Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mom identities: the MIKs vs. the MILOS

I have a ton of grading to do, so that means I must procrastinate with something so uberimportant as a blog post. Sigh...

Since first becoming a parent 6 years ago, I've begun to fully understand the Stay At Home Mom vs. Working Mom thing. Actually, I don't think it's a VS. thing at all, but some people see it that way. What seems like more of a VS. thing to me is a mom's identity, i.e., my identity is my kids (MIK) VS. my identity is lots of stuff (MILOS). (Hey, if SAHM can be an acronym, why not MIK or MILOS?) I know plenty of SAHMs who are MILOS, but I also know a few who are MIKs. I can't think of any working moms who are MIKs, but surely they are out there. (To be honest, I also know a couple MIWs -- work is my identity and MINs -- nothing's my identity, and those are also problematic!)

So, why am I writing about this? Well, since becoming a parent and meeting a few probable MIKs who were also SAHMs, I've been bothered by them*. I couldn't quite figure out why. I knew I didn't have a bias against SAHMs. In fact, some of my best friends stay at home, do what I think is the toughest job day in and out, and also pursue their own interests and passions. Way to work it ladies. No, it's not these folks that are a burr under my saddle. It's the MIKs. And are the MIKs bothersome because they are doing all the stuff I would like to do but don't have time or energy for? Is a little jealousy or guilt going on? No, that's not it. So why do I care?

How healthy is it to focus your entire life and identity around your children, both for the mom and the kids? All that energy put into making the best possible childhood for wee ones may actually be a disservice. Our job as mothers is to nurture, protect and teach our children. One of the ways we teach is to be a model. Do I want my kids to learn that my entire existence is about them? Wouldn't they learn more about pursuing and creating a productive, satisfying, and less insular life if they learned from both parents' examples? This also means that I may not have as much time to volunteer at the school as some other moms, or ferry my kids to as many activities as them, but that's teaching them something too. Maybe mom and dad can't be around as much as they'd like, but learning this kind of independence (and dare I say it, disappointment) is good preparation for life.

My mom was a wonderful SAHM, and I had a great childhood filled with lovely memories. When I became an adult, I really struggled to picture myself in a career. I made a lot of missteps (more than a decades worth) before finding my calling, and still really struggle for how its suppose to look with kids in the picture. I don't have a model for this, other than the women that I've met as an adult. Everyone's path is different, but I would've liked a model for how to do this general type of life.

When I talk to probable MIKs, where they exclusively discuss every facet of their kids lives and activities, I can't help but wonder what happens in 10-15 years. Childhood is not that long, and what do moms do when the kids become more independent, don't have that school project, and don't want lavish birthday parties anymore? What do you do if the better part of your adult life has been laser focused on something important, but temporary? This must be a huge, and for some, devastating, identity hurdle.

So MIKs, wherever you time you're on Facebook, post about something you are doing for YOU today. Tell your husband or babysitter you're going out some night soon to take a class or brainstorm or work on a project unrelated to kids. When on Pinterest, pin some stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with small people, their activities and interests. Because while you will be a child's parent for 18 years, you will be YOU for much, much longer. Diversify your identity and make it count, all of it.
* Example of bothered: talking to a probable MIK the other day who expressed her sympathy that I "couldn't" participate in XYZ kid function. Uh, really...that's okay.