Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Case of Identity Crisis

Has anyone ever felt like the person you once were, the person you knew yourself to be, has gotten off the train somewhere in the past and has been replaced by a stranger?  Or maybe your self wasn't replaced at all but left an empty space which yearns for the passion and sense of direction that once filled it.  I am not sure when exactly my person got off the train, but I do know that it was somewhere in the midst of motherhood and being a military wife.  Motherhood itself, I'm sure, would have been enough to send the self's bags packing.  But military life has made it exceptionally difficult to hold tight to that person, that self, who grew up with me, who created the inner workings of my soul, and who, I know, is waiting somewhere to get back on the train.

First, let me tell you a little bit about how I grew up.  Nearly my entire family lived in northeast Ohio, in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland.  We saw my mom's family just about every week, as we all gathered at my grandma and papa's house for dinneron Sundays.  No matter how many times I went to their house, I never got sick of it.  There was so much love pouring out of the doors that anyone would be sorry to pass up an opportunity to enter.  We also saw my dad's family every few months, so it is plain to see that spending time with family was something I grew to cherish.  Not only that, my beliefs and values developed as a result of such a strong family bond and also the wisdom that my grandparents shared from their own lives.  Every form of guidance they gave me, always in a loving, gentle manner, clinged to me like glue.  I listened to their stories, watched their actions, and became determined that I would follow in their footsteps.  I had aspirations for myself to have a successful career at some point, but I also knew that part of my purpose, my passion, was to be just like grandma.  She was a stay-home-mom who cooked, cleaned, canned the vegetables from the garden, raised the kids, and entertained her family and friends in her home, all with the grace of an angel.  I knew this was considered old-fashioned in a world where women were gaining more power in the workplace, but I didn't care. I wanted to be that wife who gladly provided home cooked meals for her family, kept a clean house, and raised her kids with joy. I wanted to share my home with family and friends as often as possible.  In fact, when Randall and I were engaged, I made all sorts of plans in my head about the parties we would host at our house. 

Fast forward to now.  I am a stay-home-mom. I cook healthfully, clean, and take care of the kids most of the day.  This is the dream I had always envisioned but I never expected it to be so difficult.  I have always loved kids but despite my years of babysitting, I never knew that kids are just plain bad around their parents!  The lack of listening, the fighting amongst each other, and the whining and crying makes my blood boil!  I still like to clean, but find it increasingly difficult to complete all the chores that need to be done and get stressed when the house starts to get messy.  The few times that we have entertained a party over the years have made me realize that it can be more stressful than relaxing so we rarely do it.  Not that I don't want to spend time with friends, but I have developed into a perfectionist and find it hard to have a get-together on a whim, while planning ahead is difficult with kids.  In addition, military life has moved us away from any family so I miss out on the shared time and occasions I so loved growing up. I still love to socialize, but with the stresses of motherhood and military life bogging me down, my personality has reverted to an almost shy-like state around new people.  Sometimes I find myself thinking, "Why is this so hard?  I always wanted to be a stay-home-mom, so why am I so challenged by this lifestyle?  Where is the drive I used to have for creating a home in which people knew they were welcome?"  I have always prided myself on being a positive person in a world of pessimists, but the past few years have created a real challenge for keeping a positive frame of mind.  And that grace that my grandmother had?  That is nowhere in sight in this girl!

Don't get me wrong, I do not regret staying home with my children for one second.  Nor do I regret becoming a military wife.  Both have strengthened me in more ways than I ever fathomed and it brings me so much joy to watch my kids grow.  But I would be lying if I said I didn't wonder what else is out there for me.  What if this is all I ever do?  Whatever if noone else ever gets to know the real me?  I still have dreams for a career, and I have the education to get me there, but now days it is not necessarily education but experience that lands you the jobs.  I want to put myself out there and be somebody other than just mommy, or Randall's wife.  It doesn't help that we must move every few years and that most big Marine bases are not prime areas for careers in my field.  When I worked before kids, I received recognition and praise for my work, whereas now the things I do in the home aren't reviewed by anyone other than my family and there are no raises or promotions.  Furthermore, it is difficult to make myself known as somebody outside the home when I am struggling to keep up with the pace of home life. Unable to see what lies in the future, I find myself fearing that I will never be able to find my niche, the place where everything in my life fits perfectly in place with the dreams I desire.

Perhaps this is my purpose for now and I just need to learn to accept it and grasp it.  Despite my frustrations and struggles, I realize that I am extremely blessed and couldn't be more thankful for what has been provided for me.  I keep reminding myself that although it can feel uneasy and challenging, God has a plan for me and it may not be what I have planned.  For now, I am trying my best to stick to my roots, hold true to my values and beliefs, and maintain a positive attitude as much as possible.  If I can stay on track, hopefully the Me I have always known will jump back on the train and people will begin to know the real me.  As Helen Keller puts it, "Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." 

How have you struggled with a loss of identy?  What have you done/are you doing to cope?  I want to hear your stories!     


  1. Shari WilliamsonMay 7, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Lisa, I felt the same way when I stayed at home with Hayden. My dream in life was to be a stay at home mom. Then I did it. And I hated it. I couldn't meet my own expectations and none of it was fun. Although I was trying to raise a good citizen, I didn't feel like I was contributing to society in any positive way. I think we're all tricked into believing that staying at home is so amazing and easy. It's good that you're talking about the realities. Because Ed is a much stronger and more patient person than I am, he now has the stay at home role and I get a break by going to work. You all have a tough job. Thanks for being real about it!

  2. Shari, you are contributing to society by creating and molding that good citizen. It isn't easy and I think it's awesome that you and your husband share the same goals in life to make it work. Lisa, like chapters in a book, new ones written and end many times within the same story. This is simply a chapter. In my current job, I work for free and I have 3 bosses, but I know without me, this "business" would crumble. That is how I stay motivated. I do not miss a single milestone or a single page of that book. "Not having a career (outside of my family) is one less hat to fill" is how I have looked at it to thrive. I'm a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a niece, a granddaughter, a cousin...that fills me (for right now). I've been at this for 17 years now. You can do it.