It is somewhat amazing that not all of us Real Women are officially diagnosed with multiple personality disorders. As soon as we reach adulthood, we start accumulating roles and responsibilities and associations. Over time, we no longer become known as just who we are. We become…well, a few other related somebodies.
If we marry, we may or may not take on our spouse’s last name, but we become someone’s wife, just as they take on the role as our spouse. Very nice…although I did lay down a law early on that I was never to be referred to as “The Wife.”
Whatever name we choose, it starts to get a bit lost or buried when we move on to having children. When those little cherubs start going to school, get involved in sports and extra-curriculars, or are just part of every day activities, we soon become Someone’s Mom. “Oh, you must be Suzie’s Mom”, or “Are you the Mom?”… We even begin introducing ourselves that way “Hi, I’m Joey’s Mom –” then, almost as an afterthought, we throw in our name. Which they may promptly forget. So forever after, when calling the school, or inquiring about details on any activities, or making doctors appointments, we are Someone’s Mom. At the gym where my son and I work out, for a long time one of the coaches literally called me Eric’s Mom because he couldn’t remember my name. Those of you who don’t have children, don’t think you are immune to this either! If you have close nieces and nephews, or even pets, you are identified as such. When I’ve called the Vet, or other pet caregivers like the dog walkers, I’ve identified myself as Juke’s Mom, Marjorie. Again, my name seems to be the add-on after-thought.
Beyond our names, our very identities become secondary. Walk into a room with your baby, toddler, or pet, and all attention goes directly to them. We become simply the vessel or mode of transportation and food provider. Yet funny thing, attention goes quickly back to us if the child or pet cries or poops. The majority of our time in our lives becomes devoted to helping that small being. We help them walk, talk, eat, understand life, and nurse them in time of need. It is all about them.
Ironically, as our children grow up, many of us swap our alternative identity for another similar role. We become Caregivers. Be it an elderly parent, grandparent, sibling, or aunt, if you are the primary care taker of that loved one, you become Someone’s Advocate, Someone’s Proxy, Someone’s Emergency Contact, Someone’s “It”. In their world – which is a vast matrix of medical facilities, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and community services — we become known by affiliation. There does come some level of comfort when all of their contacts have gotten to know you – and the nurses and staff of various facilities greet you as if you are Norm on Cheers. But instead of ordering drinks and talking about your day, all conversations are about your loved one. We rely on our previously developed skills, and once again we are helping them walk, talk, eat, understand life, and nurse them in time of need. It is all about them.
Earlier today I was having a phone conversation with a gentleman who works at my brother’s nursing facility, and he told me how much he enjoys his visits and conversations with my brother, and complimented how smart he is. At that moment I had the same feeling any of us get when a teacher, or another adult, says something nice about our child. It gives us a glimpse of how the rest of the world sees them, and what they are like WITHOUT our identity tied to them. It is a feeling of love and pride. It is reassurance that they can be ok when we aren’t with them. And most importantly, it lets us know that whatever we are doing, all those hours we devote to supporting them, the bits of ourselves that we set aside to be their Somebody, are worth it.
Some day we’ll have time to shine as ourselves again. We can go back to our original personae or maybe try out a new one. It will finally be all about us. And you know what? It probably won’t feel right, and we’ll miss introducing ourselves as Someone’s Somebody.