Traveling with Kaia, Koh Samui

Finding My Identity in Motherhood

My role as a mother has been one of the most unexpectedly beautiful things in life. ‘Unexpected’ perhaps mostly because I never considered myself overly maternal, and despite years of challenges and many rounds of IVF, I debated until the very end whether motherhood was my intended path. My biggest concern was identity. Selfishly (my sister reassures me that it’s being ‘self-aware’, not selfish), I wasn’t sure if I was ready to rediscover who I was with a new role brought into the mix; quite a significant role, at that.

Traveling with Kaia, Nevis

Some will say it’s sad or that it’s a product of the pressures we put on women to do all the things, but I remember responding to an email from a traveling client the day that I gave birth. Truth be told, I probably didn’t need to respond. Surely anyone on the face of the planet would forgive a delayed email from someone who’s just birthed a child (and had a somewhat traumatic post-birth fiasco I might add) but in some ways, I think I wanted to respond to the email. I wanted to be me, the woman who is constantly in motion, running businesses, planning travel, and moving from place to place. I didn’t want to be anything less… or perhaps even anything different.

Traveling with Kaia, La Residence, Franschhoek

Despite the beauties of being a new mom, for the first few months of Kaia’s life I cursed myself for being inefficient while figuring it all out. I consistently operated at around 20% capacity while managing a newborn but refused to put life on pause fully. Slowly I found my groove of balancing motherhood with work and with travel, dragging Kaia to 15 countries in as many months of life. Some of the trips were an act of resistance. There are easier places to take a child than to wine bars in London (six weeks old), the Jabal al-Akhdar mountains in Oman (four months old), on a villa hopping expedition in Tulum (six months old), an island adventure across the world in Thailand (12 months old), or on safari in South Africa (15 months old), but I needed to prove that my life wasn’t going to change just because we had a baby. Perhaps those trips were primarily for me to that end, but I like to think that they were for both of us.

50% of people remind me that she won’t remember these trips, and I know that’s true. I have no delusions that I have a baby with preternatural abilities to recall memories from the womb, but the trips we’ve taken, the languages she’s exposed to, the diversity she sees, and the food she tastes will no doubt shape who she becomes. Plus, selfishly, I have these memories and photos to reflect on: Kaia bouncing around on her first safari, stuffed elephant (who she named Toto) in hand; floating in the Aegean with a face covered in zinc on her first trip to Greece; celebrating her birthday dancing on a table in St. Barths; making memories with our families on the beaches in Thailand.

Traveling with Kaia, St Barths

In those tough mom moments – the ones where I feel like my identity is all mom and less of the other – I cling to the fact that those memories and moments are precious and fleeting, and that this season of life is constantly shifting and will be behind me in a flash. And no doubt, when I’m looking at those moments in the rear view, I’ll want them back to live in once again. And despite all of that and my immense gratitude for getting to experience the journey of motherhood, I’m thankful that my identity is mostly still my own and being a mom is part of the greater picture. I struggle with balance sometimes and like every other mother on the planet, have felt like I’ve lost a part of myself from time to time, but have largely made it a priority to find my equilibrium and to do the things that bring me joy. While that means that my life isn’t dedicated to being a full time mom, I think it ultimately makes me a better version of a mother and a better version of myself to share with her. I’m privileged because I have a support system that allows me to live my life and be the version of the mom that I choose to be.

So, to all of the people that have allowed me to find my stride – my husband, our families, our babysitters, and every person that has contributed to Kaia’s upbringing: thank you. I couldn’t be who I am in this chapter of life without you. And for all the moms out there that are celebrating their motherhood today, cheers to you. Cheers to the mother part, and to all of the other parts of you that get to shine as well. ✨

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.