Thursday, May 18, 2006

Out of the Box

I look at my life sometimes and can hardly believe the difference between now and the past. Several years ago as I was filling out my new patient paperwork in my doctor's office, I got to the part that asks you to check the box that matches what you do: student, professional, retired, self-employed, other. As I scanned the list of options it struck me for the first time that I didn't have a box.

We moved to Austin when I was 6 months pregnant with our first son, and since we had decided that I would stay home with him, I hadn't gotten a job in Austin. That marked the first time in my adult life that I hadn't had a job and for the first time ever I didn't fit any of those boxes. For a long time when I was single and early in our marriage, I could check off "professional". I checked "student" for an even longer time before that. At that moment I had something of an identity crisis as I looked at the "other" box that I'd settled on and pondered over what to fill in on the line given. I didn't yet have a child, so I wasn't a mother, and the only thing I could say that I did was "housewife". I always wanted to stay home and raise my children, and am immensely grateful that I have that option, but at that moment I felt like I was stuck between worlds with nowhere to belong. The Critter was born and then things got really busy.

When I started this blog back in July of last year, I had to list hobbies on my profile page. After I stopped laughing, I put down what I always had put down: gardening, cooking, photography, outdoor activities. I then took a closer look at that list and picked it apart: I couldn't remember the last time I'd done anything involving something green that actually grew, and cooking was for necessity. The only photographs I took were of my kids.

Kristin Armstrong, ex-wife of Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, recently wrote a piece for Glamour magazine in which she talks about her realization that she had morphed into someone she didn't recognize as a result of throwing herself wholly into her marriage and motherhood. She writes that she felt that she had become someone else, a personality which didn't ring true to the self she had cultivated into young adulthood. She discovered she had sacrificed her own personhood to become Mrs. and Mom. She writes:

Here is the truth as I see it: Marriage has the potential to erode
the very fiber of your identity. If you aren't careful, it can
tempt you to become a "yes woman" for the sake of salvaging
your romantic dream. It can lure you into a pattern of pleasing
that will turn you into someone you'll hardly recognize and
probably won't like. I am warning you because I only wish
someone had warned me.

While I'm certainly no "yes woman", and I'm not romantic in any sense of the word, I do believe that growing up is hard, change of any sort is harder, and living a grown-up life with all that it entails is more difficult than it seemed when I was a teenager. The sheer number of hours and minutes of every day that it takes to complete the tasks of wife, mother, household engineer, chief cook and bottle washer, etc. take more time and way more energy than I ever imagined. And hours just don't grow on trees. The time to do those wholly essential tasks that are joyful on the best days and drudgery on others leaves little room for "the pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation", which is Merriam Webster's definition of hobby. I do not believe I have been untrue to myself or become what Kristin refers to as inauthentic. I do, however, miss the part of my being that engages in hobbies.

And that, my friends, is where I've been: finding that part of my my back garden. Or at least what will someday be my garden. The house we bought when we moved here was used by the previous owners/builders as storage, and as such they saw no reason to do anything at all to the property surrounding the house. Summer before last we sunk all our home improvement budget into a 7K fence. Last year, the landscaping duckets got buried with the new sprinkler system. The boys got a playscape from Santa this Christmas. I can now get started on the fun stuff, but the Texas heat, she is brutal, and the window of opportunity to get those pretty plants established before they are singed by the century mark on the thermometer is short. Couple that with the fact that Lulu is now at the stage where she is on an opposite napping schedule from the boys, which translates as someone awake all day, leaving me with not a smidge of time alone. Thus, the time I'm not either outside or tending to someone's boo boos is being spent on other essential stuff like, say, showering.

My affair with the garden will end, probably sooner than later, as the mercury read 95 at 11 a.m. here in the middle of May, and Lulu will eventually grow into a more manageable schedule. But for today, I will happily check the "other" box, and fill in "gardener" on the line.

And before you ask, no there aren't any pictures of what I've been doing....yet. I 'm no where near coordinated enough to dig in the dirt AND handle a camera at the same time.


Blogger speckledpup said...


how often have I felt exactly the same way.
I've lost the true "pup" in the momhood and wifehood and even the daughterhood.

great post girl.

Maybe you should check Writer.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Wow, this was great. I think you should check writer too.

I often wonder where did I go? Will I be back?

8:20 PM  
Blogger TBG said...

That post was great!

Glad you are trying to work on your hobbies.

Darn that is hot, I dont envy the heat!

10:52 PM  
Blogger Sheri & SuZan said...

Loved this post!

I keep saying that as soon as school is out and I am off for the summer, I'm going to dig into (pardon the pun) our yard and do a little landscaping. My problem too, I hate the heat (and humidity) here in Houston.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Gracie said...

You did a great job expressing your thoughts and feelings! I re-discovered myself (after having been swallowed up by motherhood and marriage) about the age of 34...and have throroughly enjoyed every minute of the exploration since. :) And fully intend to continue!

8:15 AM  
Blogger Lucky Lum said...

You are quite a writer for sure.
And photographer!

What you wrote rings true to so many of us.
I require time for myself, even if just a few hours, so I can reconnect to that person inside me. The one that's not JUST a mom, or housekeeper.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Kami said...

Great post. I wish "they" got it, but they never will. Bummer.

4:35 PM  
Blogger A taste that's bitter said...

Those are some really cool pictures! :)

7:46 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Excellent post! I think it's possible for anyone to lose sight of themselves whether because they are a mom, a wife, or just someone caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. I used to read and draw all the time, not so much anymore. Glad to hear you are reconnecting with yourself. Can't wait until you get some pictures of your gardening...perhaps one with that oh-so-cute dog wreaking havoc? :)

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. » »

5:06 PM  

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