(WHAT?!? My Chi has been sick and when able to open his eyes, he’s been watching Phineas and Ferb. I have been infected.)
So I’ve been working on these two posts; one for months and the other for a couple of weeks. It occurred to me today that they may be related and that may make a better over all post if I just combine the topics. The first post was about the book Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer and the second post was about being a stay at home mom rebelling against stereotypes and sometimes myself. They ARE related. Let me show you.
I have always been me. Never was there a time when I wasn’t just exactly who I am regardless of what people around me thought about me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care what people thought (although I was very good at telling myself that people could take me or leave me; their loss). It was that I really didn’t know how to BE anything else. This was true all through elementary school, when it was super easy; all through junior high, when there were taunts about my hair/clothes/makeup or lack thereof; and all through high school, when I took standing out as a compliment.
I was entirely me through and through every single phase of my life. I never worried about what people thought of me because I was just being me. I was never good at trying to be anything else, so why bother?
That is to say, I was comfortable in my own skin whether or not I was liking it.
Motherhood changed that. I don’t know if it was the sudden unknown of having a baby for the first time. I don’t know if it was th 80 lbs I gained. I don’t know if I had some hidden preconception of what being a mother meant that suddenly sprang forth with the birth of my baby. What I do know is that I was suddenly floundering.
Now, I don’t mean that I questioned everything about my decisions and my baby. I don’t mean that I lived in constant fear of doing the wrong thing. I do mean that all of a sudden, I didn’t know who the hell I was anymore. I didn’t know what my future was going to be. I didn’t recognize the face in the mirror and that’s not even mentioning the changes to my body. It was like my self confidence fled and with it my definition of self. This was an entirely new experience and it was accompanied by wild physical and emotional changes that I had no idea how to handle since I didn’t know who I was anymore.
It was terrifying.
So I spent a lot of time putting on the “mom” clothes and the “mom” face with the “mom” hair. I did “mom” things and tried to make “mom” friends. My husband even started acting differently towards me. I tried fitting into that “stay at home mom”/”homemaker” mold that I thought was who I suddenly was. I couldn’t figure out why I was so miserable.
I mean, I loved my baby. I was grateful for being able to stay home with him. We did things together, Chi and I, but I was depressed, restless, adrift.
I have since sloughed off worrying about being whatever “they” think I should be. I have stopped trying to be that perfect homemaker because I will NEVER be that. It’s been a long hard slog of trying to find myself and redefine myself without really knowing that’s what I was doing.
So I’ve been down this road of putting on “Mom” and not feeling comfortable in that skin; in that definition; in that confining, limiting space. And I’ve, since, struck off on my own, crashing through the brush and brambles and blazing my own “Mom” trail. I definitely fit in that spot better. My role is not so easily defined as “Homemaker” or “Stay at Home Mom”. Those labels conjure up certain, iconic, unbreakable images of things I will never be. I’ve come to see that they aren’t bad. For someone else. Just like “Working Mom” isn’t bad. For someone else. It’s just, none of it, ME.
My whole struggle to find myself became clear to me when I was reading this book Shine Shine Shine. The main character is this woman named Sunny who is completely hairless. Her complete baldness was not something that defined her until she got married and became pregnant. It was like she suddenly couldn’t be the “Sunny-who-makes-art-wigs-and-hangs-out-with-Maxon” anymore, she had to become “Sunny-the-Mom”. And to her? The two were not synonymous. She had to shed the one to become the other. In the book, Lydia Netzer writes of Sunny:
“When she got pregnant for the first time, Sunny was afraid she had to become something else. When you become a mother, how can you be another thing at the same time? When you become an orphan, how can you be anything other than that? She worried now that everything she became had just squeezed the love out, until she might only sort of love him, only used to love him. Maybe she forgot how to fill up the rest of it, because it’s full of other things—orphan-to-be, mother. Maybe you can’t truly wrap your flesh around another person, after there’s been a baby inside you. Maybe your parentless sorrow puts you in a box with those who have the same sorrow. Her mother was dying. She wanted Maxon, the old Maxon, the way it used to be. And yet she knew that he had always been the old Maxon. It was she who had changed. Yet everything else she had tried to become was stupid and pointless.”
Netzer, Lydia (2012-07-17). Shine Shine Shine (Kindle Locations 2366-2372). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.
It took a car accident during which her wig flew off to open her eyes to all of the ways she’d been trying to cram her and her brilliant, odd, autistic, robot loving husband and her brilliant, odd, autistic son into these perfectly “White, affluent, suburban family” holes. Holes they did not fit into. Holes where parts of them had to be shaved down to fit into. Sunny has this moment when she realizes that it has to change:
“A week ago, a day ago, with blond waves touching her shoulders and curling around her ears, she would have stopped at the desk, bent over at the waist, arranged another appointment. She would have acquired a different small brown bottle, administered doses, continued to smile and drop off and pick up and accommodate and advance. She would have gone home, would have prompted her gangly husband with the appropriate things to say and do at a cocktail party, dressed him, impressed on him the importance of sticking to the basics. Now, she felt differently about everything. More impatient, more severe. She felt she had been living under clouds, underwater, hearing at low volume, seeing at a distance. Without the wig, what she saw was all very awful. Yes, the whole world. There just wasn’t any point in pretending that it was fine. She felt like shit for talking so harshly to Maxon. She wished for any way that she could take it all back.”
Netzer, Lydia (2012-07-17). Shine Shine Shine (Kindle Locations 960-967). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.
This fictional woman’s journey spoke to me and placed a spotlight on things that weren’t clear to me before. She helped to make me see that I am not just a “Mom” and that is okay. She helped me to see that I am not just any “Mom”, I am my very own definition of “Mom” and that’s pretty spectacular.
I’m pretty content with where I am again and who I am and what I am. Oh, sure I have things I could be working on to improve me, but those things that need improving do not define me. I do not find myself so lacking in anything good anymore. I can look at what I do everyday and be thankful for it and be proud of it and just be. So me? I am the “Home front Coordinator”. I am the “Baseline Engineer”. I am Super Sticky Glue that makes everything stay together and function. But most importantly? I am me.
ps. The book Shine Shine Shine was written by Lydia Netzer. It is a really fabulous, complicated book. There is so much going on with Sunny and Maxon. So much more than what I’ve shown you here. It’s one I recommend.