Today is a peculiar day in the Liss household.
On this day, Erin should be going back to work, for her first day of teacher in-service days for the 2014-2015 school year.
But, she’s not at work. Erin is staying home.
Upon leaving for my job today, I could see that sad twinkle in her eye. While I know, and Erin knows, that staying home with is the right decision, it doesn’t make today any less sad.
Erin has said to me a few times over the summer, in so many words, that she’s losing a part of herself by ceasing to work outside the home. I don’t blame her — I’d probably be saying the same thing, were the roles reversed. Which got me thinking: how do you really define yourself? Is it the work you do? The company you keep? What you provide to the world? Or, perhaps, what you take from it?
It’s so easy, particularly in a work-obsessed place like America, to derive so much of your identity from the work which you do. When you meet someone, it’s typically the second thing you’re asked; “what’s your name?” and then “what do you do?”.
To me, I think identity is all of those things, while also none of them.
Perhaps most importantly, identity can be summed up as the choices you make.
Leap of Faith
In Erin’s case, her choice is to trade one of the hardest jobs in the world (teaching) for an even harder one (being a stay-at-home mom). It is a total leap of faith on her part.
I have absolutely zero doubt that she’ll be a phenomenal mother, and embrace staying at home with . Deep down, I think Erin believes it as well. Nevertheless, it’s not a sure thing. I deeply respect her commitment to doing what she thinks is right, despite the indefinite outcome she’s just signed herself up for.
One day, I am confident that will reflect upon their upbringing and be thankful for having Mom at home.
Maybe I was wrong above — about identity being the choices you make.
Perhaps, instead, identity is the impact you have on others.
If that’s the case, Erin’s identity has never been more sure.
This past weekend, I participated in “Boot Camp for New Dads”. During the session, all the soon-to-be fathers in the room were asked to describe their fathers, and then describe how they’d like their children to describe them. It was abundantly obvious, after just a couple answers, the impact parents have on their children. Such an innocuous question — How would you describe your father? — led to a stunning variety of answers, and traversed the entire range of human emotion. It was clear that parents have an indescribable impact on their children’s lives.
While it’s yet to be seen whether or not we’ll be good parents, I hope that Erin’s brave decision — her leap of faith — is the first step in the right direction.