As a woman, I wear several costumes every second of the day. There’s the wife uniform, the mother outfit, the student garb, the writer, the foodie, the friend, the sister-daughter-family member, the cook, the doctor, and the list goes on and on. Being a semi-accomplished woman means I’ve also got some killer shoes to fill. Since I’ve never been too excited about fashion, all this dress-up makes me dizzy.
The challenge, lately, is trying to decode exactly who I am when I am not acting as the wife of an active duty United States Marine, when I am not mothering my teenage sons (which surprisingly they want less and less of), and when I am not responsible for anyone else’s happiness but my own.
Wow. My own happiness. Am I even allowed to say that?
Well, I just did.
I often think about who I will be in ten years, and if that woman will feel like this woman had her back. I hope future-me is really happy with herself. All of it: the fleshy folds, the graying hair, the not-so-fine lines that took place of the current crinkles.
I worry that maybe I am not honoring future-me the way I should, and maybe she will be pissed at me for not slowing down and smelling the melons. (Roses are so cliché.)
And just when I reach the peak of high-hoping, I get hit with a massive smack of mommy-wife-guilt. I see the hours of writing, reading, classes, food-discovery, and realize I’ve been doing things now that make me happy without my family. I’ve denied them large chunks of my time due to my higher aspirations.
What a bad woman I am. Bad woman! Bad!
So of course I start reprioritizing everything. Maybe if I slack a bit in the studies and put off a deadline, I can spend more time with the kids. Or even if I am exhausted from pulling a twelve hour day at school, and want to collapse in a heap on the bed, I can give my husband a back massage to thank him for picking up my slack twice a week and sometimes more. I’m saddled with guilt and yet nearly jumping out of my skin for the chance to be the future me I can see so clearly.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m selfish or if this is the plight of every woman who wants to be more than a wife and a mother. As a woman am I allowed to work towards another identity, one that doesn’t involve anyone but me? Then I wonder why this is even a question. I don’t know what it means to be a man, but I don’t often read articles where they are defending their right to have a career while being fathers and husbands.
I guess I don’t have it all worked out in my head – but I hope that my family knows how dear they are to me. I hope I’ve shown them that even when I am working on future-me, they are an integral part of my existence.
Without them, who would I complain about?