She inspired me to think of my life in a new way.
Many of us have been there. The guy you've been eyeing finally asks you out, you go to dinner or movie or whatever, and suddenly, you're the biggest football fan in the continental U.S. — but the problem is, you can't stand sports. Yep, you're blurring the lines when it comes to who you are. And for what? Some guy?
Okay, so I've done this more than once. I'm a habitual identity-blurrer — big time. Many years ago, before I met my now-husband, I dated a guy who was supremely into Frisbee golf. (I know, I probably should have run right there.) But I suddenly became sporty and was all in for joining him on the frolf course (I think it's a course, but who really knows?) every day.
Needless to say, when the relationship ended, so did my newfound love for tossing a disk into a chainlink basket in the middle of a park.
When I met my husband, I decided, for once, that I would in no way lose my identity. And, I stuck to it. He played loud music in a band. I supported him from afar (I'm not at all a loud-music type). He has tons of tattoos; I left my skin bare and entirely unmarked. He was a world traveler; I told him that I'm a homebody and wouldn't spend my days jumping from vacation spot to vacation spot.
But, then I got pregnant. Our plan was that I'd be the breadwinner and my husband would stay home with the baby. That never happened. From the moment that my handsome little fellow made his big debut (I swear, he was born with the most debonair little side part in his super-thick hair — seriously) I was smitten. I couldn't stand to be away from my baby for more than — well, honestly I can't even finish that sentence with a quantifiable time. I couldn't stand to be away from him at all. I was Mommy, and that was my new purpose for being.
So, I lost my identity again. This time it was to a much younger man: my son. I went from wanting a career and spending time with friends to being on baby patrol 24/7.
I know, choosing my newborn son over my friends was the mature, motherly thing to do. That said, I took it to the millionth degree. Even when my parents offered to babysit, I turned them down and spent my Saturday evenings at home with baby (my husband had no problem going out with his friends and resuming his pre-baby life).
It didn't hit me just how enmeshed I was in my child's life until I finally spent one day away from him. Sitting in an impossibly old-ladyish store with my mom on our "girls' day out," I let grandma do some bragging about my precious little guy. There were loads of, "Awwws" and "I bet he's adorable" thrown around.
Then it happened. The words "Today's the first day I've ever been away from him, and he's two," escaped from my lips. And it hit me when the saleswoman replied, "Oh, how sweet. Two months is an adorable age!" Um, no. He's two years, not two months.
What have I done?
Well, I've been a pretty darn good mom. That's a start. But, I've also managed to hand over my entire identity to my child. No, it wasn't in the same way as I had with the boys and men in my past. I wasn't exactly grabbing a pair of pull-ups and heading for the train table like he was. But I also wasn't exactly being me. At that point, being me wasn't even something I could imagine.
Who was I, anyway? I was a mom. And, that was about it.
That was it? That was it? How did that happen? I wasn't about to trade in playground playdates for wine time with my former friends, but I also needed to find me. This wasn't the first time that I had to take a step back and rediscover myself. It happened often. Usually after I broke it off with some guy who I had become a creepy clone of. This time I didn't have the option to cut, run and reinvent. This time I was in for the long haul — like, forever. This time I had to stay where I was, and just be me.
Sometimes we all need to take a step back and just be ourselves. Whether we are girlfriends, wives or mothers, we need to put ourselves first and stop the identity blur. It doesn't mean we can't be caring, be in love, or put our children on a pedestal. What does it mean? For me, it means being OK with who I am right now.