Apologies for the radio silence and the breaking of my publishing resolution, but I had an out of town work conference. Well, sort of out of town, since it took me back home to San Diego.
I know, I know, we’ll get the first part out of the way – I’m the idiot who moved from San Diego to Boston and ended up sticking around. Acknowledged. Every. Damned. Winter.
But this was actually a really nice opportunity to go back because I had to go alone this time. Sure, I tacked on some vacation days on the front end and the back end to make sure I could visit with family and friends, so it wasn’t all work all the time. But, because we had kept Maya out of school for so many days for our recent family vacation, we couldn’t take her out for more to join me, which left Michael at home to watch her when she wasn’t in school. And, honestly, it was kind of nice. I felt like I actually got to go home as myself, which I don’t often feel I get to do.
Who Am I?
Since Maya came along, every time I’ve been home has been in my role as a parent. Now, as most parents can attest, once you have a child you become utterly invisible to your family. Particularly if you are long distance, the only interest seems to be when you’re bringing by your child for the next visit.
As a parent, there is a shift in identity that occurs, which can often leave us struggling with our sense of self as an individual versus as a parent. Am I “Matthew” or am I “Tatay” (Filipino for “daddy,” which is what Maya calls me)?
On a day-to-day basis, I think many parents can relate to this seeming loss of identity or feeling like your individuality gets subsumed in the role of being a parent. It can be overwhelming and disorienting, and is often, I believe, a cause of many problems when people can’t figure out how to reconcile or connect these two identities.
Because the circumstances forced me to not bring her, my family was forced to interact with me as just me again, and not as a Sherpa for my child, who they are clearly more excited about seeing than me. And it was kind of awesome.
You Can Never Go Home Again…?
So the standard wisdom is that you can never go home again, meaning that if you try to return to a place you’ve been before (especially something as personal and emotionally charged as home) it won’t be the same place you remembered. Not only has the place changed, but you yourself have changed.
This time, however, I felt like I truly got to “go home again,” since I was able to be there as myself, not in my role as a parent. Oh sure, the place has changed a lot since I’ve been there last. Sure, I, myself, have changed since the last time I have visited, and certainly since I grew up there, which becomes readily apparent to me when floods of memory wash over me from those days.
But, I was able to engage with the experience on my own terms. Though conversation often centered on how Maya was doing, for the most part, people engaged with the real me. I honestly felt more seen by my family and friends than I have in a long time since I visited, and it really rejuvenated my sense of self in a way I hadn’t realized was lacking.
So, I guess this was the biggest takeaway for me was that it is important to balance your roles as both parent and individual. More importantly, I think if possible it’s good to engage your relationship as an individual to your family and your friends at large. Presumably, before you had a kid(s) you had some sort of a relationship with them. It’s not a bad idea to rekindle that connection to deepen the connection beyond their relationship to you as a parent.