Womanhood, motherhood, personhood - we are not these definitions. We are more. Let's teach that in school.
My mother used to say that her greatest life moments were tangled up in her family. But, for me, looking back at how she lived her life, I think her greatness was far more than our every evening dinners and our too-famous neighborhood parties.
Her identity was far larger than our home and perhaps that’s just where it was centered. But, as a little girl growing up under her tutelage, I only saw what she pinned her identity on, and saw everything as a distraction.
I… of course, was wrong.
Time, and my own coming into adulthood, parenting, career growth, and all the machinations of things that we must do to get by, taught me that same centre. That, although I had to build a centre to make the other things possible, those things were just as important. They feed off each other, depend on each other, and sometimes it appears as though they’ve cancelled each other out for a bit.
I started seeing things more as an interdependent web, rather than compartmentalised parts of life. Where imbalance showed up on one end, the other side would show too. Too little sleep because I need to work? It’ll affect my work, not just my personality and ability to be a conscious parent. Too little work coming in? That’ll affect my ability to put food on the table. Too much work coming in? That’ll mean I end up not making it to the dinner table this evening, and miss out on that all-important evening chat I live for.
Those evening chats at the dinner table are where I pin my identity, but they are not the totality of it. I bring all the things I am to those chats, and I take away into the world all the things I am too.
The interdependence of the different parts that create a woman are what’s really clawing at me, right now. In raising a daughter, I have to show her that she can be all of these interdependent things, and not compartmentalise herself, because it won’t serve her, her life, or her happiness.
It was through trying to compartmentalise myself that I lost interest in my own self. I’d shut off my mom life to focus on my work life, and thought that was the way to do it. You know, to survive the ebbs and flows of it all. But, as it turned out, you know this one:
I… of course, was wrong.
Looking back, I understand now why my mom worked 2 jobs, ran a whole life of fierce activism, and never stopped to apologise when she prioritised her own way. She knew what I didn’t: that while her identity is pinned on the ability to deliver her life to herself and her family, it is not defined by it. It is far, far more than that.
We should teach that in school. Let’s stop asking children who they want to be ‘when they grow up’. Ask who they are right now, and find out what their interdependent web of things that are important to them is. That’s what will create their life, and enable them to know that they are not one thing. They are all things. We are all things, together.
Cath Jenkin is a freelance writer and communications consultant. Constantly in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea, Cath bends her pen towards topics relating to the fintech, health, real estate, and tourism sectors.
A massive thank you to Cath J. for being a guest writer on this blog post. Her astute insight into the complexities and interconnectedness of the facets of life that a woman faces are incredible. Hope we can collaborate again soon Cath 🙂