Parents - Who Are You?

A couple of weeks ago I was starting to watch an episode of the original Las Vegas CSI when the show’s theme song ‘Who Are You’ bleared out. It made me think, who are we? This question is especially relevant if you are a parent. Parenthood tends to define who you are. It can set the parameters of your life and define how other people see you. 

This is especially true if you are a mother, sometimes feeling trapped within a narrow definition of what a mother should be. Expectations can be placed on you by family, friends and society in general. For a mother with young children this can be intense. You have stepped away from your old world in which, to some extent, you were the centre of your own universe, into a new one in which your children are now the centre. Conversations with family and friends centre around childcare. Discussions with other mothers in baby and toddler groups or networking at the coffee shop can sometimes feel limiting as it revolves around the thing you have in common, your children.

Children demand attention and time. Parenting can feel like a twenty-four seven existence, leaving some parents to reflect nostalgically back to their previous life where there always seemed to be more time; time to see friends, watch a film, have a meal and spend leisure time with your partner. Parenting can be the best, most fulfilling experience in the world, yet for some it can feel like an all-encompassing overwhelming experience.

Who you were can be lost in this new life of parenthood. Fathers can be lucky, they can be defined not only by fatherhood, but by the job they do. They can leave the family house and step into the world of work. Sometimes this duel identity is denied mothers, when they do work they are defined as a working mother, with expectations of having to achieve in both worlds. Interestingly, the term ‘working father’ is rarely, if ever, used.

The end of the year is a time of reflection and it seems a good time to ask yourself, who you are. It is also a time for looking forward and planning. Here is a small exercise to do. Just divide a sheet of paper into three columns. Title the first column, ‘Who I was’, the second ‘Who I am now’ and the third ‘Who I will be’.  Fill out the first column with who you were, including any elements that you feel you might have lost or left behind. In the second column, put down everything about you at this present time, the good, the bad and the interesting. In the final column, note down a list of all the positive elements from the previous two columns you feel that define you.

Now look at this final list. It has elements of your old and new lives combined, a reflection of the different aspects of you. It contains experiences and learnings from the past can be useful in the present and can help you in move forward in the future. Ask yourself if this list could identify what you might want to become. For example, a love of gardening that you had in your old life can be reignited to build a garden with your children in the future. Old work skills that might have remained dormant for a few years can be reawakened and time can be found to study and refresh your skill base. Think about what is practical in this final list and take two or three elements that you feel are essential to you and state them as your New Year’s Resolution goals. This could be the year in which you cast off the old labels that have been defining you and start to define your new self.

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