I feel like I’m having a pre-midlife identity crisis.
You see, for the past six years I’ve been mainly a stay-at-home-mom. I’ve also started a doula practice, maintained a presence in the TESOL community (of which I went to grad school for), hosted fundraisers and done a bit of road tripping (I will forever wander), but primarily I’ve wiped boogers and butts and counters and floors for most of my thirties. I am now 36 and my thirties are nearly over (insert dramatic eye-roll) and the reality of 4-0 has left me a bit unnerved, questioning, what is to come next: Will I be marketable in today’s work force should I choose to go back? What if I don’t? What does that make me…just a mom? There. I’ve said it.
I’m just a mom.
I’m a firm believer that life is short, so whatever you feel called to do or feel passionate about should NOT be wasted on fear because regret doesn’t look good on anybody. I knew I wanted to stay at home ever since I was 10-years old and watched my step-mom walk away from her job to stay at home with my younger brothers (and myself). I marveled at how easy she made it look. (Even then I knew motherhood was hard, probably because my relationship with my own birth mother was, and still is, so strained). Yet, this woman who helped raise me, cleaned and cooked for us all; she came to conferences and made sure there was always “good” (not healthy, but tasty) snacks when friends came to sleepover. She championed for us yet pushed us to apologize where appropriate. She made us work HARD but she was also flexible and fun which made the work seem sweeter. I am sure there were days where she felt like, “Is this all there is?! Am I really just a mom?” But for me and my brothers she was more than that. She WAS mom. She helped transform our lives, and there’s nothing ordinary about that.
Why am I struggling with my own identity, then, when being “just a mom” is anything less than ordinary?
I believe it’s because we tend to define ourselves by what we think we “should” be or by what society says is worthy or valuable. But, isn’t what we ARE enough? Isn’t the luxury of even contemplating such existentialism a gift? Yes and yes; which is why I’m writing. I am writing to my “better-self” — the self who feels SO strongly about defining one’s self by the intangibles she has started a whole blog around it. (And yet, I still struggle with being countercultural. Swimming against the current is never easy…)
What are the intangibles then (besides an amazing new superhero group)?
Intangible Living is something all prophets and mentors the world over have urged us to do: LOVE. And not, Man I love chicken. But the love of your soul. If you don’t know what that is yet, then stop reading and go seek it, because the intangibles of life ARE ALL THAT MATTER. We all know this, too. We see the daily quotes surfacing on Facebook and Pinterest that remind us to “live everyday as if it were our last”, but I wonder how often we read that and then go out and buy a latte while surfing the internet right in front of our kids or spouse who so desperately want our attention. We can do better than this. I know we can.
I rarely speak in absolutes but I will today: stop comparing yourself to anyone or any.one.thing. “Comparison is the thief of joy”and it will rob you of your value and self-worth. We are quick to judge and slow to change, but I yearn for a revolution where this knee-jerk reaction becomes secondary to empathy, and I believe it is within our grasp; we just need to start giving ourselves grace first. Hurt people mask their sadness with judgement, so let’s help each other out and quit the pigeonholing. Doing so only suffocates our humanness and continues the irony of our existence, for how can you classify that which is fluid? Aren’t humans ever-evolving? I have rarely met someone who fits the stereotype laid on them. In fact, people have often called me a “crunchy” or a “gran mom, probably because I birthed naturally, breastfed, and choose to eat kale. (Ok, maybe I am crunchy, but I don’t see myself that way. I wear shoes after all!) No really, I just don’t like being defined. Period. Not by society and not by the old lady in Target. Unfortunately, our puny little brains have a hard time making sense of “that which is different”–hence why we judge and stereotype–but I think we can change the platform of the conversation. What if I wasn’t “just a [crunchy] mom”? What if I was just “protector of life”! (who also chose to birth naturally and breastfeed and drive a van and have three children and take her kids to church and yoga and use Tylenol AND essential oils and work [sometimes] and cry [a lot].) Would knowing all of this change your view of me? Maybe. Would it change the fact that my kids sometimes throw Cheerios on the floor from the unpaid-for-yet open-box in Target? No. It won’t change the jeers and stares that follow either. But, it WILL change the grace I extend myself in those moments; because, after all, I am Protector of Life, and that job is important. (So is getting out of Target alive, might I add).
Therefore, whatever you think you *just* are,
just BE it. Whatever you think you “just” have is probably what you need. We don’t always get what we want but God gives us what we need. Let’s dismiss the titles and live by the fruits of the spirit instead: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control, and gentleness. By doing so, we can hopefully avoid dramatic sinkholes and live quote-worthy lives that extend beyond ourselves into generations to come. After all, you are more than a just a mom, teacher, doula, artist, friend, Christian, wife, traveler, 9-to-5er, Buddhist, yogi, chef, or writer. You are love(d).
And so am I.