What Am I Going To Be When I Grow Up?!

 

 

Photo by Bob Packert

Photo by Bob Packert

I’m just now catching on that as a mother your identity shifts every few years.  You are not just a mother, you are a mother of a newborn, or a mother of toddlers, a mother of school kids, a mother of teenagers…and so on and so on!  I can see that as they grow, I’ll need to evolve with the kids various stages, and maybe I’ll be prepared by the time I hit the High school, college and empty nest stages……(o.k, bringing that up puts me in a full fledged panic, but I digress).    That said, I have been eagerly anticipating my current stage of motherhood, finally getting all my kids in school for a full day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my children from the depths of my heart, but come on ladies, if you have small kids at home, you are flat out lying if you tell me you haven’t fantasized about this moment too.  So now I have time to ponder the yawning question of    “What do I want to be when I grow up!?!”   I know, as a married mother of four in her mid-forties, I kind of am grown up.  I also know that I am not the only one out there with an inner 21 year old, who looks around baffled some days thinking  ”and who thought it was a good idea to give all of this responsibility to me exactly?!”.  Despite that delusional youthful inner being, I do seem to find myself with all evidence pointing to truly, and actually being an adult!  I suppose the lines that have taken up permanent residence on my face are Nature’s gentle reminder of such.  So here I am, a mature woman, almost thirteen years out of the work force, with finally some time to start thinking about what I’d like to be (along with wife and mother).   I allowed myself the savor the first half of the year, to see what it really felt like to have time to myself again.  I found the need to re-learn time management in the paradigm of my new schedule, so that I could efficiently balance that new found freedom with accomplishing the day’s practical tasks.

Entering the second half of the school year, I now feel it is time to start figuring out what to do for a job.  There are a few parameters.   Namely the aforementioned kids who need shuttling around in the afternoons, and said husband with primary career of varied schedule. Whatever it is I do, has to take place between the hours of 8:30am and 2:00pm.

Some of the author's "passions"

That pretty much rules out my previous work in Film Production and renders my Masters degree in Ethnographic filmmaking as obsolete. (a documentary on the anthropology of childrearing in the suburbs, I’m sure would fascinate the masses) So of course I’ve been reading a lot of Oprah and More magazine lately, and taking those quizzes to “find my passion”.    (Off the bat, I’d just say, my husband, eating and drinking, travel, reading, skiing, movies…..)But I don’t think that’s what they mean.  These magazines are full of women who turn their passion into fulfilling moneymaking careers!  They are so inspirational, and yet that whatever it is going to be for me thing seems just beyond my cognitive grasp.

Photo by Bob Packert

Photo by Bob Packert

Some of the tips the articles I’ve read advise things like; Figure out what you love to do.  Think of something you loved to do as a kid.  Look around your house and write down the things that point to a certain passion, such as books, art,travel, or antique collection. Once you figure out what you would love to be doing, research ways to make money on it.  My Google search for “how to make money shopping” turned up at least seven legitimate ideas for how to do so.  Other tactics include writing lists of the things you are good at, the things you would do if you were sure not to fail, and all the things that make you happy.   Now cross reference your lists to formulate a plan.

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The things I tore out of magazines (this is a great method for formulating your decorating style as well) were all articles on socialpreneurs such as Lauren Lauren and her FEED bags, Tom’s shoes, and Alex & Ani Charity by design bracelets.  My role models were real life moms who have found careers where they are making a difference globally, such as Navyn Salem and her Edesia factory that produces global nutritional solutions.  I realized whatever it is I end up doing; I would like it to have a positive impact, not just a financial reward.  I get things moving, I created a blog www.documama.org to be able to explore my passions for travel, food, family, and global issues in one place.  Figuring out what I am going to be when I grow up is clearly a process, and a work in progress, and as a Mom, I have a feeling that just when I get this part all figured out….it will be just in time for another Maternal identity shift!

 

 

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Motherhood and identity

photo by Bob Packert

I stood in my gown frozen by the moment that had just passed, the room around me buzzed with beautifully dressed people.  I was at a Hospital gala event with my husband, in the middle of his first year of residency training.  Having just had our first child, I was stuffed like a sausage into my dress, so my confidence was far from its peak to begin with. The conversation had begun innocuously enough, with an introduction, and cordial small talk.  She was a fellow physician who worked with my husband.  A moment before she had innocently asked, “So what do you do?”  For the first time ever the words “I am a staying home with our new baby” would cross my lips, and I will never forget their immediate effect.  I had answered with pride, still excited at becoming a new mother.   Her reaction stunned me as the smile on her face faded, her eyes glazed, and subtly searched the room for an escape.   She excused herself with a polite, “oh, well, it was nice to meet you.” and moved on.  As I watched her walk away, the strangest thing happened, an internal voice shouted after her.” Wait! But I used to work on Hollywood movies! I have travelled all around the world! I’m a Scuba Diver! I really am an interesting person!!”  I was shocked by my internal reaction.  What was that!? What was the sudden plea for validity that sprang into motion?!  My whole life I had wanted nothing more than to become a mother, and was thrilled that I was able to stay home with my baby.   If this was what I had wanted so badly for myself, why was that external validation suddenly so important to me?

After that evening, I became interested in the identity shift that takes place when a woman first becomes a mother.  Whether she works, stays home, or does both part time, I believe in no judgment, there is no right or wrong.  It is such a personal, case-by-case decision; there is only what is right for each individual. In the end, women need to do what makes them the best mother, and what is best for their family, in any permutation.  Personally, although I had always wanted to be a stay at home mother, I loved my job, so when the time came I had tried to stay on part time.  I quickly figured out that after what I would pay for child care, I would take home about $100.00 a month, and in the end it did not make sense.  There is much ado about the effect of retirement on men, and how it impacts their identity.  I believe women who leave careers behind to stay home with their kids go through a similar identity shift.  Mothers who go back to work have to deal with a new paradigm as well.  I have been quizzing women, testing a theory since that night.  I wonder how much of what a woman’s mother did in the last generation, may dictate the daughter’s decision when she becomes a mother herself.  My own mother was a career woman with a Ph.D., as amazing as she was both as a woman, and mother, as a latch key kid, I idolized my neighbor who was home with her kids.  I know that is where the strong desire for me to stay home with my own kids came from.  I have a friend with the opposite experience, she decided she never wanted to be a domestic servant, and be in a position of financial dependency, as she viewed the situation of her stay at home mother.  Today she is a successful career woman, with a family.    I would love to hear your own experiences with this issue, and how they may relate to your own mother’s experience.

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