Sunday, August 24, 2008

temporary (?) identity crisis

The first week of school is officially over, and it went well. (I was going to say it went off without a hitch, but Lucas stayed home on Friday. And thus we return without delay to the time-honored Olivier tradition of missing school...)

Max and Lucas like their teachers. Lucas already had a field trip, a hike on Thursday to Timpanogos Cave, which I'm sure had something to do with his not feeling well on Friday.

I'm enjoying the return to a more regular schedule, though not so much the 6:30 a.m. start time.

On Friday night, we went out to dinner with Marc's parents, and were joined by Marc's cousin's wife (got that?) and her three cute kids. She's a thoroughly charming woman with an Australian accent who lives in Manhattan -- she handles her three young children with aplomb and she announced she's more than 2/3 of the way through her 4th pregnancy. (No, I hadn't noticed.) For all outward appearances, a cosmopolitan superwoman.

She asked me what I've been up to lately. Ummm.... I quite literally could think of nothing.

How do I answer that?

a. Well, I've been working on potty training Eva. It was going great, but then she unequivocally reverted back to diapers, just in time for preschool to start in about a week.
b. Lucas stayed home from school today. As is often the case, I wasn't sure whether or not he was really sick, but I let him stay home to be on the safe side.
c. I started my Fall piano schedule this week. I always dread the lessons, but then kind of enjoy them when the kids actually arrive.
d. Our garage door won't close and I'm concerned about theft. There's not too much of value in there, but it would be a shame if Max's nice new bike got stolen...

I mean, really! Most of the time I feel like I have a handle on being a stay-at-home mom -- I know the value in it even if there is little to no feedback or recognition. But at times like this, I feel I am thrown into a mini identity crisis of sorts: what am I doing? Am I doing anything at all to nurture the me I know is in there somewhere? Am I making any kind of a difference? Or am I nothing more than Max, Lucas, and Eva's tired, inadequate mom who's just trying to make it from day to day?

No answers yet. Just a whole lot of questions swirling around in my mind. When we got home from the restaurant, I played outside with Eva. At least I knew that, at that moment, I was important to someone (even if she would choose her daddy over me anyday).

How do you keep yourself on track when you feel derailed like this?

27 comments:

Kelly said...

Oh, Michelle, I think there are times when we all feel like someone's tired, inadequate mother and that's about it.

Good luck with the potty training -- we're playing the same game over here. And I hope this doesn't start another round of sickness for your family. Germs be gone!

Jill said...

I hate that question, who can really answer it well? My cousins always say, "So what's new?" and leave me speechless. Fortunately their asking of it doesn't send me into an identity crisis, but that would definitely be possible if they were a different asker, ha.

I think all the stuff you listed here is quite enough!

TX Girl said...

I swear I never know how to answer that question either- especially since it rarely translates into an interesting answer. One day I wish I could give the politically incorrect answer (well- my family is going to hell in a hand basket, but other than that..), but that would be rude.

I'm with you sister. I was talking to a girlfriend last night about the fact that although for years I have juggled lots of different things, I've never become really good at any of them.

This week I got so tired of feeling inadequate that I really made an effort to be better this week.. small things, like eating healthier, playing with the kids more, less computer time.. it has felt great.

marc said...

Q: What have you been up to?
A: Oh, you know, mothering three children... oh yeah, and then fighting crime incognito...
Try that next time.

Lucy said...

Michelle, I have had this feeling very recently as well. They had a neighborhood party this weekend, and the neighborhood is filled, filled, filled with professional couples. At the party, I met a pretty young woman, with three girls ages 4 and younger AND she's an orthopedic surgeon. I know we can't compare ourselves to others, but during the conversation, I couldn't help but think, "What do I do?!?" as she seemed to manage her really young girls and work without breaking a sweat.

But, you know, we don't know what these perfect people struggle with. And, they must struggle...because everyone does.

You could have replied that you've been celebrating birthdays nonstop for a while!:) I loved reading about your growing boys and your love for them.

Amy said...

I've definitely ever felt intimidated by the same question. I like your Marc's comment.

Holly said...

I don't have any answers, but I wanted you to know I feel the same way often. I find myself stumped to provide a coherent answer, so I usually just mumble ohnotmuchthesameolsameolyouknow...
and then smile weakly. Impressive I'm sure.

I like Marc's suggestion the best.

lelly said...

i'm staying tuned for the answer to this big question...

Diana said...

That's one of my least favorite questions but I ask it all too often myself then I catch myself and almost revoke it.
I like Marc's answer.
PS where are you sending Eva to preschool?

Alison said...

I feel like I'm not doing enough all the time. A TV writer in LA told me it never goes away.

Mother said...

Motherhood.....the most difficult and most important task of all!
Can't be much of anything more intense, stressfull, fulfilling, educating, or creative!

I guess that about says it all.

Go Motherhood!

April said...

Oh I hear you loud and clear...(and I, too, loved Marc's response.) That ranks right up there with "So what do you do?" Um...

P.S. I think it's important to have traditions. And I love yours...

Tasha said...

Those are the stickiest times! There isn't an explanation needed, and I don't want to be one of those moms who is going on and on about the things my kids are doing because I am not doing anything myself, but in those moments, it seems so hard. I often wonder though, what would they think if someone laid it all out there "I'm a little ambivalent right now about my choice to stay home right now, I have a deep pit of anxiety boiling up under my chin. I stress eat too much, and if I don't I find I spend too much money. Either way, I have a secret crush onthe handy man, Nothing I'll act on of course, but you know, he's dreamy. What's new with you?"

For the record, your creativity trumps most, you read and keep your mind sharp, you keep your talents alive, and share them by teaching lessons, and your date nights have been a huge example to us all!

wende said...

i really do hate that question, nothing is ever new and the stuff i'm "up to" is never interesting enough to talk about really. i am feeling your speechlessness for sure. i guess you have to remember that intersting and important are not the same thing.

when i feel derailed i ignore it and do another load of laundry. then later in the day i have a good moment with ethan, or one of the teenagers and it helps me to remember that i am important. just not very interesting in conversation that's all!

crystal said...

I love what Wende said: "interesting & important are not the same thing."

I do sometimes feel derailed; it's usually when I realize that I don't give any time to my own interests or talents. ANY time.

I try to tell myself that years down the road, nobody in your professional life remembers you--but what you are doing now as a mother will always be remembered and often revered.

But it's difficult to be stuck in the mundane so constantly.

crystal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
patsy said...

Just the thought of a NYC mom, 2/3 prego without notice & such poise makes me (secretly) green with envy. why did I think my life would be more like that? Tough question too. I'm sure she's great but again- tough question.
I love my life but I too at moments like that feel derailed.
just know- You are doing all the great things!

just a side note- my tough summer has to do with my MIL being diagnosed with Alzheimers. I can't talk about it on my blog right now-but I'm sure no family members read yours so I am letting it out there. She will likely move closer to our family soon & that will be good but scary in the long run. I feel totally overwhelmed with emotions watching this happen...
but I know that my father in heaven has a plan- oh what would we do without the gospel?

patsy said...

ps. let's all go to lunch at rio grande sometime- I wonder if it's changed since your college days. I've been eating there for almost 12 years all the same. one of my all time favorites for sure!

Julia said...

Marc's cousin isn't Chrysula Winegar, is it? I read that and immediately thought of her.

I often feel inadequate by what I haven't accomplished by now. No, I don't speak any other languages, I don't have a Master's degree, I don't have a cute blog, and I would love to have 10% of the creativity you have. But I think deep down we all feel inadequate in some way, and if we don't, that is probably a much bigger problem.

Natasha said...

Michelle, for what it's worth I work outside the home and I STILL feel like this much of the time. Recently I began thinking about how the only reading I do is either for work or related to parenting. You know - infectious disease literature vs. Family Fun magazine. But what about ME, I thought. . .
For the month of August I have been reading 50 + pages a day of non-parenting non-work related books and man, it feels good. I know, just a baby step, but I decided to do something for me. I am definitely not bored, but don't want to become boring.
Anyway, all this is to say that I feel the same often.

Elisa said...

Oh so familiar....all of it.

But from my perspective you are the one who is pretty darn amazing. Teaching piano, 3 articulate interesting children, gourmet chef (I am making your chocolate cake for my birthday again this year), flawless taste, and oh so much creativity (I LOVE my birthday gift).

I go through an identity crisis at least bi-yearly and I haven't come to terms with it.

Claudissima said...

derailed? I think I am riding without tracks at the moment....but at least I am going! I don't know where really...hopefully to the celestial kingdom...but for that i do need tracks and get on them! Thanks for the reminder that the most important things we should be doing are the ones that go UNOTICED by all ,except US!

Laurie said...

I always find it hard to define my life, especially to someone I'm rather in awe of. I get derailed like this very easily, but take a step back and think of the most important things in your life and who and what you love. Just from reading your blog and meeting you once I admire you and the life you're living.

Denise said...

You know what my Mom always says, "there will always be people who are more than you are and those who are less than you are." Too bad we only tend to notice those who are more.

You'll probably laugh, but sometimes when I read your blog I think, 'Man, my life is so lame compared to Michelle's. She's always doing the sweetest things with and for her kids, and she really has it all together in the ways that matter most.' I guess it's just a matter of perspective. I'm sorry you had a momemtary identity crisis.

I've always hated the women who never look pregnant when they're supposed to. I was never one of them.

melanie said...

I guess you could say the way I avoid this is, I'm the one asking so no one asks me! I feel like this so often. I'm never quite sure of how to get our of the rut. I get a couple good days going and then we back slide. I love everyone's idea's though. Especially Marc's!

Amy said...

I'm sorry that I didn't comment on this one earlier, Michelle, but I'm so glad you're feeling better. Identity crises and mothering don't go well together, and when the crisis is about motherhood, well, not good. I think it's great that you got so many good responses, though. We all go through this, and then we can count on our friends to pull us out. If it's worth anything, I think you're a wonderful mother. The fact that your kids are so intelligent, interesting and just all around good kids, is evidence of it.

Barb said...

Where was I when this posted? I don't have anything fresh to say. I would have quoted you just as Kelly did if I'd been first with the tired/inadaquate thing as the part that resonated with my own feelings from time to time.
I'm glad you've had some altius since this post. Thanks for writing about it and helping us all know we're not alone.

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