Have you ever found yourself in an identity crisis?
I had been bitterly putting the finishing touches on a lovely dinner when my husband came home from his relaxing day. Our house was in that rare cleanish form, our kids had enjoyed a great time at the pool, and had generally been well loved that day.
Everyone was happy, but me.
When I began to explain to my husband how I really felt, I opened our conversation trickling jealously–he could be free from this little 1300 square feet or so of space! He could have time away from the blessed little monsters that dwell within it–all the children, my soul, and the strangely shaking unpacked boxes. But soon my trickle became more of a waterfall as I moved onto what was really bothering me–a horrified acknowledgement that within that work week I had not talked to another human being outside my immediate family for more than a couple minutes.
(In full disclosure, I had seen someone at the beginning of the week, so it had actually only been four and a half days without adult interaction, not the whole five. And there was also the exception of one very negative ten minute conversation with another mom over a misunderstanding with our children. Because that made it so. much. better.)
What is a homemaker (even if just to me)
In my view of the world, I had finally fell off the “cliff” into homemaking–something I swore I would never do. Heck, I even vacuumed. Only real housewives do that!
If we all answered the question, “What is a homemaker?” we’d probably get a slue of different answers–I’m sure even between my husband and I alone we’d have a discrepancy in our definitions. But all of us probably agree that being a homemaker revolves around taking care of the household business while making sure everything with the kids is in order. Considering, if that was the “cliff” of homemaking I was talking about, I fell off that one on the day I found myself shivering in a hospital bed, holding a baby girl crying because she was so beautiful (and I was so tired. And hormonal. And hungry. And labor hurt like H-E-double-L).
But there are versions of homemaking to choose from, with different beliefs, opinions on excellence, and stereotypes attached. For one, there is the more traditional homemaker, embracing elements such as cleaning, cooking, maybe even crafting, raising their children well, possibly homeschooling, being mostly only with their family, not working other jobs or projects, and maybe being at their actual house over a whooping 50% of the time!
Now don’t get me wrong, I have good friends who live their lives encompassing all the above, investing almost all of their energy into their family and home. Their households seemingly thrive. Notably, most of them are introverts. If in that environment they can be their true-selves and are satisfied, I surely don’t fault them for all this domesticity. I’m thrilled they can love their family so well and feel so alive in that all-encompassing role.
Then there are other homemakers who might still live out that classic definition but who didn’t exactly choose homemaking as their main “career path,” and life-effort, or maybe they are just very lonely, or/and struggle with their value when labelled as only a homemaker.
What Type of Homemaker Am I, Fully Alive?
The truth is, I didn’t and don’t ever want to be either of the above types of homemakers, although I have been the struggling one for many years. But neither the traditional homemaker nor the “must-be” homemaker produce the best version of me. First, as a natural extrovert, I didn’t think I could ever go a whole week without friends, let alone most of two months. I just can’t only be with my kids, paperwork, meal prep and housework–isn’t me, so it shouldn’t be surprising or offensive that inward-focused and domestically inclined homemaking isn’t my cup of tea (although I do enjoy making tea for guests).
Being a stay-at-home mom might bring me life, but in the context of living with and serving a broad community with my gifts. Spending time with people and working on world-changing projects outside my home (learn more about the later here) are part of what makes me fully alive. And I think deviating from conventional homemaking to be able to do that is just fine.
Not surprisingly, just like the conventional stay-at-home-mom, I love my family blooming with all of the roses in the garden, with all of the sweet and freshly-cut grass coming out of their pores. But because of my involvement outside the home with people and projects–even when investing in my kids is still my priority–somethings have got to go. I don’t always cook, clean, or, well, vacuum. I ain’t no FlyLady.
Choosing To Get My Household in Order
Still, my current goals these days are rather domestic. I am intentionally sifting through our internal affairs, including organizing how I manage our household, becoming a more present and loving parent, being less hindered by stuff, stress, and commitments, while working through many of my past weaknesses. When I begin to look outward again, I hope to do so as a healthier individual in a healthier family. In advance I dedicated this season of transition to act the more traditional homemaker in order to achieve these goals.
Still Freaking Out About Being Simply a Mom In This Season
Despite this being my expectation, my horror wasn’t reduced when realizing that I have become simply a homemaker, and a lonely homemaker at that. I am now all the moms out there I have worked so hard to love over the years, the ones with no friends or life outside the home (for good or bad).
After two months, I am still eons in time, Grand Canyons in height, and monkeys in space from becoming the household manager and mommy I want to be. In fact, it seems to me the only aspects of classic homemaking I’ve acquired are being at home a lot more and away from adult friends a lot more!
And here is a shocker–sometimes I even want this alone, at-home-ness! To my surprise, sometimes I even like it! I’ve needed a season of rest badly, so I am sure this plays a huge part. Maybe I’m also manifesting the stress of finding the time and energy to embrace my potential to-be-discovered community. (Because that is so easy.)
Regardless, I found myself prepping a perfect dinner one night comprehending that I. Am. She.
If you just recently started following Average Advocate, identity crises (here’s another example of one) concerning job titles, labels, and unpaid home management are not new for me, but rather, something I’ve been working through for years. Eight years, to be exact. (Happy birthday, Avi!)
And every time I go through this type of identity crisis, I tend to be emotionally thrown for a bit. In this case, it seemed I rapidly underwent the four stages of grief:
Denial: “I could never be that. No–I am NOT that! Stop thinking about it! Plugging ears now . . . Oh wait, plugging ears won’t stop brain’s spaghetti-thoughts. Replace with more distractions and noise–La La La La–kids, sing with me!”
Depression: “Sniff–I. Don’t. Have. Friends. Sniff. I. Don’t. Have. Anything but children’s schools to–Sniff–discuss with people. Sniff. Where is the old vivacious, culturally aware and globally informed me? Surely not gone for good? Sniff. Sniffle.“
Anger: “It is all your fault, husband, that I AM HERE IN THIS SITUATION! God, you too! It is your fault too! It is everyone’s freaking fault I got knocked-up three times, and have the most amazing, beautiful children and a wonderful safe life near a beach with clean water and an abundance of food, so much so that I can afford to not have to work three jobs and parent three kids all at the same time! WORLD, I hate you! You are out to get me because I have the freaking awesome opportunity to be a stupid HOMEMAKER!”
Acceptance: “I guess I am simply a stay-at-home-mom. And that is okay.”
It’s All Transcendence, Love
While still in my stages of grieving, I heard a gentle voice, as if someone brushing my hair from my face, kindly telling me, “It is okay, it’s okay. You are nothing, nothing anyway.”
Yes, I know, that this probably sounds like a horrible thing to hear! If you are a Pentecostal, you might be swearing under your breath, “get behind her, Satan!” If you are a counselor you might make me an appointment to bolster my self-esteem, and if you are a Scientologist you might be saying . . . well, I don’t know what you would be saying (but if you are a Scientologist, feel free to let me know).
But I didn’t hear anything evil or demeaning.
What I heard was “Transcendence.”
Seasons Come And Go
Once upon a time I was taught that life happens in seasons, an invaluable piece of wisdom that has drastically sustained me over the years. This wisdom has taught me that is okay to embrace the good in all times or in activities I am not sure I like, because seasons aren’t forever. Most things come-and-go for specific times in the life you live, so when they come, live them well.
I have been trying to suck the marrow out of motherhood in this season, only to find I was also defining myself by this season.
But Gentle Voice told me that I am not defined by this season, but rather, that who I am transcends all of my life’s seasons together because I am not doing them on my own anyway. You see, a long time ago I surrendered to the fact that I didn’t want to live life alone, but in community with God and mankind. I am not my own god, nor do I fill myself; I am not strong on my own. My only strength comes from having been shaped and poured into by LIFE ITSELF.
I am nothing; that makes me strong.
I am beyond this season; my identity transcends this time period of my life.
I don’t have to prove my worth to anyone. My identity is in the Live-Giver.
In that moment, Gentle Voice humbled me so deeply. I was filled with such intense gratitude that I am part of something so much bigger than just myself and this season of life. Sometimes I need what I consider God-inspired truth to penetrate my busy (vacuuming) facade.
What is your own need?
Now I know that some crisis of identity might follow you too. It might be in your home, in your job, in your organization, or in your advocacy work. You might be working overtime to prove yourself. Or maybe you find yourself depressed because you aren’t actually doing what you want, or being who you wanted others to see you as.
Wherever you define yourself in this season, that place might just be where you need to be reminded of who you really are–simply, that you are nothing–so that you can be empty enough to welcome all of the Truth. Because you transcend this season of where you find your value. Who you are is just so much bigger than this single moment or job. And if you want to stop striving to be accepted by yourself and others, this is the identity that you’ll want to embrace.
I have no clue if “It’s okay; you are nothing anyway” can encapsulate such a particularly lovely meaning to you as it did to me. I kinda doubt it, as Gentle Voice knew what I needed to hear and when I needed to hear it; possibly it was a message exclusively for me. Besides, the whole premise on which my understanding is based might have no bearing for you, especially if the concept of a personal void and the loving force of God are of no use to you. And if so, I am sorry, because I think you’re probably missing out.
But if you, like me, are needy and empty, whether in the position of a renown psychiatrist, wandering deviant, professional burger-flipper, on staff as an activist or the lab’s chemist–or maybe you are simply a conventional homemaker–I hope that you too can hear who you are.
So on the off chance that Gentle Voice was whispering to you too, I’ll pass it along: it is okay, you are nothing, anyway. You, with me–Life itself–transcend this time and season.
“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 2:9
If this has meant something to you, please consider sharing the below image on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever your vice is, in case it encourages someone in your community as well! Thanks!