I was reading this blog post tonight about being lonely during your mothering years, and recognized myself in every word. It fell right in line with some other thoughts I’d been pondering lately. (I always intend to blog more, and turn many things over in my mind, but rarely get time to sit down and type the posts. It’s like I carry around all these unpublished posts in my head as drafts.)
Anyway, the blog post is titled, “Are you lonely, mama?” My answer is yes. I AM lonely sometimes. My very best friends live far away and are in different stages of their lives. My few GC friends are great, but we are all always so busy. My husband works all.the.time. Most days I go to work (not now, YAY summer!) and then it’s just my boys and I. Diapers and high chairs, laundry and dishes, Bubble Guppies and reading books, reminding them that “hands are not for hitting” and enjoying their hugs and kisses; that is what my life consists of. Yes, sometimes I am lonely. Even if I am in the presence of other adult women, I nearly always have my children, which means they have the majority of my attention at that time.
I was able to go spend a day and half with some good friends a few weeks ago. I desperately missed my boys, as I always do when we’re apart, but I also really enjoyed having some time to myself. When I got home, my husband remarked that I seemed happy. I told him it was just that I finally got a good night’s sleep (that hotel room bed I had all to myself was soft!), because at the time I couldn’t really put my finger on what else it might be.
It was a few days later when I realized what it really was: it was the hours I spent just being me with my friends that rejuvenated me. They reminded me that I have worth and value as an individual, which is something I very rarely feel. I am a wife, a mom, a teacher, a coach; I’m always so busy playing my roles that I realized I no longer know who I am without them. Please do not misunderstand me, I do not want to live a life where I am not those things. It just suddenly struck me that people used to (some still do 🙂 ) like to be around me because of who I am as a person. Something about me as an individual made Doug love me enough to marry me. I must have some redeeming qualities beyond being a teacher, a mother, a coach, etc. I mean, these friends of mine seemed to want to spend time with me, too…but what were those qualities?
All of this came to my mind when I decided not to do a gift exchange in one of my online mom groups. (In this particular group, we do a few exchanges throughout the year. Most of them are based on our children. For example, we do a summer outfit exchange. It’s a chance to buy clothes for somebody else’s kids, and get a fun surprise outfit for your own.) The exchange I chose not to sign up for was one for the moms. You simply listed ideas of things you liked on the document so that when somebody got your name, they knew what types of things to get you. I wanted to sign up; I love things like that! I even clicked to edit the document. I typed my name, and then stared at the screen. What do I like? I wondered. It occurred to me that I didn’t know. I like to read, but couldn’t say one particular genre. That was literally the only thing I could come up with that wasn’t related to my children or my job. How can I not know what I like? I thought. This doesn’t make any sense. I have to like something.
It was then that I realized I don’t really know who I am anymore, all by myself. I AM my roles, and that is all. I don’t have time to like things just because they make me happy. The closest I get to that is watching Harry Potter or Sherlock as I fall asleep, if my husband isn’t watching something else. I have a favorite color, and favorite food, but that wasn’t really enough to put on the signup for the exchange. (Especially given that my favorite food is the humble potato. What was my exchange buddy supposed to do? Ship me a 5lb bag of potatoes in a teal colored box?)
After much contemplation, I came to the conclusion that I must still possess some of the qualities which made people want to be friends with me. I had to think hard about the roles I keep mentioning. I decided that I consider myself a good teacher because I am kind, a good coach because I am firm but motivating, a good wife and mother because I’m willing to put others’ needs before mine. These are all things that were true of me before I played my current roles. I also concluded that, like this being a season of loneliness for many mothers, it is a season with a lack of time for oneself and individual activities. I will remember what I like, someday.
The deepest revelation all this thinking brought about for me was that we are all playing our roles, all the time. From birth, we are a daughter, sister, friend, athlete, scholar, musician, etc. Our roles define us as human beings, and mine defined me even before this season of my life. So many of our personality characteristics and our likes and dislikes are shaped by our roles. I have not lost myself! I rejoiced. My roles have simply changed.
So my current roles cause me to feel lonely, sometimes. They don’t leave enough free time in my day to know what types of things I like. They’re still the most fulfilling roles I’ve ever had, especially the role of mother.
I’m thankful for this busy, lonely season, because I’m thankful for my children.