what defines us

This is going to be pretty self-indulgent. Feel free to move right along…

I’ve been thinking about what defines me because I have an anxiousness about being defined by my children. Every time someone asks me what’s next, and it’s happening quite a lot, (“Bookgirl, you’ve just been awarded a Ph.D., where are you going now?”), I just kind of smile and say, “just call me Dr. Mom.” Most people outside academia don’t really have a good grasp of the paucity of jobs or the kind of academic vigor or ambition it takes to get them. The truth is, I don’t know what comes next, and I’m not sure what to do about that, but I would like an answer to give when people ask me who I am that goes beyond Computerguy’s wife and Bubble and Squeak’s Mom. Up until now, I’ve been able to say grad student or ABD. What do I say now, “I’m an out-of-work-Ph.D.”? So I say, “just call me Dr. Mom” and my mother-in-law keeps saying, “This is such a great age. you’re going to just love being home with the children.” And I know absolutely that she is being supportive, but it makes me want to snap back. I guess I’ve bought into the culture that says I need something that’s mine. And I don’t know what that is. And I don’t find this such a fun age. I’m trying to enjoy the ages the kids are, but I’m not a little kid person. I have the feeling I’m going to be anxious and want things to move quickly until they’re about 6 and 8 and then I’ll spend the next 10 years trying to slow things down so I can savor the time.

Church offers one lifeline, and, thanks be to God, I start a 3-year term on Session in January (and will be ordained as an elder). It all came about rather last minute and I was given the invitation because many people turned it down, but I don’t really care. Providence timed it well for me. It kind of makes me laugh, though. I’m like the bright women in the 50’s who made the church women’s groups so strong because they weren’t working outside the home and it was an outlet for their gifts. At least we’re no longer relegated to the women’s groups…Not to put down the women’s groups, either. What amazing things they accomplished. We still have active Circles (the PC(USA) women’s groups) and I’m enjoying getting to know the professors, school administrators, IRS agents, political wives, and others who make up our circle.

Even at church, though, I have been defined by my children. I’ve been sitting on the children’s nurture committee and I sit with Bubble in Church School. I’ve wanted to go to a few of the adult Ed options, but I’m not comfortable enough with the church school set-up to leave Bubble alone. That’s one thing I want to address as an elder on the nurture committee, but it’s tough because I can’t undermine the Church School leaders who are some of my favorite people in the church. I’m not going to be the upstart who wants to criticize and change things, but I do have some real concerns as a parent that I think need to be addressed. Anyway…

So there it is. Kids and church. Maybe I should find a bridge group. And I can pull out on my pearls every afternoon at 6:00 and greet Computerguy at the door with a martini. Except he doesn’t like martinis. And that’s my problem. EXPECTATIONS. I never expected to be a stay-at-home mom. On Christmas Eve, our pastor didn’t preach a full sermon, but she gave about a 5 minute “invitation” and two of the things she invited us to leave behind as we came to the manger were our idols of expectations and need for control. She was talking about the so-called “perfect holidays,” but I took it to heart. Those are my idols and I need to leave them behind and trust that the One who knows what it is like to live in flesh has something in store for me. I know this in my mind. Can I live it?

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3 Responses to what defines us

  1. quackademic says:

    Dear Bookgirl,
    Thank you for sharing this–it hits home (in a funny way, since I am increasingly feeling defined “the woman without kids,” as the stereotypical academic). Change is hard, and you’ve had this great change but it’s shifted everything, and especially how you see yourself. Waiting on the Lord is hard, too, especially when unease and discontent are a part of it. I wish we could go out for coffee…or, the fun Presbyterian and Baptists that we are, a chocolate martini! Hugs to you!

  2. Terri says:

    When my daughter was born I had to quit my job (for a number of reasons having to do with work politics – this was 22 years ago before materinity and parental leave rights were really established)…anyway. I remember sitting my kitchen, still in my pj’s, it’s 4pm and the baby is napping. I’m wondering what I do first: nap myself? shower and dress? clean the house? I made a phone call, probably to the pediatrician for her first visit and the person who answered asked me what “I did” – “what my profession” was…and I had no idea what to say. I was no longer TCP the professional. I was….baby’s mom and husband’s wife….It was so weird and a little disconcerting…

    I was a stay-at-home mom for about 8 years. Yes I took a 14 month, one day a week course, to become a massage therapist and I managed a very small private practice that gave me something to do a few hours each week. But mostly I was a stay at home mom.

    At the time it felt like an eternity…that child care and raising. Now 14 years later those stay at home days are just a blurr.

    I think it’s important for us, moms-wives-women, to have something that helps us continue to grow as human beings in the way(s) we think we are called to grow. That may or may not happen in its fullness by raising children. So, since it seems to be your yearning – I hope you will find some way to use your gifts from that PhD – whether it’s a part-time teaching job, or sitting on session (Or whatever you call it) or writing a book about something and getting it pubished…and still be present enough to raise your children and engage in your marriage.

    The time will fly by, even though each moment may feel like an eternity. I’ll hold you in prayer….

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