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Thoughtful Thursday: Identity Crisis

We all know them – are them – have been them…the parents who post pictures of their children non-stop.  Here is an excerpt from one mama’s admission and explanation (emphasis mine):

 I share my pictures because, like every mother on the planet, I think my kids are adorable (no, but really mine *are* adorable). I share because, as pathetic as this sounds, the attention is validation of sorts. I can’t get A’s anymore — and forget about being recognized for my achievements (like getting my son to pee before leaving the house — why is this so hard?!) So what do I have? “Likes” and comments about how cute my kids are.

I share because my pictures tell stories about our daily lives and our adventures. I share because my pictures create a dialogue with other people.

And perhaps the biggest answer is that I share pictures of my kids because spending time with them is what I’m doing with my life.

Written by Jen Simon for Kveller.com – excerpt from The HuffPostBlog

While it’s a lovely and honest explanation for her behavior, I implore parents to remember who they are at their core. We owe it to ourselves, first and foremost, to preserve that identity so that we can care for others from a healthy place.

Whether you work at home or away from home, do you know who you are?  Do you know what your core values are?  Are you living them, and would your children (or anyone else) be able to name them based on your actions?

I invite all parents, whether you are at home or away during the day, to shake things up.  Who are you?  And then be honest: if you are living for your job or your children, think about changing that.  It has been my experience that remembering our “core” selves keeps us from making decisions that are harmful to our psyche.  Choices that are aligned with our values keep us from sabotaging our lives.  From here on out, I am going to continue with children as the main focus…feel free to replace that word with whatever is your major focus right now if it is not your child(ren).

Burying our value under or behind our children is at the very least, stifling, and it may only get more oppressive as time passes.  We submerge ourselves underneath our children.  We pretend that life is perfect.  We forget who we are as we talk ourselves into the idea that “this” is what we are doing with our lives.  What if “this” turns into living with regret, guilt, dwelling on lost opportunities?  These emotions may manifest themselves later, in emotions such as anger (rage), depression and other disorders.  Those things do not benefit us, or our children.  And so begins the crack in the dyke.  Unchecked, the tide of destructive behaviors ends up hurting the sweet little children we use as tools for validation from our peers.

HERE is honesty from a woman named Isabelle who was not true to herself.  This mom who “gave it all up” shares her legacy: she is not happy about her choice, and you hear regret about her life.  How many other parents feel that way?  I bet we can all think of someone.  What it is like to hear that raising children was not worthwhile, and that the lost time can’t be replaced?  They are loved, albeit in an interesting way, that is for sure.

I admire Isabelle’s commitment to raise the children she agreed to bring into the world.  She saw her role as personally giving them the best start.  That is a noble commitment, to parent out of a moral obligation to do well by them.  In addition to that, I strive to parent our children with love and respect.

As part of parenting them with love and respect, I want to honor them as their own people, separate from me.  I saw myself turning into “that” mom who over-shared.  I made a conscious choice that I had to have an identity outside of my children because I have worth apart from them, and they have worth apart from me.

While I treasure the time with our children, I have come to realize that spending time with them is not what I am doing with my life.  I am living to nurture children who can become compassionate, creative, critical thinkers.  My commitment is to create a learning environment for them, not being validated by them. My life is also fostering a setting that inspires me to be better, do more and grow so that I can be the best parent I can be for my children.  I want to meet them where they are.  I can only see with clarity if my own lens  isn’t being smudged or filtered with buried regrets or resentments of all the things I am not doing because I “have to” take care of them.

I would like to think that those of us who parent with good intentions want their children to be happy and successful.  For myself I wonder, how do I teach them to create their own happiness, value themselves, their autonomy, and their personhood if mine is non-existent?  I propose that we need to actually be happy, not just pretend to be happy in cropped and filtered social media snapshots of “perfection” that garner “likes”.

I encourage parents who find their identity and seek validation from their adorable children to take a minute to reflect.  Why is that important to you?  Can we find *you* on your social media, or just your children?  Aren’t you worth remembering?  Are you doing something to be proud of outside of your children?  If not, consider digging around to find out where you went.  If you want your children to be strong and independent, show them how to be autonomous.  If you want them growing up with a healthy respect for humanity, show them a human worth respecting for their individual value.

It is possible to be a good parent without losing yourself in your child.  It is possible to have social media accounts that are not covered with pictures of your child.  If you have an extended family stretched around the world, maybe you could consider a “secret” group (facebook) or a private blog or webpage that is password restricted.  That way you can keep a private online record for family to follow without compromising your child’s right to create their own persona.

Beyond that, you are worth it.  You deserve to find your passion and live life to the fullest, with children that make the living even more enjoyable because you have wonderful souls to share and journey with as you live.

A little postscript from the woman who decided to run a contest to increase submissions for wordless wednesday…feeling slightly hypocritical…still, food for thought:

I want my children to learn that they have a voice, and I want them to have the freedom to create their own identity.  I came to the realization that if I post pictures of them from the time they are born until the time when they are no longer living under our roof, I have created their public persona.

We are starting to hear that schools and employers ask for access to a potential employee’s social media accounts.  We know that technology can identify faces electronically.  That means that in the future, anyone can form an opinion about them based on my portrayal of their person.  That frightens me, and it is also sobering.  They deserve to define themselves.  It is their right, not mine.

Personally, I make every effort to only post pictures that are in side or back profile.  If there is one especially amazing photo that shows their full face, I ask permission before sharing.  And if they say, “NO!” or “no”, then I do not post them.  I have recently taken that position with the #wordlesswednesday submissions – if multiple photos are submitted, I will choose the images that demonstrate the theme and reveal the minimal amount of the child’s identity.  It will certainly make me think twice about the themes I choose going forward.  While I believe that images help normalize attachment parenting, the tricky part is that breastfeeding and AP necessarily involve a minor.  Hmmm.

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