My kids have stolen my identity. I used to be me, individual with a professional life, goals and responsibilities. I had meetings and peer groups, business trips and a staff. But over the course of the last 10 years, my business cards expired, my palm pilot died under a pile of dust, and my Rolodex became a paperweight. And somewhere along the line, I began introducing myself as "Benjamin's mom" and "Jacob's mom."
A couple of years ago, that wasn't so terrible because I was editing a local parenting magazine, so I had a reputation that still trumped my sons'. "Of course I know you! I loved your last editorial!" people would tell me. Ironically, since quitting that job to spend more time with my children, people now know more about my children than they do about me.
Just last week, I walked into a birthday party for a first grader in my son's class and introduced myself. I spoke my own name, and then said, "I'm Benjamin's mom."
"I know," came the response from a woman I'd never met. For a split second, I thought she recognized me from the picture that used to accompany my writing, but she quickly popped that bubble of delusion. "I could tell as soon as I saw you. You look just like Benjamin."
This doesn't often happen with Jacob, who looks more like his dad. But I have had people approach me after hearing my name and ask, "You wouldn't be Jacob's mother, would you?" When I say yes, they proceed to tell me who they are, how they know Jacob and a story about him. It seems a lot of people have Jacob stories.
Sometimes this is a good thing. We all have our "under the radar" days when we just want to blend into the background. And really, when you think about it, parenthood is all about the kids. Ideally, we leave behind the selfishness, the laziness and the bad manners we espoused as young singles and morph into the people we want our children to emulate. Because while having kids is a physical feat, raising them demands a bit more.
I suppose, in looking at the whole picture, that my kids haven't really stolen my identity. They've just rounded it out, improved on it. I'm still the same person, but my job description has changed. The things that used to matter just aren't that important anymore. And truly, my performance reviews are much more enjoyable than they ever were. Granted, they come while someone is brushing their teeth or while I'm in my pajamas, curled up and reading Harold And The Purple Crayon for the umpteenth time. But whenever I hear, "Mom, I love you," spoken spontaneously, I know I'm exactly who and where I'm supposed to be.