17 April 2006

How do you distinguish yourself?

I'm reading a book right now about a recovering alcohol abuser. In her autobiography the author talks about the period of her life in which the only thing that distinguished her were the parties she went to, what she drank and the people she drank with. I began thinking about how I've distinguished myself throughout my life, and how careful I've always been not to get stuck in a rut. As a child, I distinguished myself as a social butterfly. I loved having many friends and being able to relate to many different kinds of people. As a teenager I distinguished myself as well rounded and outgoing. I tried everything at least once and found a lot of strength and confidence in pursuing my talents. As a college student I distinguised myself as a survivor. I took on heavy course loads and took classes outside of my requirements. I was also finally on my own, finally responsible for myself, and I struggled to take charge of my aspirations and separate myself from my mother. As a young married I distinguished myself as "the good wife" who would not repeat her parents' mistakes; who would have a house of order and love. As a first time mother I distinguished myself as one who would always be soft and caring and nurture those around her. Now that my family has reached full capacity, how will I distinguish myself? I am approaching a plateau. I will be at this stage in life for the next 19 years or so when my last child leaves the nest. While I stay at this status quo - "mom of four" - how will I distinguish myself? Furthermore, why is it so imporant to distinguish myself?

My mother gave herself completely to motherhood. She was an example of someone who lived for her children. And she considered her children's accomplishments to be a direct reflection on her, so there were high demands for success. I think this is an example of someone who lost themselves in motherhood, simlar to the way this author lost herself in drinking. It became her identity. An unhealthy and codependent relationship ensued. Likewise, my mother became codependent, relying almost exclusively on her children's aspirations to validate her existence as a mother. In the meantime, there were many, many amazing talents she'd abandoned... modelling, art, writing, singing and dancing.

Think of all the steroetypes that are tied to motherhood. There is the slacker mom, the soccer mom, the crunchy mom, the strict mom, the stage mom... It is no wonder we get completely consumed with our reputation as mothers. I don't want to fit any stereotypes, because regardless of their intent, there is a negative stigma attached to them. I like having something to distinguish myself by other than motherhood. While motherhood is my top priority, I feel I need an identity as well... something all my own.... something that serves as an outlet and something that rejuvenates me and something to thrive on. More importantly, something that will be part of my life as my children need me less and less. It's important and healthy, I think, to nurture our interests, to exercise our minds, to walk down many paths.

So, how do you distinguish yourself? I distinguish myself as a musician who teaches and performs every chance she gets. I imagine that in several years I will either return to school for a Master's degree in viola/violin performance or the recording studio. I also really enjoy and dapple with photography, interior design, art, gardening and dance.

20 comments:

Stephanie said...

How profound. I have always said that I was Stephanie before I was married, I was Stephanie before I had kids, I will be Stephanie after they are grown, and I will be Stephanie after they are gone. I will be Stephanie if I am ever alone. I love being a wife and mother, but I refuse to let it define me as a whole. On my profile I say that I am a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. I LOVE anything artistic and creative. I have an insane love of literature. I love to learn and discover new talents. I credit who I am to my mom. She was the BEST example of being true to ones inner self.

Julie said...

I love this quote from your post:

"While motherhood is my top priority, I feel I need an identity as well... something all my own.... something that serves as an outlet and something that rejuvenates me and something to thrive on."

Stephanie's comment totally echoes that. It reminds me of an Oprah I saw a long time ago that had moms arguing over lifestyle choices. They had a whole group of moms who had devoted every ounce of their lives to their children - and all their children had left the house at this point. The women were saying that they were empty and void - there was nothing left to do, no one left to live for. How tragic is that? The best thing we can do for ourselves, and our families, is to nourish ourselves.

Thanks for making me think today. :)

sheri said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for giving me something great to think about this week. I wish I had something more profound to say, but today I'm Tired Mom. :)

sheri said...

Oh ya...and Laundry Mom. Grrr

Andrea said...

Great post!
This is such a hard topic for me. I feel like i'm losing a battle between being myself and being a mum. Not sure how to balance it out.

Elizabeth said...

Excellent post! I have been thinking lately (over the past few months) how I've kind of lost myself over the past few years. Right now I'm the "Teacher Mom". Everything in my life revolves around teaching and my son. I really, really need to branch out again some. I miss having friends I can call that can actually (physically) be there if needed. Man. I've got a lot of work ahead of me!

Tigersue said...

Yes I saw your comment on LDS women blogs, I haven't posted it. :) I have tried to get an email sent to you and a profile set up on the blogsome site but it isn't working at the moment. I can't do administration changes with firefox for some reason, I have tried several things to get it fixed, and IE,Avant, and Opera aren't letting me access the site today for some reason. It gets very, very tiresome to get a browser to do what I want it to do, when I want it too. :)

itybtyfrog said...

Great post!!! I have thought the same thing lately....I feel like I have lost my "sparkle" the thing that makes me...well, me. I guess that is why I am so drawn to creative things...decorating, crafting, scrapbooking, etc. It brings me back for a while.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Lei, this is a really thought-provoking post. My faith has always been an intimate one, a relationship rather than a set of beliefs, and as I grow in the Lord, He keeps showing me new vistas in myself--areas to grow and change in, gifts and talents to develop, callings to rise to. My blog has been a recent excursion of faith...maybe a precursor to some more writing, which is one way I've "distinguished" myself in the past.
Great question--thanks!

Gabriela said...

Good topic. It's quite a balancing act isn't it? I try to always have things going that are just for me, but my problem is I tend to get addicted to whatever I start. So, it is a challenge to balance my time so that I am not shorting my kids the time they need and deserve.

Pattie said...

Excellent Post! As mothers, it is so easy to lose yourself, if you are not careful. I remember going to a dinner party once before I had kids. I was the only woman there without children. ALL these women talked about were their kids. I sat there and thought "don't these people have LIVES outside of their children?" I vowed I would be conscious not to let this happen to me. Of course, after my third kid, I ALMOST forgot my promise to myself. I try very hard to be a good mom...involved and loving. However, I work hard to have a life outside of that for me. It is not always easy, but it IS necessary. Thanks for the reminder!

Carrie said...

I love your posts. You continue to amaze me. It is so easy to get lost in motherhood or being a wife even. Right now, I try to go out one afternoon a week by myself. No children, no husband, etc. I go to the temple or just go shop or sit at the library and read a book. It is a good time for me to reflect and be with my own thoughts and remember who I am. My husband and I also try to take time regularly to go out on a date. The money is well worth it. In the end, the children will grown up and be on their own and I still want to know my very best friend and know myself. Thanks for the post. It was wonderful

smartmama said...

hey everyone is welcome for studio night at my house tonight-- I like little projects (currently dining room makeover) here and there- my art, having dinner parties--

Jane said...

I loved this Lei!! It really gives me something to think about too. I have been Mommy for 19 years now, and I have another 14 until my youngest will be 18. I need to remember that there is life outside of Motherhood. Although I really do love the work I do as a Mother...The pay is lousy, but the rewards are great!

Rachelle said...

This is a great post. For the last several years, I have distinguished myself as a teacher. When I went on maternity leave with Cam last year, it was hard for me to go to being "just a mom" because it didn't feel as honorable as "teacher." Now I see myself as "teacher-mom" which balances both.

kfk said...

Right now, I can't think of anything really. Perhaps there is something, but in all the craziness, I've forgotten! One day....

Doulabean said...

I agree completely! I think that's one reason I love being a doula.

And I have the hardest time answering the question, "So what do you do?" which I get asked at least once or twice a week.

How can I limit myself to just a sentance or two?

I'm a mother,a wife a doula, a woman, a Primary President, a gardener....and I'm not done yet!!!

I have yet to figure out how to answer that question without sounding nuts! lol

lackrik said...

What a great insight you have. So true about a negative stigma attached to each mothering style.

I just want to be the mom that my kids look up to and are inspired by. Have the kind of home where the kids WANT to have their friends over to play.

Thanks for the post!

bon said...

This is EXACTLY where I am at. I want to be a good Mama, but I also need to be just... me.

Writing in my blog helps, reading and doing creative things help... but since I have three young children, one of whom is a nursing baby who refuses a bottle right now- another thing that helps is reminding myself that this is only a stage of life and there will be more time for me later. But BY GUMMY there will definatly be time for me later!

Misty said...

I was thinking along similar lines today. As far as my mothering is concerned, I want to be happy, laid back and easy to talk to. I want to have fun, but set boundries and stick to them. I have a lot to work on. lol. As for me, I'm a photographer and I want to build that. There are many other interests I have that I intend to focus on later in life. Toddlerhood can be incredibly consuming.