We all have multiple personality disorder. At least, I like to think so.
No really, think about it. We are all so very many things. We wear so many hats. Can you name them all? If not, try it! Do it. I did. You can see my list on the sidebar. It's not an exhaustive list (like I could have added "Battlestar Galactica's Biggest Fan", "World's Worst Baker", etc... ). But it's a pretty good snapshot of who I am. Or at least my LABELS.
Hmmmm....labels. Let's talk about labels.
I have noticed that when we give ourselves and each other labels we often limit ourselves. We say "I am a mother." or "She is an accountant." Why do we do that to ourselves? I suppose it's out of necessity. I guess we can't really say "She is a wonderful human being, created and loved by God, adored by her family and friends, ..." That would be counterproductive. So, we give ourselves and each other short and succinct (and often VERY limiting) labels. We put ourselves in a box. We put others in similar boxes. And that is where we stay.
I take issue with that. Lately I have taken major offense at being labeled one thing or another. Why does this bug me so much? Because I am, we all are, soooo many things. Let me explain:
My primary label is "Miles' Mama". I love that label. I cherish it. I adore it. I am proud of it. But I also rail against it. I am not a feminist. I do not think traditional gender roles are evil. But I do think that by putting on the label of "mother" the assumption is that the other labels have to go away. Disappear. POOF! Like being a mother means that everything else has to fade to a distant memory. AND if you choose not to give up your other labels you are somehow slacking off on your primary responsibility as a mother. Don't agree? Don't think I am right on this one? Think about it. It's true. We put this pressure of being a mother and ONLY a mother on each other and ourselves. Every day. Ever hear of mama guilt? It's a very real thing. But that's for another post.
Here's an example: I recently had lunch with a woman who is not yet a mother, but deeply desires to be. In fact, they will be adopting in the near future. I casually mentioned that I love reading and am in a bookclub, and that I play the violin and am in a big production at church every spring. She gave me a funny look, and then said, "How do you have time for all that AND being a mom? Your husband must be very supportive!" Hmmmmm.... Yes. Interesting, isn't it? Somehow my interests suddenly become a burden to my husband? We are all the architects of this idea that motherhood has to be all-consuming; block by block we build ourselves into a corner where we are left wondering what happened to the person that we used to be. The message is clear: How could we possibly have interests outside of our children? How could we possibly be so selfish as to spend time away from them? Our poor husbands or babysitters that are left to raise our abandoned children! (okay, I am exaggerating a little on that one, but you get my point)
Here is my moment of zen: I want to be more than just a mother.
Hello. My name is Anne. And I have other interests outside my son.
And I will not give them up for him or for anyone.
I realize how sacrilegious this all sounds. I am defiling the sacred house of motherhood with these words. But it's the truth of MY life. I have interests, desires, dreams and goals that have nothing at all to do with my label as mother. I am by no means saying that I put myself ahead of my son. Because I don't. I think parenting requires sacrifice and our family is my number 1 priority. But that does not mean that the moment Miles was born I hit delete on the rest of my life.
My first instinct is to apologize to you (the whole Lutheran/Minnesotan/Scandinavian curse) for saying these seemingly selfish things, to remind you of my deep love for my son and to repent of my sins. But I am going to resist. ;)
But here's the flip side for me: What if I allowed myself to be fully engulfed in this label of mother? Would I be happy to be that and ONLY that? No. Do I know people who are happy to be that and ONLY that? Yes. To each their own. No judgments.
We all become mothers for different reasons. And there is no right or wrong reason. Just different. I have heard a few people say that when their child was born they felt somehow complete, or like it gave them the feeling that they could do anything and be anything they wanted to, like they themselves were being re-born through their children, like their children gave them wings to fly. What an awesome testament to the power of motherhood--I am jealous of their experience. Because I can't really say the same. In fact, I would say that at times I have had the opposite experience. I have sometimes had feelings of resentment, loss of freedom and isolation after becoming a mother. I have sometimes not felt released, I have felt trapped. I have sometimes not felt free, I have felt a heavy weight. But again, this ball of wax is for another post.
My point is that labels can be damaging or they can be freeing. They can be hurtful or they can be helpful. Or they can mean nothing. But the fact of the matter is that we are not just one thing, we are many things. We are all of the above. I have named my blog "All of the Above" for that reason. I want to be reminded daily that I am a complex and ever-evolving creature. It gives me great comfort and joy to know that I am NOT just one thing, I am many. I am a better mother for being not only that, but "All of the Above". I desire to be an example to my children, and these are lessons I wish to teach through how I live my life: Well-roundedness and self-care.
Speaking of lessons, there is one in this for me, too. I am learning how to be all of my labels at the same time. It is a precarious balancing act that I sometimes do well and sometimes fail at. But I am learning. I am growing. I am doing my best.
I would challenge you, as I have challenged myself, to look at the labels in your life and the labels that you put on other people. Being aware of them has changed my perception of how I see myself as a mother and how I see others. What is the expression? "Know thyself." Be self-aware. Make a list like I did. You never know what you might discover.