Just a few weeks ago I was standing in front of a group of ladies I had just met moments before at a fun blogging event and the microphone was handed to me. “Tell us a little bit about yourself,” I was encouraged by the sweetest hostess. If you know me well in everyday life, you know I can talk your ear off. But the moment that microphone touched my hand, I smiled and turned to face everyone…. and froze. I timidly and apologetically whimpered… “I’m Candace. I’m 28. I’m married to Nick. And I have three children who are 9, 5, and 1. That’s all I got.”
The ladies chuckled and I couldn’t sit down fast enough. As I left the event later that night and drove home in the silence of my SUV stocked with empty car seats in each row, and the lull of Despicable Me 2 playing on the DVD player in the background, I agonized over that moment. I have flopped in front of people before, that was not the detail that was gut wrenching to me. As I reflected, I could not believe that with a chance to tell people all about me I could only come up with those essential things. WHO I AM was a wife and a mother, “…and that’s all I got”?
I called my husband immediately, “Tell me who I am?! What am I good at? If you had to give a short biography about me what would you say?! Am I really just somebody’s wife and these kiddos’ mom??” I panicked. He affirmed me and gushed over my “many talents” and “quirky personality”. For a moment, my hysterics were calmed but the whole incident really got me thinking…
When a man is described he is often accredited first by his degrees, his job titles, his hobbies, his accomplishments, his personality traits and then it’s finished off at the end with an endearing “devoted husband and loving father”. In my experience, the same chance for a woman to be summed up often leads with the focus being her roles (mother and wife) and not-so-much just herself, as an individual person.
I found out I was pregnant at 18 years old and 7 months into college. Since that exact moment that two pinks lines appeared I have been “a mother”. It was a “scandal” to say the least since my boyfriend was still a junior in high school and if you know anything about gossip, that role quickly defined me. I was no longer like anyone else around me, it became who and all I was. Shortly after that I became “a wife”. Again, no one surrounding me was a wife at 20 so these differences consumed how I was set apart. In the years that most people discover “who they are” through college courses where they passionately fall in love with the career they aspire to, or through traveling the world and discovering their calling, my “bio” was already formed for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job as a mom, so much so in fact that after the first few years of working multiple jobs to survive, I chose to stay home with my children as soon as we could afford it. I’ve continued to do that for the last 6 years and three children. I am passionate in being a “good mom”. Considering my high school sweetheart turned baby daddy turned husband has been officially mine for 7 years now, I’d say I like being a wife as well. The problem is not that I am the aforementioned roles, the problem is that night in front of a room full of people who I had a new opportunity to present myself as a woman, now 28, I still felt like that’s ALL I was.
No matter what your journey to becoming a wife or a mom is, it is so easy to lose yourself in those roles. Heck, having elementary school aged children I have come to answer when called “Titus’ mom” or “Sienna’s mom” instead of even using my actual name. We forget that we have life experiences, and talents, and God given purpose, and quirks, and accomplishments, and hurts that ALL define us. We settle with our conversations being consumed by our kid’s milestones or nap time struggles or what solid foods little Susie is eating this week. And heaven forbid someone asks us what we like to do in our “free time”?! First of all, what is this thing you speak of? And secondly, nap!? I like to nap. Is that a sufficient answer.
I’ve thought about it a lot recently, and given the opportunity to hold that mic and look those other ladies in the eye again, I would want to encourage them to describe ALL the layers that make us wonderful women by reciting this answer I’ve conjured up to that request that’s haunted me ever since, “Tell us a little bit about yourself”…
“Hi! I’m Candace, and first of all I am so excited to be here mostly because I am so sick of pressuring the poor check out girl at Target into a conversation just so I can talk to an adult sometime throughout the day. So thanks for all this grown up interaction tonight for the sake of the check out girl and myself. But secondly, I’ll tell you a little bit about myself… I am technically in my 20s but my soul and my body (after three kids) are definitely much older. I default to humor always and decided a while ago, that I’m pretty funny, even if my children disagree. Words are a true love of mine, I believe in their power and I’m told I have a sort of finesse when throwing them together. So I write, a lot. My goal is to write a book as soon as I get my time management and fear in check. I love God, not in a religious check-lists kinda way but in a deep personal love that has undeniably changed my life from the moment I first experienced it. I built and own a business with my husband GUTI Landscaping & Maintenance. I passionately give my blood sweat and tears on a team that created The Chase is Real that is a website and has in person events. I have a great eye for decorating and can throw a mean party. My most favorite relationship building quality I have is offering other mamas a “me too” in a moment they feel alone or isolated. I devote most of my time and my heart to my husband Nick and my children Sienna, Titus, and Adella. If you can’t tell by now, mostly, I can just talk your ear off. Thanks, I look forward to getting to know all of you more too!”
Even more so than that second chance I just took above, I want to use this moment to encourage anyone reading this… the woman out there forgetting the details of what makes her all that she is. Write your own introduction. Take a moment and remind yourself of all the layers that make you…well, you. We are moms and wives, of course but first we are individuals. Here’s your chance to remember just that. Go ahead take the mic, “Tell us a little bit about yourself…”