Ha, I still have Les Mis on the brain.
So, throughout my life, I've identified myself certain ways and been identified certain ways. Labels, I suppose. Some people really dislike being labeled, they feel it limits who they are. And I can see that. Some, labels, however, can be useful. Like I said, I label myself a certain way, and it does change and has changed throughout my life. And some labels I apply to myself cautiously, because they don't always mean the same to an outsider as they do to an insider or to me.
For instance, some of the labels I apply to myself are Mormon, Mother, Friend, Designer, Cutter/Draper, Feminist, Pro-Choice, Liberal.
I have noticed, after the last election, that those last three are sometimes gravely misunderstood. Feminist does not mean man-hater, Pro-Choice does not mean pro-abortion and Liberal, well, that's a whole other ball of wax....
The extent to which I identify with certain labels changes as my life changes, and the labels themselves may change. At one point in my life, Career woman and Feminist were some of the more important labels.
I have to say, and it isn't how I thought I would be, that Mother is the most important label to me right now. It is the one with which I most identify myself. I have a great job that I love in my field of study, and I am very good at it. I am an ardent feminist. I am a Mormon. But, if I had to give you the single most identifying label, it is Mother.
This thought has come to me lately for two reasons. One, I am currently a single parent. (That's another story) Two, The Small One has been sick since Christmas.
Being a single parent throws into focus just how much of one's life is actually spent parenting. And how we think of it, what we think of it. Now, I am lucky, my mom and step-dad live with me, so I do not actually have to do it all alone. But, their obligation is only so much. Their willingness extends greatly, but they have raised their kids and I feel like she is my responsibility when I get home from work. Sure, sometimes I am a slacker and let her stay in their room watching TV and irritating the dogs, but mostly, especially when she is sick, I feel an obligation to not bother them about her. She is mine, and it is my job to take care of her.
When I was younger, and even after I married, I thought, I want to work full time, even when I have kid(s). I couldn't IMAGINE myself wanting to stay home and be a housewife and a mother all the time. Heh. Shows what I knew. I never stopped working part time, but, I loved staying home with my wee girl. I loved being her mamma, the center of her universe. And I loved that I was in a position where I could do both. Full time Mamma, part time wedding dress creator. And when my wee lass got sick the first time (meningitis at 6 months) and there was a very real chance I could lose her, it was hammered home to me just how much this label of Mother meant to me.
So, yes, fast forward to now. Single parent of a sick child. We got parainfluenza the day after Christmas, and it lingered. She got better and went off to school for two days when it started back up. Day 3? Nope. Fever. And it just got worse. Fever, cough, headache. Called the doctor. Just the flu, keep her on fluids. Two days later, her throat hurt. Crap, must be strep. Off to the doctor again. Nope, no strep. Just the flu, make sure she gets her fluids. Several nights in a row with The Small One waking up 10 or more times a night, crying and gagging. Freaking out because she felt so wretched. Yesterday, she got even worse. At this point, I am running on fumes. I've not slept more than 2-3 hours a night for a few nights. All day today, she would cry, doze off, wake with a start, crying and kicking and coughing. I've gotten nothing done. I've held her, rocked her, cuddled her, fed her, forced fluids down her, bathed her, medicated her, massaged her head and neck and face for endless hours. I'm so tired. I'm on the verge of tears myself. I've run out of patience. I've resorted to telling her if she doesn't take her meds and drink and eat she will have to go back to the doctor, or worse, to hospital. Everytime she lets out a cry of frustration and pain, my nerves tense up. I'm so tired of hearing it. I'm worn out. This is one of the worst parts of parenting. There's just no respite.
I would take this pain and illness from her in a heartbeat. Because worse than the aggravation of tending to a cranky sick child, is the sorrow and pain of the child. My heart hurts that she has to go through this and there is not a damn thing I can do to help. I'm Mamma. I'm supposed to fix things. I'm supposed to make it all better. And I can't. And it kills me. I would trade places with her so fast, remove all that pain from her. But, I can't. So, despite my frustration and fatigue and nervous tension, I will continue to sit up with her at night, and cuddle her feverish little body as long as she needs it and rub her head until my fingers feel like they might fall off. Because that is who I am. I am her Mamma. My label is Mother, and I wouldn't give it up for anything.