Today's 30 Day Journal prompt is about remembering who you are, to not limit how you define yourself. I have written a fair amount over the years about pre- and post-mom self-definitions and talk to women who are afraid of losing themselves, women who feel like they've lost themselves because being a mom is just so big and consuming, even in the moments when it feels like it's not, or it shouldn't be. In the early days of being a mother I remember it being all consuming in every way, especially physically. There was so much, all the time, that it just felt right and I gave myself permission to be consumed by it, by the moments - the glorious ones and the horrific ones.
At a certain point, for me it was around 6 months, other things started to creep in - like time for thoughts that were not about caring for an infant. I started to think about what else I could and should be doing. I started to miss the other parts of me. With both children, I was lucky to have social circles from the beginning so isolation wasn't much of an issue but I wanted more/different than always mom. I wasn't sure what more or different meant but I know by the way I was acting and feeling impatient and cranky and writing about being angry I needed to make some shifts.
The issue of identity has reared itself strongly since motherhood. I remember a tiny bit of this in adolescence as well but I've always had a fairly strong sense of self. Part of this is also due to perceived and real emotions that so many of us have around working in and outside the home, paid, not paid, and all the terminology in between. When meeting new people, I often employ a don't ask, don't tell policy unless the other person brings it up first. Seems silly when I write it but not in the moment. I love when others introduce themselves with all of it up front so I don't have to wonder. The flip side is I feel like it shouldn't matter, I shouldn't put so much weight on it, but these things, these facts about ourselves, are part of the entree into making connections with one another. A way in, a way to become not "other" with new friends. I consider it part of the process of finding commonalities, even in our differences.
In the last year or so, I've started playing soccer again for the first time since college. Aside from the exercise and social fun, I love bringing this part of my identity back to the present. The feeling I get when I play, the adrenaline rush, this thing that is just about me. And, I (sometimes) love bringing my family to the game. Look, it's mommy, doing something cool that has nothing to do with being a mommy. I can do that a little with work too, but at their age, work = computer or office. They only sort of get the kind of work that I do and it's not quite that interesting (yet). I need to do more PR for myself.
When I get asked to introduce myself these days I often fumble because I'm not sure which me they want me to introduce and they don't all feel quite like the same person. And, people judge. I plan for that. Which I shouldn't. I also think a LOT about context and that's apparently not always the best idea either. At least not when you're trying to think of something (or someone) as whole. This happened yesterday at an event/meeting where I had to introduce myself and I went with a version that included nothing about my professional work (which actually would have been applicable to the audience) and rushed through it and immediately regretted leaving it out. End of the world? No. But made me think.
Writing and thinking about my identity and motherhood and the shifts and insecurities makes me feel not too evolved in this arena. Part of what is coming out of this journal is that writing is a part of what I've been missing. Not just since becoming a mother, but for a long time before that. Not that I didn't write at all, but it hasn't been a regular part of my life since meeting B, which was another big time of identity shift. Not just being me, but being part of a relationship, something bigger. I also had spent a lot of time writing about boy angst and I didn't really have much boy angst after meeting B. I was also maturing beyond the self-obsessed version of myself that delayed adolescence had given me. Though, clearly that part of me is easy to rekindle.
What's become clear is that I want to start thinking and talking about myself more as a whole and less of as a whole bunch of parts.