The lovely Rachael of Mothering Mushroom shares another insightful I'm a Mum and a... guest post exploring motherhood and identity to tie in with Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of themselves: on how me becomes more after motherhood.
When I said I’d write a guest post for Story of Mum on ‘I’m a Mum and...’ I thought I had the issue of identity in Motherhood sorted. I mean, the notion of how we identify ourselves outside of the ‘Mother’ role was the catalyst for my recently re-launched Mummy Plus series of interviews. In the introduction to my very first post, I wrote:
‘I think all of us are Mummy plus something. For example, apart from my other family relationships (sister, wife, friend etc.) I am also a Creative Writer, Internal Communications Professional (these first two are obviously not mutually exclusive!) and NLP Master Practitioner/Life Coach. The purpose of these interviews is to speak to a wide range of parents, and find out who we are when we’re not being ‘Mummy.’
See? All sorted. I have three ‘hats’ other than the Mummy one. But is that really it..? I think identity is actually a lot more complex than that. I remember as a child often asking myself the question ‘Who am I?’ I think we all do at some point.
I thought I had it down at university – I was a student, and that defined me for a while. But that wasn’t enough either. Then, when I left uni, I had a various jobs before sort of settling into a PA role. That’s who I was, then, wasn’t it..? But at parties, people would ask ‘What do you do?’ and I would wish I could say something other than ‘I’m a PA.’ I felt that they were asking the wrong question (I know, I know... I was giving the wrong answer).
Later, I discovered poetry open mic nights as an alternative to the usual night out. Friends pushed me to share my own words and as they were well received, I shared some more. A new identity was born – I was a poet, or ‘spoken word artist,’ which I always felt sounded a bit pretentious when I said it, I mean, was I really good enough to say that? I didn’t quite believe I was, so I hid behind a stage name give to me by a friend, ‘Honest.’ My poetry was, but was I...? Two years, several commissions and a few awards later I still wasn’t sure.
Then, my Mum died. I stopped writing and stopped thinking about my identity in the same way for a while. Two years later, as life started to look a little like normal again, I thought about things she used to say to me as a child. ‘I don’t care what you do, as long as it makes you happy.’ and ‘We are here for each other.’ There were more things she said, of course, but these stood out.
I thought about what made me happy. Writing made me happy, so I started a blog and tried to get back into it. I realised that this was something I wanted as a career, so I worked towards this and got into Communications. Now, when someone asked me what I ‘did,’ I could say ‘I’m a writer,’ with conviction. I really was. Someone was paying me for it, so I must be ok at it.
With the help of friends, a life-changing NLP course, and the support of my siblings and my fiancé (now husband), all the pieces started to come together. During this course, my teacher told me I was ‘a natural coach.’ This embarrassed me at first – not because I didn’t believe it, but because I did. I was just embarrassed to have felt pride in hearing it. Funny thing is, during that course I did an exercise in identity that freed me from any previous ideas of how I define myself. In a state of trance, I reached the end of the exercise and announced ‘I’m a Mother.’ At the time I wasn’t even married, let alone pregnant with Mushroom. I just knew – like I know that sky is blue and grass is green – that regardless of whether I actually had a child, I always had been and always would be a Mother. I don’t really ‘get’ it either, but it feels right.
Now, it’s a few years later and having got through that stage of motherhood where I felt like Mushroom had eaten my identity along with the night feeds, I am – as a mentor of mine put it – back to ‘me.’ It’s just that me is now more. More than a Writer, more than Communications professional, more than a Coach, and even, dare I say it, more than a Mother. I’m also a wife, a sister, a friend... The list could go on... I am all and none of these at any given moment in time.
Think about how you introduce yourself at a party – ‘I’m a writer/blogger,’ ‘I’m a stay-at-home/full-time mum,’ ‘I’m...’ or at a baby/toddler group ‘How old is X? Oh, Y is the same age, is s/he talking yet?’ This is how we connect, socially, it’s what we do. But how often do you remember someone because of their job? And how many Mums do you know from groups whose names you’ve never learned ‘Oh, she’s X’s Mum.’
Dig a little deeper, and we are all so much more than parents and jobs. Identity is much more complicated than a 1,000 word blog post (roughly, I didn’t count). On the other hand, it’s as simple as this: You are not just Mum, you are not just (insert job title). You are YOU. So, to complete the title sentence, ‘I’m a mum, and... I’m still Me.’
This month we're encouraging you to think about what identity means to you as a mother. Join us in making an Identity Parade, or taking an I'm a mum and a... photo, and join our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: Making an exhibition of ourselves. And if you'd like to host a spot on our global virtual tour, we'd love to hear from you.