Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Who Do You Think You Are?

I've been thinking a lot lately about identity. I'm sure that for some people, they think of themselves first and foremost in terms of their profession. "I'm a lawyer." (I guess that when you spend that much money to become something, it better be a pretty important part of your personality when you're done!) And I hear other people describe themselves in terms of their hobbies or interests: I'm an avid read; I'm a volunteer; I'm a passionate fisherman, or whatever. And of course, a lot of people describe themselves as parents. And I do the same thing. I mean, to most of the people who know me, I'm Z, E, and M's mom. But a few years into parenting, especially if you're a stay-at-home parent, I think you have to start to wonder if you're ever going to be anything other than your kid's mom again.

There was a time when I was widely considered to be smart; when people actively sought out my opinion about things ranging from punctuation to politics. There was a time when I had an active social life and knew which places to frequent when, depending on the kind of crowd you were up for that night; when I knew how to make a martini and how to drink one and still usually chose beer. There was a time when I had all kinds of friends, all ages, all interests, all backgrounds; when we used to get together and just see what was going to happen that night. There was a time when I was considered funny; when I used to say witty things and people would laugh. And let's not forget one of the fundamentals: There was a time when I used to spend all my time with people who were totally, completely potty trained--people whose poops were no one's business but their own. Those were the days, huh?

Now I'm considered an authority on how to get babies to sleep, on how to stop fights from getting out of hand, on how to handle diaper rash (there are several schools of thought on all of those, just so you know). Now the places I go rarely vary: the living room, kitchen, and E's room for most of the day, occasionally interrupted by the TV room and bedroom. Once a week or so, I venture out to the bank, and on Saturday I usually make it to the grocery store. Once every couple of months, I make it to book club, and I'm trying to make it to PTA once a month. I remember only that you shouldn't put too much vermouth in a martini; but I'm very good at mixing a bottle, even with that tricky, crazy thick formula. I still usually drink beer, but now it's always at home. I haven't heard from most of my old friends in years. We lost touch when I got married and had kids and they didn't. I had birthday parties and day care, and they had budding careers and new relationships. Now they may have the birthday parties and day care, but too much time has passed, and we just don't connect anymore. We try to email or call occasionally, but it never lasts. And new friends are hard to find when you never leave the house. No one thinks I'm funny anymore, unless you count my 10-month-old, who laughs when I stick out my tongue and wiggle my finger at her. And very few people in my life are potty trained. Let's face it: poop is now a major player in my life/

I'm not complaining per se. It's not that I would leave my kids and go off to some sparkling new job all day if I could. I love getting to be here with them, and I love the kids I stay with. (Both genuinely true and the "standard mom disclaimer," as my sister calls it.) But I think in addition to the isolation that comes with staying home with kids, which is another post in and of itself, it really calls into question who exactly you are; if you're not all the things you used to be, who are you instead? And have all the previous dimensions of your personality been replaced by "my kid's mom"? I try to do things--this blog is an example--that remind me and everyone else that I am more than just the person I appear to be from day to day. But I wonder how everyone else handles it. And how women have handled it for hundreds of years. Because I do wake up most mornings wondering, now that things have changed so much in the last 5 years or so, just who I think I am.

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