I used to teach second grade. In our first writing unit of the year, we worked hard to get the students excited about writing and about their identities as writers. One of the exercises we did was called “What kind of a writer are you?” The students filled in the blanks to the prompt, “I’m the kind of writer who…” with things like, “…likes to write on pretty paper," "writes outside," "takes my notebook everywhere,” or “writes about my pets.” It was a pretty contrived exercise given that they didn’t really write outside of the daily 50-minute writing block (and even that time was mostly spent falling out of their chairs and chucking crayons at one another), but I enjoyed the sweet sentiment of them thinking about their identities in this new and exciting role.
I was reminded of this exercise because of the question that has been rolling around in my head for almost a year now: What kind of a mom am I? It started with basic questions about feeding the baby, types of diapers, sleeping arrangements. But the questions grow larger and seem to have more weight as time goes on: Am I a working mom? A stay-at-home mom? How do the baby and I spend our days? What do I do in my free time? Where will we raise our family?
I’m having a hard time filling in the blanks.
I went to a yoga nidra class the other day, which I like to describe as a yogic nap. We were led through a visualization where, with each full breath cycle we imagined that we were shedding one later at a time—a layer of stress, a layer of worry, a layer of patterns that no longer served us. After class I began to think about the layers that I have shed this year—the pieces of my identity from before Theo was born. The teaching life. The social life. The family of two. I gained new layers quickly: the new responsibilities, the changing family dynamic, the new career path. My sense of identity hasn't yet caught up.
I took a walk in the warm Colorado sunshine yesterday. I was trying to fill in the blanks again and then this simple message came to me—“Be gentle with yourself.” And the thinking parts of myself came to a halt and I just allowed myself to be in a space of not knowing.
As it turns out, the exercise of trying to say what kind of a mom you are—what kind of a person you are—is just as contrived now as it was for those little 8-year olds who were just trying to stay upright in their chairs.