Personal Identity


Recently I was listening to the Armchair Expert podcast episode with Mark Duplass. Mark and Dax (Shepard, the host) were discussing their different roles within Hollywood. They have each acted, written, and directed movies at different points in their careers. And I believe it was Mark who made a comment that his problem is thinking that whatever thing he is currently doing at the moment is his identity for the rest of his life- ie "I'm a director now. That's my identity. Oh now I can't get a job directing so I'll write something. Okay I guess I will just write movies for the rest of my life. That's my new identity."

And then a year later he gets the chance to do something different and has to re-adjust.

I think this is a big part of my anxiety and general life stress.

I've talked endlessly about how my identity was tied into being a good student. This was by far my defining characteristic from elementary school through undergrad. It was my thing, it was what everyone knew about me.

So when I didn't get into my chosen program for grad school, I was thrown. And I never super replaced that identity. This is partly because I realized that tying my identity into any one characteristic was dangerous.

Instead I tried to sort of fulfill all these different aspects of my identity all at once. And that's dangerous too. 

 This is sort of especially applicable when it comes to motherhood.

B & I talked about how we didn't want to become those people whose lives are all about our kid. We don't think it would be healthy for us as individuals, us as a couple, or our child. And I stand by that.

However, in my head it was like I needed to keep myself the way I was, but go through the motions of motherhood. Which is ridiculous.

Life events change people. Those close to us change us.

And that's fine. It would be insane to say otherwise.

Thanks to my husband, I have a love for Boondock Saints and whiskey that I might not have found on my own. Thanks to me, my grandpa knows what toe socks are.

The people in our lives, and our relationships to them, change us.

And it isn't bad if motherhood changes me, or changes my lifestyle.

It's only bad if I don't want to change. 

I was listening to the Unladylike podcast about Being a Bad Mom and while I completely identified with some things said, I also was thanking God. Because I wasn't jealous of their decisions or sharing regret for having a child.

I like being a mom.

I'm don't like the thousands of different expectations that come with that role (from people who are not my child), but I love actually being Babycake's mom.

Not all the time. It was super hard in the beginning. And yes, I am now on anxiety medication. But so are tons of other people, both parents and non-parents, and it might have happened anyway (I kind of have a theory that now that once Hubs had worked through a lot of his demons re: military service, my mind has kind of gone "Okay my turn," and that just happened to coincide with parenthood for a jolly anxious time).

I always wanted to be a mom, and Babycakes is a fantastic and wonderful little person that I love in a unique and passionate way*. Like, if I could duplicate her I'd have several running around (but I keep hearing that's not actually how having multiple kids works...).

*This is not to say that non-parents don't know love or love just as deeply- which is a complaint I've heard from non-parents about how their friends who are parents treat them; but I do think it's a different type of love. And that's okay. I didn't grow up with siblings in my house, so that's a unique type of love that I don't know. Not saying any one kind is better or more important, just that what I have with Babycakes is certainly not like any other relationship I've ever had in my life before or could expect to have with someone who is not my child.

Anyway. The AE episode made me realize that it's okay to have all these little identities inside.

I don't have to try to give them all equal distribution all the time. It's okay if these little pieces of me take turns and if my identity is more of a continual wave than a static monument.

Sometimes I will be a Mom. Sometimes I will be a Student. Sometimes I will be a Friend. Sometimes I will be a Reader.

And that's okay, because I'm always a mom. And (well, sometimes) a student, and a friend, and a reader.


I'm always Brittany.

2 comments

  1. I have a friend who really isn't as much of a friend since she had her baby. I think she struggles with trying to be her pre-mom-self around me because she knows that I'm not so interested in motherhood. But I have to confess, I probably didn't make it easy for her to BE my friend post-baby. I know I could have made it easier, but I'm a stubborn asshole.

    That said, she completely became a different person. It was like like motherhood was a PART of her, it was now ALL of her. So I struggle with feeling bad.

    Finally, I've never promised anyone anything besides the fact that they will get my authentic self almost all the time. Almost because, sometimes I have to behave and that means maybe not saying fuck so much. Oops. :)

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  2. It's interesting how we have these outside things which we use to define ourselves. I do it all of the time - particularly with work. For the longest time, my identity was all about what I did or what I was planning to do - youth ministry. A lot of it is because it takes up SO MUCH of your time, you almost have to use that as a definition of your life. So when I left... it was such a weird thing because for 4 years in college that was my identity, then for the next 5 1/2 years it was still my identity. So, I'm always wanting to replace that with whatever job I currently have which then leaves me so unsatisfied. It's a thing I'm still working to undo in my head that who I am is way beyond what I get paid to do. Which is part of why I don't define myself as "author" (yet) but "writer." Because even if I never am published, I'm still a writer. Then I try to find other ways to define myself. My personality, friendships, family, faith, etc. But it is always changing!

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