We all identify with a label. Sometimes it’s based on our jobs (activist, student, designer, analyst), our social status (single, yuppie, engaged, immigrant), our hobbies (runner, singer, knitter, chef) or a random combination. Expectations for ourselves and others tend to stem from these labels we adhere to.
While I labeled myself as a musician, writer, student and teacher over the last 13 years, the one label that stuck throughout was mom. I had my first son the summer after I graduated from high school and submitted myself to the label of teen mom and single mom and student mom and boy mom and a whole host of other labels with -mom stuck on the end. Being a mother, especially at such a young age, defined my life.
Being a writer has also been a long part of my history, so when I came back to it after a mini-sabbatical post-grad school, I immediately identified with the mommy bloggers out there. The mommy blogger occupies an important region of the blogosphere, giving hope to the sleepless and understanding to the confused, and because I had been a mother my entire adult life, I figured my natural spot was among the throng of over-caffeinated, over-essential-oiled, over-tired and under-showered mothers out there. I say this without an ounce of judgment because I am that mom. I’m the woman smelling of peppermint and a calming-blend grabbing a coffee at 10 a.m. with wild hair, no makeup and a few kids hanging on her legs.
So I dove into mommy blogger world. I wrote what I was learning about myself in motherhood. I wrote about schedules. I wrote quirky things my kids said. I had notes and an online journal where I recorded daily life.
Very quickly down the road of mommy writing, I hit a roadblock.
I ran out of things to say and found myself aggravated instead of passionate about motherhood. I realized I would literally go crazy if I kept on and found myself shocked mommy blogging wasn’t for me. I was the perfect candidate, having experienced many stages in the motherhood experience, but instead of being excited, I was discouraged.
I realized I needed writing to be an outlet for my voice and not only the voice of myself as mom. I realized the labels I ascribed to set boundaries to places I wouldn’t go in my writing.
Finding my voice meant expanding my horizons beyond current circumstances. Finding my voice meant searching for what made me passionate, heartbroken and bursting with ambition. Finding my voice meant allowing myself to give up current expectations.
My three boys are part of my passion but not the entirety of it. When I labeled myself under one particular role, I found my life reflecting the same mantra. I couldn’t relate to corporate women. I couldn’t relate to moms of girls. I was stuck inside the role I’d given myself.
I was stuck inside the role I’d given myself.
But once I threw out the labels, I found myself interested in much more. I found myself pursuing life outside of the walls of my home, interacting with other people and relating to the type of woman I’d always avoided, you know, the one who seems to have it all together.
While I was initially shocked by my discovery, once I thought about how we relate to others around us, it made sense. When we label friends, coworkers and strangers based on their job, heritage or even clothing, we set boundaries and expectations on them. But those people are not a label, a shallow shadow of what someone is and not the true, deep soul of the person.
When I started writing again under the presupposition I’d be a mommy blogger, I was really trying to figure myself out. Instead of assuming what I’d write, it should have been a time to explore and discover my voice. I still write about my kids — in poetry, journaling, desperate prayers — but they are not all I am.
I’m thankful for the mommy blogger, the fashion blogger, the food blogger, the current events blogger and the activist blogger, among others. I’m thankful people cultivate successful niche blogs for everyone to read. But for me, for now, I’m celebrating the ability to relate to multiple audiences, exploring myself through writing and giving up expectations of myself and others to fulfill the labels we wear.
Where do you find your writing voice?
Images via Brianna Vail