Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Kids, My Identity

I just finished reading this article about moms who put photos of their children on facebook. It was a really odd experience for me. Some parts I agreed with, some parts really made me smile (as I took some of the things she intended to be negative as a wonderful, positive thing), and other parts made me realize that she is a bit off in some of her logic.

I found that article through this blog entry. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Go read it. Actually read them both. Now. I will wait, don't worry.

So, what did you think? Well, since this is my blog, I will tell you what I think (please feel free to tell me your side of the story too!!! That's what comments are for). I will try and edit the swearing out before I publish it.

First of all, I have to tell you that, coincidentally my current facebook profile pic is one of my children. All 3 of them, magically smiling and looking at the camera simultaneously, a rare and wonderful catch. I don't post pictures of my children as my profile regularly, but this one was just too good. I even remember when I posted it, thinking, "Yeah, it's not me, but it is SO much me at the same time."

I can and do see so much of myself in my children, the good and the bad. My children are also definitely shaping who I am. Is that a bad thing? Am I, indeed, "losing" myself? No way! Except maybe in the way that, in losing myself I have truly found myself. Jesus talks about a similar thing in the book of Matthew (10:39); "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." The sentiment is repeated in Matt. 16:25. I think I'm beginning to realize what this passage is saying. The journey has been hard and I do find myself at times wondering what I have become. But life soon enough answers that for me. I may have lost what I thought I was, but now I know who I truly am.

In order to say what I want about all this, first I have to take you for a walk down memory lane. Come with me now.

I never dreamed of being a mother when I was a child or teen. I figured it would happen, but like Katie Roiphe advises, my children would have to stay on the back burner and not interfere with MY life. I wanted to go to university and BE something, and save the world while I was at it. But then I couldn't decide what to do, there was too much I wanted to do. So I decided to go to Bible college for a year, to figure things out, hopefully. My experience there is a story in itself, but the amazing thing was that I did figure things out. Not everything, but the next step. I got married at the ripe old age of 20. I was a Bible college bride (shut up!). Two things I NEVER wanted! But it was perfect. I gave up the university dream, at least for the time being, but for something much better. I still didn't want children too soon though. I still had no idea how they would fit into my life, I was very much afraid at the prospect of being a mother. I never liked, or had any experience with babies.

So I "accidentally" got pregnant at 21. I was scared, and excited, but mostly scared. Especially since we were planning on going to Australia. That ended up being a huge blessing though. Maternity care in Australia is much better than here, and I felt like being so far from home allowed me to do everything the way I wanted to, without anyone else trying to influence me. I got knocked down big time though. Judith's birth didn't go the way I had envisioned (although it still went way better than it would have here), and breastfeeding was way harder than I had ever imagined. So of course I ended up very depressed. And that depression lasted 18 months before I finally sought help. I struggled with undiagnosed depression all through my teenage years, so I was used to coping with it, and hiding it, but finally I realized that it was not right, and it was up to me to do something about it. As soon as I was finally feeling better, I got pregnant again, which threw me back down into depression. A few weeks before Gideon was born God told me that He was going to free me from depression. But He forgot to tell me that it would get worse before it got better. Gideon's birth was alright. There was a last-minute ambulance ride to the hospital, but everything ended up being fine and the birth was 100% natural. But then there were a few minor breastfeeding difficulties and a labial hematoma that took 10 weeks to go away. I was doing ok mentally though, until about 3 or so months postpartum, when my thyroid crashed and took me down with it. I saw my naturopath right away that time, and got myself back on my feet.

Then something amazing happened. When I got pregnant with Ruthie, I felt that cloud of depression lift for good. I was loving life, and was very busy. Ruthie's birth was incredibly empowering. And everything has been wonderful ever since!

So that brings me up to today, where I am sitting in front of this big screen, reading the above articles and then writing to you.

I love my life. I seriously do. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I've come a long way since becoming a mom, and I feel like I am finally on top of my game. Motherhood is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. It's not for everyone, but it is for me. Sure, it has also been the hardest, most painful thing
I've ever done, but that makes it even more worthwhile. It's the reason I get up in the morning (literally). My kids fill my life with joy. They are my greatest investment and contribution to the world. They have taught me about life, and about myself. In having them I have learned who I truly am.

I have learned that I am weak. That I am powerful. That I'm not as patient as I thought. That I can do anything. That I am capable of enduring so much pain. That I am loved. That I can fail. That I can learn. That I can make a fucking good lasagna. That I need my alone time. That I can rise above my feelings. That everyone deserves love. I could go on and on. Becoming a mother made me "get it".

My kids are my life right now. Why wouldn't they be? Sure, I also love to talk about God and food and justice and women's rights, etc. Wait a minute, women's rights? I'm a stay-at-home-mom and housewife and I care about women's rights? Why yes, yes I do. I made the choice to stay home with my kids. I'm glad I have that choice. It's a very respectable choice. You can make your own choice, and that choice is fine with me. I don't have to work outside of the house in order to have my own identity. And yeah, my kids are a big part of my identity, what's it to you? Why not proudly post their faces on my facebook? It's MY facebook! I can post a picture of a celebrity, and that's fine, but not my kids? My kids are some of the coolest people I know. They don't totally define me, but they sure add a lot to my life, and they ARE my "flesh and blood". Yes, I would be lost without them! That doesn't mean I'm not my own person, we are just profoundly intertwined, and I think that's wonderful. I will always be Judith's mama (And Gideon's and Ruthie's and our future children's). It's fricken awesome. They aren't my identity, but they helped me find it.

The women who post pics of their kids are not gone. Sure, lots of women do go through an identity crisis when they have kids, it's normal with any big life change. Just give them time and they will figure it out. They will see that our culture has done them a disservice in telling them that they need to maintain a superficial "identity" on trite social networking sites like facebook. They will see that their children can teach them more about real life than university can. They know, for them, their kids bring them more fulfillment than their degree. They know that raising their kids is more important than their job or book club. Perhaps they are, indeed, still feminists, but they aren't going to take that crap about supposedly needing to put their kids on the back burner of their lives in order to still "be" someone. Maybe they want to wear their pjs all day. They know there's more to life than having a pretty picture.

Posting my kids photo as my profile does not mean I think that I don't matter anymore. Of course I matter, without me, these kids wouldn't be here to smile so beautifully for the camera. To these kids, I matter THE MOST in the world. And they matter the most to me. I've hardly vanished. If anything I go unappreciated for the true weight of importance I carry in my family, and in the world. I matter a lot.

You know what else? I post about my kids in my statuses all the time too! Ooooooh, look at me taking it a step farther! Yeah, I bet all of my 545 friends don't care how many times the toddler pooped today, the baby was up to feed in the night, or the preschooler said something fabulously awkward. But that's my life, so that's what I'm going to share, and I love it!

Katie said "The answer seems clear: because with all good intentions we have over-devoted ourselves to our children’s education and entertainment and general formation. Because we have chipped away at the idea of independent adult life, of letting children dream up a place for themselves, in their rooms, on the carpets, in our gardens, on their own."

FAIL. She obviously hasn't met the children I know. I'm sure there are a lot of uber controlling parents out there, but most of us invest our time and lives into our kids, to encourage them to dream and have a secure independent adulthood. We don't hover over them 24/7, and hey, they have lots of time to play by themselves in their rooms and gardens while we spend hours talking about parenting on facebook! Duh.

Anyway, I know this swerved off topic a bit, and was a little choppy, but I just want to tell the world that I am happier, right now, and more satisfied with life, and with who I am, than I have ever been in my life. Having children, and being bowled off the path that our culture would have for me as a smart, young woman, by giving up my so called "individuality" and self-absorbed life in order to be a wife and mother, was the BEST thing to ever happen to me. It's my story. It's who I am. When I look at that photo of my 3 beautiful children, I do see myself. What I am and what I have done. And maybe this is what I want to show the world.

P.S. I hate those squeaky shoes too. My kids will never have them.


Tiffany said...

I totally, 100% agree with you. I read that first article and it just plain rubbed me the wrong way. The second one was spot on, and very much in tune with what you wrote as well.

And hey! I was a Bible college bride, too (met my husband my final semester there, after saying "no way was I going to be one of THOSE girls"). I never expected to be a lot of these things.... and I got married and had kids a bit later than you did , but still younger than I really expected to.

Thanks so much for sharing - and while I don't always have my kids on my FB profile, I do sometimes, and I think that the first article you cited was VERY narrow-minded. Funny how a lot of feminists and liberals tend to be the most close-minded about people who CHOOSE to be traditional.

Ashley said...

What you post as your profile pic is hardly an all encompassing definition of who you are. If I post a picture of me eating a BeaverTail does that mean I define myself by the food I eat? No. However food is important to me and therefore something that is a part of my identity. If every single picture I post was of food, then people could start to worry. We are multi-faceted and cannot be define by a single photo.

That being said I do think there is some real value to what the author of this article writes, but I think that she might be focusing on extremes. As someone with no kids and no intention of having kids, I do notice that women often lose themselves to their children, especially during the early years.

As that person without kids, I find myself feeling annoyed or frustrated that my friends are gone, displaced by moms. I often find myself missing YOU, wanting to hang out with YOU, and not your family. Nothing against your family, but I really am a fan of you.

I also resent the implication that one can only be the best version of themselves after having children. I think that we are all capable of greatness without ever producing offspring. I dare you to tell me that Mother Theresa would have been a better person by procreating. Go on, I dare you. You are an awesome person, not because you have children, not in spite of your children, but because you were born that way, end of story. And so can we all be, no matter where our lives take us.

Kelly said...

I definitely don't think someone has to have kids in order to be the best person they can be. I am a big believer in everyone having their own path, and none is better than the other. But I'm just saying that for ME, motherhood has helped me to find who I really am. The article was just something I came across that inspired me to write (there were definitely parts I agreed with in it too), but this article is for and about me, and those in the same boat as me who have felt pressure to put our kids on the back burner, and is nothing against people who choose not to have kids. I definitely don't think motherhood is for everyone, and it doesn't make any woman better or worse if they don't have kids. Just for ME, motherhood has been a huge factor in shaping my identity, and personally, I am thankful.

Anonymous said...

You already know I agree with you but I wanted to add, I like how you can talk about God and quote scripture but still say "fucking good lasagna" :-D I totally do the same thing.

Ashley said...

I'm not sure you even knew I read your blog, but surprise I do! I just tried to write a comment about how much I loved this article and how genuinely happy you are but it was turning into a entry all of it's own, so I think i'll take it over to my blog (which i just created today)Check it out!

Amy said...

I really enjoyed this. So, so much.