Social media is a great platform for so many things. One of which is a gauge that can be used to measure yourself in various areas. I can look back into posts and pictures at over the past few years and really get a feeling for who I was and how I was thinking at different stages in my life. Some of it funny, some sad, a lot of it outright embarrassing. Oh well. The point is that I get to look at my content almost like data. Something hit me right around the time Olivia turned 1 year old. Since she was born, all my “data” or social media posts were centered around her. Not unusual for a first time parent. However, then I looked at other moms on Facebook and noticed a similar trend. All of our posts were only about our babies and children, all our profile pictures were pictures of our kids, and all our interaction seemed to be highest when we were sharing the most difficult and grotesque challenges of parenthood. The profile picture is what struck me the most and is perhaps the factor that opened my eyes.
“Mom” is not my identity. I am more than just a mom.
We all know there’s A LOT that goes into that “just” in the former statement. Mountains of challenges and mountains of wonderful things are bound up in being able to call myself a mom. It’s the most beautiful blessing in life and its rewards are beyond compare. Becoming a mother is better than anything I could have imagined. Even after reflecting on all that, it didn’t change the fact that my core identity, who I really am, has nothing to do with being a parent.
I really thought about it and asked myself a lot of questions. You know, the normal thing you do when you’re up in the middle of the night with your baby. At the end of my inward journey on this topic I came to a few resolutions:
My identity isn’t mom
Being a mom is something that contributes to my life and to the person I am becoming, but it isn’t the cornerstone upon which my identity is built. If it were, I would have been born a mom. In the same way, being a wife isn’t my identity. On social media it’s like waves of related content in periods of life: the boyfriend phase, engagement, wedding, newlyweds, pregnancy, baby, toddler, and so on. All content is filled with these themes of life. That’s fine and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I do see that when we begin to get more “attention” on our content, that begins to tie into how we see ourself, how we notice we are perceived and valued by society, and how that begins to influence our perception of self worth.
My life cannot be centered on my children or husband or anyone else
If I think that my life and identity depend on my children then what happens when they grow up and leave? It isn’t so difficult to imagine that life goes this way: happily married to your spouse and totally in love when baby #1 comes along; becoming a parent is a major life change, but is also fulfilling and brings a lot of joy; with the joy comes a natural distance between you and your spouse due to the fact that your child needs you first and foremost; most of your time that was previously directed towards your spouse is now redirected to your child; unless that time is purposefully and intentionally made up for, you and your spouse unknowingly lose your closeness; this chasm increases with child #2 and #3 and so on until the day when your children begin leaving the home; at this point when you have no more parental responsibilities, you become lost and confused trying desperately to control whatever you can that will substitute parenting; you begin to think, “what is my purpose, anyway?” and you realize at the end of it that you are alone with a companion who you have to relearn how to be together because all these years you’ve just been coworkers in the game of life. It’s not so hypothetical either. I’ve seen this happen in families. I got my own first taste of it when Luka took Olivia for the first time on an event so I could mingle and have an uninterrupted conversation. What happened? I was hopelessly lost. It was like in a few short months my brain had completely forgotten how to function without a baby in my arms. That feeling of being mentally adrift really made a lasting impression. Since then, Luka and I try really hard to communicate when we’re feeling distant from each other and discuss how to fix it.
I have to know who I am and be that person to be the best for my family
In order to be the best person I can be, I need to know who I am and live my life according to that first and foremost. My social media game should reflect that too. I must be who I am with or without a husband, a child, etc. Does it sound selfish? Partly, yes. As mothers we have to be unselfish because a tiny person depends on us for everything and yet, in order to keep our sanity, at times we need to be a little selfish. Luka and I made promises to each other as part of our vows: I’ll take care of me for you and you take care of you for me. More than ever, now I know that if I want to be the best mom for Olivia, I have to take care of myself. Mariah who wakes up early, has her tea and shake, does her reading, meditates, does her personal development in quiet, has meaningful conversation with Luka before he leaves for work, and the Mariah who wakes up because Olivia just woke up are two totally different people. Of course, when Olivia was a newborn, solely breastfeeding, and totally dependent on me I wasn’t able to take much time for myself, but it’s surprising how just an hour of being totally free of “being needed” can be completely refreshing. Being centered on who I am will make me a better wife and a better mother and a better person for the rest of the world.
My profile picture from now on will be me and me only
This isn’t Olivia’s Facebook page. This isn’t Luka’s Facebook page. This isn’t a joint account Facebook page. This is my Facebook page. It should be about me, mainly, and my life. Of course, my family falls into that, but all my content shouldn’t be centered on Olivia (even though she’s much cuter than me and gets more attention). This is my account and my way of staying in contact with my family and friends and reaching out to the world to create new friends. This is my story. When I see other moms’ pages that are full of pictures of their kids, I miss the mom. It sounds weird, but I’m friends with you, not your kids. I love your kids and I really love seeing them on my feed, but how are you and what’s going on in your life? I think it’s one of the best things about social media: even though I live 6,000 miles from where I grew up, I can still see my childhood friends’ kids and feel like somehow I am connected to them. That is priceless.
If you fall into this mom category then all I want you to know is that you are amazing, you are interesting even without your kids, you are worthy, you are wonderful, you are incredible, you are a mom, but that’s not all you are.