Things have been a bit rough in the not so organised household of late. B lost his job a while back, so we lost our main income. However, the good news was that his job loss occurred the day after I started a casual contract at my old work helping to update and redo position descriptions in line with state government policy. As the project needs to be finished ASAP I’m now doing close to full time hours while B stays home and looks after Chublet.
This rather sudden change in status from full time SAHM, to working almost 30 hours a week has given me a bit of a jolt, and as a result I’ve been mulling over how my sense of identity has changed since becoming a mother.
Identity and how we construct a personal narrative around our sense of identity has been something that has fascinated me professionally for a while. One of the texts I regularly referred to in my former job was a book all about how people’s sense of identity influenced their leisure time choices and how as an arts organisation you could attract different audiences. (That’s a very basic summary, if you’re interested Nina Simon did a fabulous review of Falk’s text here)
Being back at work, albeit in a very different role, and having the daily commute where I have time and space to have a good debate with myself (all in my head of course), has meant that I’ve reflected quite a lot on the difference between being part of the corporate mob, and being a Mum. One of the main things I’ve noticed is how people do (or don’t) connect with you, and how much I’m missing having a small person by my side who almost forces others to stop and say hello, and who forces me to go a bit slower and smile at people as we make eye contact.
In my daily commute I arrive in the city by bus, charge up a major pedestrian thoroughfare, side stepping my way around and through the 1000s of other office workers making a similar journey and don’t speak to anyone until I arrive at the office, close to an hour after leaving home. I rarely make eye contact with others on the same journey, and if we do speak it is nothing more than a quick apology for a socially awkward situation. Each person is focused on their final destination. There is nothing that singles me out from anyone else on that commute, nothing to signal a shared experience, nothing to suggest that my identity is anything other than yet another corporate worker.
On the reverse, days spent with Chublet give me a very clear identity that is vastly different from the commute and my interactions there. Chublet is a highly sociable little girl who’s current favourite word is ‘Hello’. Our trips to shopping centres, parks and local walks are punctuated by a chubby hand waving at anyone who looks at us and a little voice piping up with a mispronounced ‘hello’. Many people pause and say hello back, others smile and wave as they walk past, and a few stop and chat to her and me, remarking on how happy she is. Here I have such a strong identity, I am a Mother, and so many other parents, old and young, pause to share the experiences of that identity. A wry smile, a wave and a chuckle, a short conversation or a helping hand – this identity is far more social than my work one, and one that now feels closer to me.
In many ways, on my work days I miss the sociability of my Mother identity. The anonminity can be a blessing, but I am a highly sociable soul. My choice of work is one that allows me to engage with visitors, to provide opportunities for people to be sociable and enjoy themselves, and to be part of the social setting. Being in an office all day, keeping to my own space during the commute, having little connection with those around me leaves me feeling like i’m missing a part of me. The way that Chublet barges through social barriers, in her typical toddler fashion, makes the small-town, sociable side of my identity sing for joy. She forces me and others to be just that little bit more open, to converse with strangers and to share our experiences, and I like it.