So often we allow the circumstances around us to define who we are today or who we will become tomorrow. This can happen slowly over time or we can be building this narrative in real-time without realizing the damage we’re doing to ourselves and those around us. Some of these are really helpful to our forward momentum while others can be damaging.
I believe I was doing this within my own life, specifically when it came to the question of “who are you.” It was so easy to just lean on my career as the complete answer. I am a Marketing Director. I am a Storyteller. I am a Communicator. I am an Advertiser. Full stop.
But what does that really mean? Am I only those things if I am employed? Do I cease to be those things if I am not. And what about the rest of me?
What’s worse is to see how confusing this has been for my children. They have always known that “Mommy has a cool job in the city”. That’s been the case for their entire lives and most of mine. Now that I am supporting the family in another way, it confounds them. They ask what I do all day. They try to brainstorm new careers for me. (I believe the latest is Pasta Chef) They say that I am the only one that doesn’t “work”. (That one physically hurts). How is it that I’ve raised my children to only see value in the work that we do outside the home? All I have to do is look in the mirror.
The internal struggle is that I didn’t see the role of wife & mother itself as respected and worthy, even though I know how challenging and important both are. However it’s not respected in society. Especially among my generation of women who are supposed to be wonder women and “do it all”.
And yet, to your family, you are completely irreplaceable.
So I am looking at the fact that those are my main roles for now and it brings me so much stress, depression, shame and sense of failure. While I stand in awe of other wives & mothers I push against the roles as if they are less than my corporate gig.
This has clouded my whole view about my life abroad. I am looking at what I am doing and saying to myself, “You are not doing enough. You are not showing your value. Your contributions pale in comparison to what your spouse is doing.
I hear all of this in my current narrative.
“Everyone else is doing great. The kids are back to school, learning Mandarin and picking up lots of different activities. Jeremy is working hard and doing great. And I’m here…” Not seeing that the reason everyone else is “great” and “having an amazing experience” is due to my work and sacrifices. This isn’t an accident. They aren’t all doing this by themselves while I standby doing nothing. I am intergral to this experience going well. This wouldn’t be the case without me and yet I still doubt my worth in this arena. Downplay my contributions. Accept the tired monikers of “Life of Leisure” and “Trailing Spouse”. I am not trailing or focued solely on my leisure. I am working for my family.
What my narrative should sound more like:
“We are all trying to make this experience work for us. Life here in Asia has been a huge adjustment The kids are liking their new school and are adapting faster than the adults. Jeremy works a lot more and will need to travel within the region now so he isn’t around as much as before. I’ve taken on the role of main parent, which brings with it a lot of work, focus and attention that I really wasn’t able to give my family when I was working outside the home too, which is a hard adjustment to make. I don’t always feel equipped for the role. I miss my career, in which I felt very capable, challenged and successful. When the kids are in school, I’m trying some new things that I never had the chance to do before like, take classes, write a blog, participate in non-profits, network with new people all while ensuring my family has everything they need.”
It’s time I exhault the roles of parent and spouse as paramount within my own mind and our families consciousness. If the pandemic showed us nothing it’s how much work goes into these roles. As Maxine Waters so poignantly said: “I’m reclaiming my time” and the respect I should have shown these roles before.
How many of you have felt similarly? Who out there needs to rewrite their narrative to better fit who they are today? Would love to hear thoughts on this one!