1: R Is for Randi

1: R Is for Randi

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

R Is for Randi

All discomfort comes from suppressing your true identity.

~Bryant H. McGill

Several years ago for my birthday, a friend gave me a necklace that had a small charm with the initial “R” on it. It was a simple gold necklace and a lovely gift.

The necklace was very similar to another one I had with three initial charms — J, and J — the initials of my three children. I remember I looked at the necklace for a while. It seemed odd to me to wear a necklace with the initial “R” even though it is the initial of my own name.

I realized after a while that the reason the necklace seemed odd to me was because I was slowly starting to lose my own identity. I had kind of forgotten who “R” was.

In recent months, I had introduced myself to several people by saying, “Hi, I am J’s mother (or A’s mom)” rather than starting with my own first name. One of the other mothers actually asked me, “And do you have a name?”

My sister-in-law called a few days before and asked, “What’s going on with you?” I proceeded to talk for five minutes about my son J loving his basketball team, my daughter A’s SAT prep and my daughter J’s recent track meet.

When I finished, my sister-in-law asked, “So, is there anything going on with you?”

At first, I didn’t understand why she was asking me that. Hadn’t I just told her what was going on with me? But then I realized that nothing I said had actually been about myself. It was all about my kids.

I love being a mom. When other kids dreamed of being pilots or doctors, my ideal career was always to be a mother. In first grade, we had to draw pictures of our ideal careers, and I drew a picture of my mom. I divided the paper into eight sections and drew her in her eight different roles: cook, chauffer, player, cleaner, teacher, shopper, advisor and nurse. My mom made being a mother look so great; I could not wait to be one myself.

After graduating college and a false start in accounting, I began a very successful career in retail. I travelled around the world — Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Germany, Italy. I had to get extra pages in my passport because I didn’t have room for all the stamps. I lived in New York City with my husband and was out almost every night at the movies, dinner and clubs.

Even though I had a dream job, I still had the same dream from first grade: to be a mother. Although I discussed going back to work after my maternity leave with my boss, my husband and I ultimately decided that it would be best for me to stay home with our daughter for at least a year.

The first week as an official SAHM was odd. Prior to my maternity leave, my husband and I had commuted together, and we both worked ten-hour days. Now I was home alone with my newborn, and she was not much of a conversationalist. Even though we had lived in our home in the suburbs for over a year, I had never really “lived” there. I just slept there and changed my clothes.

Those first few months, finding time to take a shower was a challenge some days. I had been a world traveler — one of United Airlines’ top flyers — and now I was huffing and puffing trying to lock in my daughter’s car seat for a trip to the market.

But I adjusted, and that year at home turned into more than a decade. I made other mommy friends, and I had more kids. I loved being a mom and doing all the jobs I had drawn in my picture. I cooked, I drove, I played, I cleaned, I taught, I shopped, I advised and I nursed. The kids were my world. Or rather, it was my kids’ world, and I just lived in it and made sure it didn’t fall apart.

The necklace, the introductions, the conversation with my sister-in-law all made me realize that I needed to start thinking about who I am in addition to being a mother.

When I was a little girl, my mom bought me a nameplate necklace. Years later, for my sweet sixteen, I got not one but two different initial rings. It did not seem weird or egotistical to wear these items of jewelry; it was my name, my initial, and I wore them without reservation. When I became a wife, I took my husband’s last name, but still maintained my own identity. Somehow, I had lost that identity a little as a stay-at-home mom.

I put on the “R” necklace and then set out to figure out who “R” was in addition to being A, J and J’s mom. I realized that to be a good mother, I also had to be my own person — not just someone who solely existed to take care of other people. Not having my own identity was making me a little boring, frustrated and embarrassed.

I joined a spin studio and started doing more volunteer work. I made a monthly date to go to the movies. I took a writing class online. I started submitting my work to local publications. At first, I got a lot of rejections. But then a few pieces of my work got published. I am now a regular contributor to several magazines and write a bi-monthly blog. I don’t make a lot of money, but I feel more fulfilled as a person. I am learning and growing, and that makes me happier — and a better mother.

Now when I introduce myself, I say, “Hi, my name is Randi,” and it feels good to be me.

~Randi S. Mazzella

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