“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.”
There’s an idea going around that not having children somehow makes us “less of a woman.” I don’t subscribe to this idea.
As this quote by author Anaïs Nin states, I am many, many women, and “mother” is only one element of me.
I am a writer, friend, wife, cat mama, reader, thinker, curser, fighter, nature-lover, spider catcher, traveler, cook, gardener, daughter.
All these women are fluid. They ebb and flow in me as needed. And when one of them isn’t able to fulfill her purpose, the others quickly rally to fill the gap, so I am always whole.
I am never less of a woman.
Brandi Lytle says
YES! I am childless, but I am not less!
I am a wife, dog mom, aunt, host mom, daughter, friend, endo warrior, blogger, advocate for the childless not by choice community, and so much more!
Thank you for reminding us that we are deep and complex individuals…
I’ve often thought this Lisa. What is interesting to me is how mothers often define themselves by their children. I asked a friend once how she was doing, and rather than tell me how she is doing, she dutifully listed each of her 4 children and gave me an update on them. When she was done, I cautiously and respectfully said, “it’s great to have an update on your kids, but how are YOU doing?” She could hardly answer the question. Maybe she was having a bad day, and I’m happy to cut her slack and give her grace. Still, this scenario plays out often, and I find it heart-breaking. Having a child doesn’t make you less of anything, and for me to not have a child does not make me less of anything. We are each valuable and bring our gifts to the table to be honored. To compare against someone else, well, it just points to an insecurity in a person, a small mind, and an inability to accept others where they are at. I could go on and on, as this is a comparison frequently made by mom friends in my circle and fringe, and as you can tell, I’ve often pondered on this odd way of thinking.
I actually think it is a bit broader then just defining yourself by your children. I see so many women defining themselve by other people, as wives, as daughters, as sisters, as aunts. Not so much as an awesome person on your own. Maybe I’m a lot of these persons to other people, but I would still be me and awesome even if I were an orphan and had no family, friends or coworkers ;).
This is a great reminder post, Lisa. Thank you for sharing it. It can become really easy thinking of ourselves with fewer dimensions, especially if we spend many hours most days on one activity (for parents, I get that the easiest response could be mom/dad/parent). Not being a mom, the next thing society has conditioned me to say is what I do to earn a living. Over the years I’ve tried to stop using my job title as my first response to people when they ask a variety of “who am I?” While I’m proud to be a writer and nonprofit communication professional, that’s just one a piece of me. On that vein, I’ve stopped asking leading family/partner/occupation questions. A simple, “tell me about yourself?” or “how do you spend your days?” is much more inclusive and interesting.
To be honest, what we all spend all of our time being is a human 🙂
I also love the question, “Have you read or listened to something you loved? I enjoy recommendations!”
The pressure of what’s most common in society is so wrapped up in this one. I think there are definitely people who fall back to what is easiest to say without thinking much about it. I also believe there are others who are so enmeshed with their children and partner that they can’t tease out who they are without those people.
This is starting to ramble…but one more thing 🙂 I’ve been in a committed primary relationship with a man for just over one year. Prior to that, I was single for most of my life. I’m 43.
Everyday I’m reminded how much “easier” it feels within our US culture now that I’m coupled up. Everyday. To be honest, it makes my stomach churn that what I always felt/perceived as a single person is actually a real thing. It’s unfortunate and sad and limiting and puts people in a position to have to needlessly defend themselves.
I don’t ever want to lose my perspective on this. There will come a time again that we will all likely be living life as a single person. Just like I don’t want to lose my perspective on not being a mother.
Whew! This sparked deep thoughts over lunch – HA!
Susan B. says
I finally coupled in my early 40s and married at 43. I totally understand how you say it becomes an easier default. My marriage came with two stepsons (which trust me brings far more stress to the relationship with no balancing benefit). It has become so easy to use their experiences to not be left out of the family discussions, though it feels like such a fake cop out.
Lenita Bourland says
I have learned we define ourselves by labels…
We are wives then after we lose our spouse we lose our identity…
Rather then define ourselves in terms of roles we need to define ourselves in what we do.
I am creative, I can write poetry, I have a blog, I exercize and swim every day, I am retired and I am loving traveling around the USA.
We all have tallents and abilities and we need to broaden them and increase them and improve who are in life.
Jane P (UK) says
Thanks everyone for sharing – great perspectives here. Thanks Lenita – totally agree on defining ourselves by our talents and perhaps interests (you don’t have to be good at anything to really enjoy it). I love sport and have recently joined a lunchtime netball team at work after a spell of over 35 years! I had a great game last week and realized (sadly through loss and infertility) that I don’t need anyone else to recognize my talent – I made what I thought was a great pass to a team mate. I buzzed all afternoon – I told hubby about it later and he was made up for me but I had already celebrated by myself in the privacy of the shower cubicle and had a little dance around – bit daft but I felt good for days. I never give myself any credit, I’ve always waited for others to merit me – I think infertility has made me look at my achievements (holding down a job in the face of loss and not going crazy for one). If I could apply this thinking around my Mother (stop waiting for her to understand me more and cut me some slack due to my loss of motherhood) I would be a lot happier most of the time. I’m getting there. I don’t define myself anymore by traditional female roles (I don’t have nieces or nephews, I have a strained relationship with my mother), so I have had to – I hadn’t realized though that we don’t need to – I am me – I am enough. I’m beginning to believe it!