One of the joys of having a 17 year old daughter who is taking college courses is the interesting discussions we get to have about life. This semester she is taking an Intro to Sociology course. I never had to take such a course as a Computer Science and Math major, but it is fun to learn through her without having to take any tests!
The subject for this week's class is about "master" roles. According to her class, everyone has one role that they identify with the most. This role is one that a person lives their lives by, that motivates their actions and inactions. It is also the role, that when it is lost, it causes a person to lose their sense of identity, and some to the point of suicidal thoughts and actions. I am paraphrasing big time here, based on my conversation with my daughter while I was driving; she mentioned some research where they found that the people who were happiest were those whose master roles were related to their religious beliefs. For example, believing that one is a child of God no matter what happens is a role that is hard to lose. It cannot be taken from a person, whereas other roles like wife, lawyer, doctor, and student can be ended by external forces both chosen and unchosen.
As I reflected on this bit of wisdom for the week, I realized that I most identify with my role as a mother. Most of my thoughts are spent thinking about my kids. Did my son get his homework done? What time do I pick him up from school? Does he have his lunch? Did he make a lunch? Has my daughter gotten to school safely? What did she need me to sign? And most importantly I am available whenever they want to talk...and talk...and talk.
This mothering also bleeds over into my work as a lactation consultant. I listen to my clients - really and truly I do. I want to know about their days and nights with their babies. I wonder if they remember to read the instructions I sent them, or if they were able to get the tea we spoke about. I am concerned about the mamas and their babies. Yet, I also stand back and let them do their own thing. I guide them, but I don't do it for them. I watch them as they hold their baby while they get a diaper, being there if they need me but recognizing that this is a part of their journey as a new mother, and I hold that safe space where they get to expand their comfort zone from their home to my office.
At this point in my life, mothering is what I do best. As my kids get ready to leave the nest, I am redefining what that role means to me, and perhaps getting a bit philosophical about it. While it may not be a strictly religious role, I feel that the role of mother is one that has both spiritual and physical manifestations.