I imagine that self identity is a source of struggle and reflection for most, but it seems particularly heightened for those of us who describe our roles as 'stay-at-home' parents. I am profoundly grateful to have this opportunity to be at home with my kids, and I don't take it for granted. It is easy to lose sight of yourself though, without that professional separation. My children, parenting, and creating a life and home for my family is a huge part of how I define myself. I'm proud of that work, as mundane as it might seem, but there are obviously so many other interests and passions that contribute to my self and world view.
It's probably healthy to regularly carve out some independent time away from children in order to maintain a sense of individuality. I have to confess that I do a very poor job of that. It's really a struggle for me to separate from my kids, which is why I teach and work at night, when they are already sleeping. I trust that these relationships will shift as they get older, and I've learned the hard way that I really can't force these things. I've come to accept where I am now, but to also try to be open minded to feeling differently tomorrow. (Well, maybe not tomorrow... but trying to be open minded here).
While I'm not skilled at structuring time for myself, one area I do succeed in is incorporating my interests and passions into our life as a family. I have a strong idea of what excites and inspires me, and I do my best to share my enthusiasm with the kids (and James, if he isn't already on board... and sometimes he's not!).
So between tantrums, sleep strikes, and dirty dishes and diapers, we spend our days working in the garden, baking, turning up the volume on our favorite songs, getting outside as much as possible (whether it's camping in the summer or skiing in the winter), visiting museums and checking out my favorite buildings... and somehow, despite never having a babysitter or getting time away, I feel remarkably clear in who I am. It sometimes seems selfish that we don't do more kid oriented stuff, but usually they both appear to be having fun. And because I am able to engage so often in activities that inspire me, I can still relate to James as an adult, with thoughts and ideas beyond our children. Except of course for those days on end where we talk about nothing but potty training and sleep rituals, super fascinating topics to both of us as of late.
True, it can be a chore to go places that aren't specifically 'kid friendly' with little ones, but we try to be realistic about our expectations and pick activities where there is at least some chance of success. We hadn't been to the ICA since Roo was born, so last Sunday she got her introduction to contemporary art. She wasn't totally convinced (takes after her pop. He'll debate me on this, but his appreciation is very narrow!). Luckily we could also admire / criticize the building and roll around on the harbor front boardwalk taunting seagulls. A little something for everyone, just the way we like it.
*This video installation was just stunning. Definitely check it out if you have the chance!