Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who Am I

Let me begin by saying that my identity crisis should in no way be construed as a slight to any other human being. What fulfills us, what gives us joy, what is frustrating or depressing or gross is different for each of us. There are some commonalities between all human beings in these areas, but in what we choose from our various daily activities to define ourselves, we are all unique.

So lets go back. The first thing that I was really able to use as a definer was: Teacher. My first job out of college was with the pro-life movement. It was cutting edge. It was one of only a handful of paid positions in the country. It was exciting and worthwhile and at the end of the day, not fulfilling to me. I mused on my computer at work about the possibility of becoming a teacher. I taught a little CCD class on the side. That hour a week was more fulfilling to me than my full time job. Was God calling me to be a Teacher? I asked. A co-worker found it and gave it to my boss. He fired me on the spot for it had been his experience that once someone "checked out" they were not really worth employing. (Hazards of being a writer who doesn't know about computer security.) I should have been in a panic. But I wasn't. I went to visit a friend out of state for the weekend. I returned home to a ringing phone from a friend of woman for whom I had babysat all through college. "Is this Sheila, I heard you need a job." I took the job over the phone. The second ring that day was from my boss, regretting his impulsive decision. "It has been my experience," I answered, "That when you get fired, you probably aren't really wanted. I'll be fine, I hope you will be too."

A few months later, I left Texas and returned home to go back to school to get my teaching certificate. Not only had I returned home in a geographical sense. Teaching felt like returning home. It felt natural. I felt fulfilled.

I defined myself as a Teacher for some years. But in the end, it was accompanied by a job like any other job. A job can't really define who we are as a person. I knew I would always be "Teacher" but I needed more. I wanted to be a wife. And so, the second definer in my life came in the form of being another's other half. To find your other half out of a world populated by billions of people is quite something. It leaves you in awe. And to this day it is still the single most important definer I have.

But I wanted more. I wanted to be a mother. It really was what I had wanted all along. And because God is so good, He gave me what I wanted. I became the mother of three children. Then we adopted our fourth. To be a homeschooling mother caused only a few moments of debate in my mind. For I was Teacher, Wife and Mother, so what better way to find my fulfillment than in the teaching of my own and my other half's children.

And I did. I often tried to explain it to my mother who thought I took on too much. I told her that in the end, it was really about me (this she could get as I was not the most selfless person growing up.) I could make the arguments about why I thought it was the best option for my children, but as I have explained on another post (The Home school Why) I always knew there were many great options in which my children could flourish. The reason I did it was because it made me feel fulfilled. I couldn't imagine being chauffeur and room mom only. I couldn't imagine being with my kids just a few hours a day. I knew they would be fine if I shared the burden of raising and educating them, I just didn't think I would be.

Fast forward. We adopted our fifth at the age of six. Life became too hectic to manage. I put all my kids in school. The transition for all of them was better than I could have imagined. I was right that there is not one right way. In many ways, I know they are perhaps even better off now as I watch them blossom and grow. An aside for the home schoolers: This does not mean I believe that school is better. Or that all kids are better off in school. Just as I did not believe homeschooling was the only option when I did it. I do not now believe school is. There is no right way to raise your kids. Ours was a unique situation and what my children had to adapt to required changes.

The changes we made were good for them. But were they good for me? Am I fine?

I am not. The dirty little secret is that all those room moms and chauffeurs have ways to define themselves. For some it is through volunteer work, part time jobs to help financially support the family, coaching, or like my mom they find fulfillment in cooking, or like my grandmother in the order of her household. They are good friends or marathon runners. It doesn't really matter WHAT it is. It is that IT is how you define yourself. It is how you find fulfillment. It is how you know who you are.

I don't know who I am anymore. I don't know how to define myself. I don't know how to feel fulfilled.

We recently got a little dwarf hamster. He is really quite cute. He has a little wheel he runs on. He goes round and round and never goes anywhere. They call him Nip because he bites. Perhaps Sheila would have been a better name. But no, because he is happy going round and round. He has no need to get anywhere.

Teacher...Wife...Mother...Teacher/Mom... I am still all of these and I guess I should be excited. I used to have the spirit of adventure, waiting for the next big phase. And it will come. I will get another definer. Before and between each previous stage there was a period of longing and confusion. Before and between each I would ask, "Is there more?" The answer was always "yes." And the result was always fulfillment. Who am I God? Who am I now at this point in my life? What should I use to define myself?

Please, Please, Please don't answer: Marathon Runner.



  1. Well, I think the real dirty secret is that all those room moms and chauffeurs really have no earthy idea of their identity either. Sure they have something they can define themselves as but I would venture to say that if any of them were really transparent, they would tell you that they feel unfulfilled.

    I wonder if you asked God what you should use to define yourself, he might tell you to look to him only. That the things of this earth will only eventually leave you feeling unfulfilled anyway.

    You are defined as HIS. A unique child of God. Maybe that is what he wants you to do right now - just rest in that. What a blessed time! Just BE.

    It sounds like a transition time for you, girl. An "in the meantime" kind of time. I think those are the hardest times to have faith that God has us right where he wants us to be and that he is giving us rest - preparing us for something really BIG!

    I think it's awesome you are asking what he wants you to be doing right now - I'm sure he will direct your path.

    Although, parenting 5 kids is quite a lot. And being defined as MOM is no small feat. And WIFE - well sometimes that can be more difficult. You are called there first - NOBODY can replace you.

    I can't wait to see what he has in store for you! ;)