Yesterday, I had an appointment with a new client. I was putting highlights in her hair and asking her if she had kids, to which she replied that she had three children, ages 7, 5 and 3. I told her she was right in the thick of it, raising young kids, busy with care taking and kids’ schedules. Thank God that wasn’t me and on and on. She agreed and then asked me if I had kids. I told her yes, I have three kids too, but they are 15, 18 and 23. All sophomores… one in high school, one in college and one in the second year of law school. Yes, I do know that he is not considered a sophomore. I just say that because it’s easy for people to understand.
Then she asks, is your 23 year old married? I laughed and kind of shocked, said, NO. A few seconds went by and I was sitting there quietly when then it hit me. I scoffed at her question as if it weren’t possible, but my oldest kid COULD be married. Sh*t. Where has time gone? He was just a baby. I was just a baby, wasn’t I? How is it possible that he would be of an age where he could, actually marry someone. I could be a <gasp> mother-in-law.
I read a book several years ago called The Pull of the Moon. In it, a woman drives across the country in search of herself, a person she’s lost along the way of being married and being a mother. She keeps a journal and writes some really raw, honest things down. The kinds of things, as a wife, mother and woman, that we might think, but would never dream to have the freedom or courage to say. The kinds of things that you couldn’t take back once they slip out of your mouth. The kinds of things that might damage a fragile male ego to the point of disrepair, that your marriage would never be the same, or it would simply come to an end. Raw, honest, powerful, rich. It was a great book, although I think if I re-read it now, at this point in my life, it would resonate more deeply because there are just some things that happen slowly, over time as you live life as a woman, a mom and as a wife.
At one point, she referred to herself as a ‘woman’ and all that that means, and this has stayed with me. Woman. At what point do you become a woman? An adult? That’s easy. 18. But you hear that your whole life up until that moment. At 18 you’ll be an adult. You’ll be able to vote, you can move out, you can make your own decisions, and on and on.
There was never a conversation that I had with anyone about when I would become a woman, so I feel like I’m still waiting.
At the time when I first read Elizabeth Berg’s book, I had two young children. I thought, well, AM I a woman? I have kids and a husband. But I didn’t feel like a woman. When I thought about people that were women, I just couldn’t put myself at the same level as them. Womanhood was not about age or about having kids or a spouse. In my head, It was more intangible than that. There was some level of maturity and sophistication involved. Something I couldn’t name, necessarily, but something I didn’t have.
I’ve revisited the question many times over the years. Am I a woman NOW? Does (fill in the blank with a life event) make me a woman?
Now, at 42, I’ve done all the grown up things. I’ve been married more than half my life, I’ve got three kids, a house, cars and pets. I’ve raised my kids, all nearly to adulthood. I’ve taken care of elderly grandparents and all that that means from moving them into a retirement home to burying them. I’ve run non-profits, owned businesses and had employees that I’m responsible for. I’ve faced the past and spent time working on me so I have a better future. I’ve dealt with crisis, deep sorrow and abundant joy.
I’m beginning to feel like this whole ‘becoming a woman’ thing is always going to be elusive for me. And if it’s not, I don’t know what life event, big or small, is going to create the mind shift that pushes me over the edge. I just Googled “how do you know you’re a woman” and got some jewels. I also got the option of how to find out if I am a crazy cat lady. Good news. I’m not one, but I do know one.
I’d love your thoughts on this. Can you pinpoint a time where you knew you were a ‘woman’? Guys, feel free to join the conversation and tell me when you felt like you hit the ‘man’ stage. Or woman stage, if that’s the direction you went, lol. We’re all friends.