As a parent, I routinely have to make big decisions that affect my life and my son’s life. Do I breastfeed? When do I go back to work? Do I register my son in private or public school? But I recently had to make a decision that made me re-evaluate my identity, priorities and how I spend my time.
I received a notice from Maclean’s magazine requesting that I renew my subscription. I decided not to renew it, but I am now realizing that what I read defines who I am. My Maclean’s subscription was not only reading material, but also a statement of what I valued. And that has changed.
I was once asked to describe myself in two words and I said “intellectual and intense”. Not very glamorous but truthful. I attended university for ten years and have three degrees. A perfect day for me includes books, coffee and rain. My intensity is probably more artificial and directly proportional to the amount of caffeine and chocolate-covered espresso beans I consume. But, as I get older and my university days can best be described as “back in the day”, I have noticed that my intensity has wavered. And my intellect? Well, that has taken an interesting turn lately.
One of my biggest concerns when I was pregnant was the development of “pregnancy brain” that would quickly turn into “baby brain”. I was determined to show my employers and colleagues that pregnancy would not affect me, so I worked harder and longer. Rest was for sissies. After my son was born, I returned to work after three months of maternity leave. If a client asked about my baby, I would quickly change the subject so that they would not think I had gone “soft”. I continued to read the newspaper and participated in book clubs. I was sharp, witty and opinionated–at least in my mind! In reality, I was likely fatigued, drooling and drinking too much coffee. But, I soldiered on in my determination to prove my intellect. And that is where my Maclean’s magazine came in.
I persisted in reading Maclean’s every week, but it was getting harder to find the time. Initially, my son would only nap at coffee shops (he liked the sounds of coffee grinders) and I would use that time to read. I could read an entire magazine in one sitting! Eventually, the sounds of the coffee machine were no longer soothing so my leisurely breaks were quickly shortened. I went from reading an entire magazine to reading one article. So, I tried putting the magazine in my diaper bag and would read it while standing in grocery-store line ups. That stopped working when my son would grab the magazine (or the chocolates, the bananas, or anything else in his reach). My latest strategy has been to leave the Maclean’s magazine in the bathroom and read it while sitting on the toilet. I know, too much information. But I gave up my dignity when my son urinated in my face. The only problem is that I also had a copy of Today’s Parent and a book on parenting in the bathroom as well. My bathroom was quickly turning into a library.
And that is how I ended up in my current dilemma. My Maclean’s magazine was part of my identity and who would I be if I stopped reading it? Probably someone who was less stressed about trying to read a Maclean’s magazine. Twelve years ago, I remember the thrill the first time someone called me “Doctor”. And now? I revel in the thrill of my son trying to call me “Momma”. And who knows, when he is older, perhaps I can read him the Maclean’s as his bedtime story.