After my children were born, I spent a great deal of time feeling that I didn’t belong. I had certainly felt that way before, but in my youth this pang of lonesomeness was accompanied by a side car of ego leading me to suspect my difficulty fitting in was due to being somehow special; a passenger I lost somewhere along the way, leaving me unsure what it is that would even allow me to feel a sense of belonging.
The more I unpacked my definition of belonging, the more I found it inextricably attached to identity, more than just familiarity. In the town in which I live, there is a real effort to create a sense of place. In a town, there is a balance to be struck between its history, and developing character, and I suppose the same is true for people as well.
For me, becoming a mother created a disruption between my history, and my developing character. I found myself living in a no-man’s-land of self, and it caused me great depression, and anxiety. This little island of personae-interruptus is not at all uncommon, and in my estimation, one of the greatest contributors to Mommy Martyrdom; if all I am is a mom, than I am going to be the most selfless mom in all the land, even if it is killing me (and it likely is).
It all started once I became visibly pregnant. I noticed a large percentage of my conversations centered on pregnancy, birth, and babies. Once the baby came earth side, conversations about anything else were few and far between. Suddenly, my history had no outlet. There was an abrupt schism that occurred between my pre-baby self, and post baby self, and I was expected to now formulate all life things through the lens of being a mom; an expectation with which I wasn’t comfortable.
So, in an effort to get comfortable, I thought I’d better figure out how to be all mom, all the time, and thought I should get some mom friends. I had experienced a lot of isolation from infrequent adult interaction, so it was nice. But, I didn’t belong. I liked the familiarity. I liked most of the interactions. But, I didn’t belong, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault. How can you belong any place, when you don’t know who you are?
For me, that was the root of the problem. Obviously having children evolved me, but it hadn’t changed me. I was frustrated that others were forcing me to define myself from motherhood on, so I was clinging to the “me” from pre-motherhood. Both options meant I was missing out on the reality of who I had become, which was both. But, the realization doesn’t solve the problem, so I have put in a tremendous amount of time and energy making sure that I remain heard as a human being, and not just a life bringing vessel.
The more comfortable I am with me, the more confident and comfortable I am as a mom, and the less I seek validation and support from others, which, wouldn’t you know it, makes it easier to belong. I have relinquished (actually, vanished to the fiery hell where socially constructed mom myths live) the idea that I exist on this planet solely to serve others, and am able to find so much more joy in my interactions than ever before. I also feel much more empowered to walk away from relationships that aren’t working for me, because I no longer feel a desperate sense of isolation when alone with myself; a sense of belonging which brings me great peace.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you a sense of peace, and belonging,