This past Friday was declared the 2nd Annual You Day at the school where I work. On this day, students and faculty are asked to bring in props and dress in clothing that represents who they are, then have their picture taken for the yearbook. Last year, for the inaugural You Day, I was totally game. I strapped on a Baby Bjorn, stuck a baby doll in the front, and with a shrug showcased a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in one hand and a copy of A Tale of Two Cities in the other. There I was: a disheveled but happy mom making things work with the consumption of caffeine and even making time to cultivate my love of literature.
This year, the task of choosing how to stage my picture was much more difficult. I haven’t changed in any major way since this time last year, and as a chronic over-thinker I couldn’t bring myself to just replicate what I did the first time around. I racked my brain: What are my hobbies and interests? What do I do for fun? To relax?
Here’s what I came up with: Well, I used to write. I blog maybe once every few months. Does that still count? But do I want to have to explain to students what type of writing I do? What if they Google me? Ok, so, other hobbies… I used to be pretty into yoga. I haven’t been to a class in over four months, but once in a while I set my alarm fifteen minutes early and sit on my mat to stretch. Sometimes, when both of my kids are screaming, I take deep cleansing breaths to keep myself from joining in. Yoga is totally one of my hobbies. What else? I really love wine, but as a pregnant lady that might send the wrong message. Oh, and obviously they’re not going to publish a picture of me pretend-guzzling a bottle of Old Vine Zin next to pictures of twelve and thirteen-year-olds brandishing Minecraft swords and inexplicably wearing cat ears. Seriously though, what do I do for fun? Can I bring in a couch and get my picture taken sprawled on it with my eyes half open as I try to stay awake long enough to find out who the Bachelorette is going to eliminate next?
In the end I opted for a Syracuse basketball Final Four shirt, a travel guide to Europe, and my passport, despite the fact that I only watch basketball during March Madness and the last time I was in Europe was ten years ago. So in a way, a day that was supposed to be about celebrating all the various talents and interests that make me who I am became something else entirely. It made me even more aware of how I should have posed for my picture: wearing a sweater streaked with toddler snot, toting a giant bag full of work to grade, and clutching my iPhone, my outlet to stay in touch with other people who have some sense of where I’m coming from when I need to vent about this wonderful, stressful, joyful, maddening life of mine.
I love my family and I love my job, but can they and will they define me entirely? Is a hobby even a possibility that will fit onto the already loaded plate I am carrying? I know parents who do manage to maintain serious extra-curriculars, but there must be some give somewhere. Maybe they can’t always sit down for dinner with their families. Maybe they’re content with getting only six hours or less of sleep every night. Maybe they don’t collapse onto the couch as soon as the kids are asleep. Or maybe they just have jobs that don’t require hours and hours of work outside of the “office”.
There are things I really want to do: learn more about photography, try out rock-climbing, take some kick-ass vacations, with and without the kids. But if I beat myself up about not having enough time or energy or willpower to pursue these interests, that’ll be just one more thing I’m beating myself up about, and what mom needs that? Maybe in ten or twenty years I’ll have some really cool past-time to show and tell, but I think next year, instead of stressing, I’ll just hold up a sign that says, “I have 123 kids: 3 at home, 120 at school. I love them all. I do my best. What more can I do?”