One of my goals for 2017 is to make my blog a bigger reflection of me. I’m starting a new series on the blog called “Let’s Get Real”. It’s more personal and about my thoughts on some real life things…big and small. This is my first attempt at it….so please bear with me.
On a lighter note, I’ll also be starting another series “Let’s Walk” in a few weeks to share photos of my neighborhood walks. More to follow on that soon.
A few weeks ago Luke as I was putting Luke to bed he told me that some of the kids at school wouldn’t let him play with him because he wasn’t in their class and that he wasn’t a big kid yet. It broke my heart just to hear that. (Does it start this early already?) I asked him how he felt when he heard that…his response…”I didn’t like it.” Then I asked him what he did after that. He said he went to play somewhere else and with the other kids. I was relieved to hear he was able to move on but I was still heartbroken to know that he was excluded. I told him that what he did was the right thing and that I was proud of him for walking way. I know he will be okay…but I’ll always worry about his feelings.
I remember when I was younger and not fitting in. It didn’t really bother me that much until I started high school. I never felt like I fit in because I was one of very few Asians at my school. I didn’t fit in the kids at the Asian community at church either because they thought I was too “white.” Sometimes I didn’t feel like I fit in with my own family since I was the only girl living with three brothers.
My 5th grade teacher used me as an example to his future students about not letting what people say bother you. My 6th grade math teacher gave me an award at the end of school year, not because I was good at math, but because he said I had a positive personality, especially as I held my own and didn’t feel the need to conform with others. Unfortunately, I didn’t know I was getting an award that night and didn’t go to the award ceremony. But my classmates told me all about it the next day and congratulated me. The teacher was a bit disappointed that I didn’t show up but gave me the award and told me to always stay confident and not let what others say or do bother me.
As I was getting older though, I somehow felt the need to fit in…like really fit in. At times I felt like was trying so hard that people would think I was a little abnormal. I was beginning to feel awkward around people. I wanted that youthful confidence back. In college, I joined a sorority thinking that it would be a great way to meet people and fit into the college life. About six months into it, I realized it wasn’t for me and ended up quitting. I never felt a bond with any of my “sisters”. Maybe because I didn’t have a sister growing up. To be honest, I didn’t feel like it was right for me. The harder I tried to be like everyone else, the worse it felt. I’m glad I left because I found other things and interests that made my college experience memorable and my own.
Meeting new moms or making mom friends was even harder for me. It seemed easier for other moms to find commonalities with each other but I was having a tough time trying to find the right people to relate to. Trying to strike up a conversation with other moms felt like was speaking another language. I would leave those play dates wondering if I was trying too hard or if I was even cut out for this “mom” thing (or if I’d ever make any mom friends at all). But I finally found my groove with a few moms at Luke’s daycare and a few that I met on social media. It wasn’t that I fit in with these ladies, but because I developed individual relationships with each of them.
The need to fit in came back pretty strong during the past couple of years. Especially trying to have another child. It seemed that everywhere I looked, there were families with two kids…even on TV commercials. When I met up with friends, they would talk about how hard it was with two kids. I would stand there really wanting to be a part of the conversation or wanting what they had. But I would have nothing to add and felt like I was missing out on something. Even worse, I left feeling like what I had was not enough…or if I was even enough to be part of the friendship.
It was even worse on social media because people would share pictures of their children and here I was trying so hard to have that same life and feeling like I what I had to share wasn’t good enough. Social media has been a great platform for me to express my creativity and to share parts of my life but being on it does question my confidence and self-esteem at times, especially when I start to feel the need to share what everyone else is sharing. In this case, what other moms were sharing. I didn’t have pregnancy photos to share or talk about the struggle with having multiple children. Would having another child be the answer to my happiness or get me to fit in with what I’m seeing all around me? I was ready to take a break from social media.
I finally realized that I didn’t have control over what my body can produce but I did have control over what I could see.
At the suggestion of my friend Jennifer, I started to follow other people on social media, who also happen to be mothers, but did not share pictures of their children. Rather, their pictures were of the places they would go to and see. They gave me inspiration to share what I love…the hidden gems in Chicago…and that’s what I’ve been wanting to do all along. I didn’t feel the pressure to share pictures of Luke or of me and Luke or talk motherhood anymore.
It’s amazing how your outlook changes by just changing what you see. I still want to have another child but my urge to be like other moms is not as strong as it used to be. And who wants to hang out with the same person as themselves anyway? It would get boring unless I was cloned and my clone did all my errands, cooked and paid my bills for me. But I found my “tribe” in different circle of friends and they’re all not mothers. I’ve fostered friendships with other women who are not in the same stage of life as me but our love of photography, Paris, or Chicago brought us together and it feels so good.
I’m slowly getting back to that youthful confidence…using my 5th and 6th grade self as examples of how the need to fit in didn’t matter. I’m also using Luke’s approach…to walk away when I need to. But most of all, I’m using the some of these things to remind me along the way:
Embrace Your Own Uniqueness
The thing I’m learning through this journey is that I’m happiest when I’m myself. If I was like everyone else, I wouldn’t have much to offer to my relationships with others. I speak my mind. I’m vulnerable. I am confident one moment and overthink things the next. I laugh pretty loudly. I am a mother to an only child. I work full-time but find social media as a fun creative outlet. I’m not a young mom or a new mom anymore. I will always be Luke’s mom but I am Leyla first.
Fitting In Is Not Belonging
I came across this article by Brene Brown’s Top 4 Life Lessons on Oprah.com, which she wrote about the difference between fitting in vs. belonging. It truly resonated with me. I’ve realized that when I’m in a group I enjoy being with, it’s not about looking the same and or having the same things that makes it great, it’s because the group lets me be heard. Here’s what Brene had to say:
“Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are—love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all.”
It’s Okay to Walk Away
From Luke’s experience at daycare to my college sorority days to me finding the right mom friends, I’ve realized that sometimes you just have to walk away from certain groups to make your life a little better. I’ve trusted my instincts in those situations and realized that the outcome of taking the other road is so much more fulfilling.
I have the word “mom” on my blog and social media but there are times that I don’t want to share all about mom stuff. I’ve thought about changing my blog name and social media handle because I felt the pressure and expectation to fit into what other people/marketers expect a “momblogger” to be. I’m not changing the name yet but in the meantime I’ve changed up my content a bit. I don’t want to conform to what people expect a momblogger to be. I want to share what I really enjoy and let my voice be heard. It’s not all about Luke or motherhood as much. It’s about me, what I like, and the beauty of Chicago and the places we visit.