved around the country a bit while my husband completed graduate school requirements. It’s good to finally feel settled in my hometown while working remotely for a flexible and inspiring company. I’m so glad to meet you all!

Photo Credit: Olivia Leigh Photography