Recently I met a friend for coffee and after we had checked in with all the general news in our lives, she shared with me that her husband had asked her a question that stumped her; who are you outside of our little family?
She told me that her first inclination was to be afraid that he was suggesting they should somehow change their family dynamic. When he assured her this was not the case, she said she got defensive! I’m your wife, I’m the Mom, I’m the one who holds our world together!
It’s interesting that my friend’s spouse was trying to get to know his mate better (something she would definitely say she wanted to happen), but she had two negative immediate reactions to the question. The truth is that often women get lost in the frantic circus that is family life, and it can be difficult to separate out the woman from the role she holds.
My friend didn’t have an answer for her guy. We talked for a while about some ideas, but she didn’t seem convinced. Women often forget the importance of being an actual person, for their own mental health and happiness, and to model to their families. Chances are that you are someone, or love someone who would also have difficulty defining themselves outside of the nuclear family. If you suspect this is true, you could ask your children for some information about their Mom; ask what she loves to do, what her favorite song/flower/food/sport is, ask what she wanted to be when she was a child and ask them where in the world she would go for a vacation if money were no object. You will probably get a clear picture of how Mom is seen from these answers.
There is good news here, no matter how old you are, you can choose to transform into a real person right before your family’s eyes. I told my friend to create a Bucket List Book for herself. In this book, she needs to devote one full page to each item she wants to place on her bucket list. She can write the item across a page and then leave room for pictures, tickets and descriptions for after she crosses that item off her list. The most important step comes after the book is created – she then shares it with her family. The act of telling the others about her list does several things; it causes her to think back to her dreams earlier in life and remember what she wanted to do, it pulls the family in to help her achieve the bucket list, and most importantly it causes everyone to see Mom as an actual person with dreams and desires.
Of course the kids can make their own books, but this list is just for Mom. The family can be a part of some items on the list, but this bucket is all hers. Imagine the fun of a family working together to help support the very person that has supported them the most. My coffee friend assured me that she would make a Bucket List book, and I have no doubt because she loves crafts. I can’t wait to hear how her family watches as she starts to answer the question, who are you?
I am wondering if you have ever done something like this, deciding that you want to be known for more than your care taking skills? Did you go back to school or go for your dream job or take up an unlikely hobby? Women need ideas and (sometimes) permission, so anything you can share could be helpful to others. I went to graduate school at the age of 41, and started a blog at 45. How about you?