By Karen Salmansohn
I confess there was a time, a few years back, that I lost myself in the role of mommyhood. I didn’t put in the time for “me,” because I was so caught up in making sure I was lovingly taking care of my son – in every way possible.
For example, when my son (Ari) began Kindergarten, I’d spend the morning putting far more attention into deciding what Ari would be wearing, than what I’d be wearing. Ari and I would discuss what clothes were “cool” (sweatpants and Pokemon tee shirts) and “not cool” (jeans and button down shirts). Meanwhile I just threw on a “whatever” outfit (usually involving yoga pants).
One morning my son and I were riding down in our building’s elevator with a neighbor. My son was talking with me in an animated way about his favorite Pokemon cards.
My neighbor warmly interrupted, “Excuse me,” she said smiling.
Ari and I looked at her. It was common for our neighbors to interrupt us – so as to say something sweet to Ari. In fact, I was pretty certain whatever she would say next would be about Ari.
“I love that necklace,” my neighbor said.
I immediately looked at Ari. But he was not wearing a necklace.
I thought I must not have heard my neighbor correctly.
“What did you say?” I asked her. “I didn’t hear you.”
“I love that necklace,” she repeated.
Again I looked at Ari. Again, I reconfirmed that there was no necklace around my son’s neck.
My neighbor pointed to my neck. “Your necklace,” she said
I laughed. “Oh, I’d forgotten all about this necklace,” I explained. “I bought it many years ago. I sleep in it. I even shower in it.”
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
Although this compliment might seem at first like a simple exchange – it had a big impact on me. It was a bit of a wake-up call even.
Because I realized in that moment that I hadn’t simply forgotten about my silly necklace. I’d forgotten about me too.
I’d forgotten that I could be notice-able.
Plus I also realized that I didn’t feel comfortable in the role of The Noticed.
I much preferred my role as background fodder to my son.
I know a lot of moms wind up losing themselves in the process of parenting their kids. In my case, Ari made it easy to do so – because Ari’s naturally outgoing and spot-light oriented. For example, Ari loves to dance down the street in the mornings – simply because he wakes up happy. Plus, Ari has a passion for asking strangers permission to pet their cute dogs. And when it’s Ari’s birthday, he’s not shy to tell random people on the street. As a result, overtime I’d become the quiet one in the family.
Even after Ari entered preschool, and I had more time to myself, I still found myself preferring a more quiet life. My days were focused on writing, writing, writing – trying to do the “working mommy balancing act” – which often meant juggling in far more work than play. Over time, since Ari was born, I’d lost contact with some of my favorite friends – my local gym – and my neighborhood mani-pedi place.
My top priorities had become: be the best mommy to Ari when with him – and make money to support Ari when not with him.
Mommy-time and work-time eventually superceded self-care time and Karen time.
My needs had become invisible to me.
I’d become invisible to me.
My next wake up call to my Invisible Woman role came about one month later.
Ari and I were watching a Disney movie on Netflix. We got to talking about the concept of “lead characters” versus “sidekicks.”
The next day Ari came home from school and asked me if he was the lead character in his Kindergarten classroom.
I explained to Ari that everybody in his classroom was the lead character of their own life – and how there were multiple storylines going on at the same time.
I also told Ari that although he was the lead character in his own life – sometimes Ari played a sidekick in someone else’s life story.
Ari looked surprised – then he looked accepting.
“So, my friend Michael is the lead character of Michael’s life?” Ari asked.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “And Harry is the lead character of Harry’s life. And you are a part of their stories. They each have their storylines to lead – the way you have your storyline to lead!”
Ari smiled. “Ok, I get it,” he said. “I’m just the lead character of my life only.”
“Yes,” I said. “Correct.”
“BUT,” Ari said, “I’m also the lead character in your life too….Right, mommy?”
I smiled – but said nothing.
“Right mommy?” Ari asked again. “I’m the lead character in your life too?”
I paused and wondered.
Ari had become the lead character in my life.
And I wanted Ari to be the lead character in my life.
I even felt bad thinking that Ari was not the lead character in my life.
I felt it would make me a bad mommy – to put myself before my son- and to be the lead character of my own life.
Then I thought again.
I was reminded of my neighbor in the elevator – who complimented me on my necklace – and how surprised I was that this woman was even noticing me.
I had stepped into that elevator as “Ari’s sidekick.” Then after this woman’s comment to me, I was jolted back into my body – and hence back into awareness that I was not simply Ari’s background fodder.
I thought about this more – and became aware of some new thoughts.
Firstly, it didn’t make me a “bad mommy” to be the “lead character” of my own life. This was not an egotistical choice. It was a “soul-itstical choice.”
I also realized how there’s a big difference between being “egotistical” and “soul-itistical.”
Plus I found it interesting how we don’t have this word “soul-itistical” in our vocabulary – and it’s a very important word to think about.
Here are my thoughts on what it means to be “soul-itistical.”
I believe we are here on this planet to become our best possible selves.
We are here to stretch and grow our souls – or our “core selves” – if you’re more psychologically oriented.
It’s important we be the lead character of our own lives – because that’s why we’re here on this planet – for our soul (core self) to learn, grow, thrive.
With this in mind, it’s essential that we not simply exist in the background of someone else’s life – because then we’d forget about our soul’s unique and true purpose!
We need to make sure we are nurturing our soul’s unique and true purpose – living authentically to who we are – in order to be truly happy.
If we’re not living awake to the needs and cravings of our soul (core self), then we are missing out on the whole purpose of why we’re here on this planet!
In fact, many problems occur in life when we stop paying attention to our soul’s yearnings – and put our soul’s needs on hold in order to make others happy!
In fact, when we stop making ourselves the lead character of our own life, we can become pretty darn sad, angry, resentful, regretful.
It’s not egotistical to be the lead character of our own lives. It’s soul-itistical.
We need to pay attention to our soul’s needs and cravings in order to find true happiness and deep fulfillment.
“Sooooo,” Ari said, “Am I the lead character of your life, mommy?”
I sighed loudly. I hoped I could say what I wanted to say in the right way.
“Ari,” I said, “Right now you are the most important person in my storyline – but I am the lead character in my own storyline. My storyline has been a long, interesting and zig zagging one – and many of my most favorite parts in my storyline all happened when you arrived. You are one of the biggest contributors to what makes my storyline fun and happy. But…well… I am the lead character of my story. ”
Ari took a moment to take all of this in – then smiled hugely! “Ok! So, I’m your fun sidekick,” Ari announced. He sounded super-excited to play this role.
Shortly after this conversation, I stepped back into being the lead character of my own life. I started to go to the gym more – makes plans to see friends more – do more of my favorite hobbies (like reading novels and seeing indie films) – get mani-pedis and blow-out my hair. I also started to get dressed up in the morning – in non-yoga pants. Although these were small outer changes, they were symbolic of a bigger inner change. I became passionately determined to make sure I was indeed the lead character of my own life – without feeling guilty about it. I accepted that it was absolutely okay – and even necessary – to pay more attention to nourishing my soul.
My hope for you:
I hope you embrace the role of lead character in your life. Be soul-itistical! Don’t forget who you are at your core. Do not allow yourself to become The Invisible Woman or The Invisible Man. Appreciate that you are here to grow and stretch your soul. And appreciate all the many sidekicks who help to make your lead character role here on this planet a fun and happy storyline.