On Twitter, it is possible to create lists into which you can group and categorize the people you follow. As I've grown my presence there, I've seen myself added to more and more lists (you get notified when it happens).
Yesterday, I was added to one that was simply called, "parents."
And it made me a little sad.
Being a parent doesn't make me sad. It makes me tired and frustrated and often stressed and sometimes bored and sporadically grossed out and right now, covered in food, but it doesn't make me sad. What makes me sad is that my identity can be so easily reduced to "parent."
It's not Twitter's fault. If you follow me there, you know that joking about the pitfalls of parenthood is a large part of my shtick, so I can't blame the person who added me to her "Parents" list (would it have killed her to title it "DILFs" or something?). But if you've been reading my blog, you probably know that one of the reasons I started writing it -- and the meaning behind its sarcastic title -- was to fight against the "dad" part of me from becoming the whole me.
I'm starting to worry that I'm losing that fight.
The worry is less that other people might define me by my dad-dom and more that, as a stay-at-home dad without much else to occupy my time, I'll start to think of myself that way. Obviously, being a dad is not a bad thing. I love it, and it hasn't changed who I am inside, not really; but it has begun to obscure (maybe even "bury"?) some other parts of me. And that's no good.
I admit that when I started this blog, determined to hang onto as much of my pre-parent life and my pre-dad personality as possible, I wasn't totally aware of what I was getting into. I'd seen my friends' lives become consumed by their children -- their personalities neutered by nesting, their social lives suddenly limited to the point of nonexistence -- and I recognized a lifestyle I wanted to avoid. Mom and Buried and I had no illusions about how big of a change having a kid would be, but we may have been a tad ambushed by how easy it could be to succumb to the sweeter side of parenting.
I knew I'd love my kid, but didn't know I'd love him so much that I'd barely think twice about digging through a dirty diaper to retrieve the penny he'd swallowed. I knew I'd like spending time with him, but I didn't know that -- due to a combination of enjoying that time and being exhausted by it -- I'd often be happy to just stay in and hang out with him. I knew my life would be dominated by my son, but I didn't know I'd enjoy it so much.
Of course, just because I enjoy parenting more than I might have expected doesn't mean there aren't negative side effects. Becoming a parent is like joining a cult: On the inside, everything seems perfect and right, but step outside and everyone thinks you're a deluded weirdo whose personality has been erased and replaced by that of a child-obsessed robot.
It can become almost a little too easy to lose yourself to your new role, due to both your time and your thoughts being overwhelmed by kid-related responsibilities. Every decision starts getting put through the Parenting Prism, even some that don't need to be ("I wonder if Detective Munch would like this beer?"), and that's when your perspective, and often your personality, can get so clouded that some of your old friends no longer recognize you. It takes real self-awareness to maintain a balance between your parent-self and your other-self.
Now, thanks largely to the increased workload that comes with having a toddler (as opposed to a baby) and partially to my inclusion on some random person's list of parents who tweet, I'm really starting to realize that hanging onto my old life isn't something I can just pay lip-service to; it takes actual effort. Effort to find babysitters you trust; effort to plan and pull yourself together for a date night; effort to drink enough beers to actually get drunk before passing out from exhaustion; effort to tweet about something besides my kid.
Not helping my identity crisis is the aforementioned fact that I'm a stay-at-home dad (HIRE ME!) in a new city without a lot of friends or colleagues with whom to interact on a daily basis. I'm at home with my son every day. If I spent most of my day away at a job, I guarantee you my Twitter feed would be a little more multi-dimensional (i.e., I'd probably bitch about my boss, I'd probably bitch about my coworkers and I'd probably bitch about missing my kid) and my life might have a little more balance.
Having this outlet, where I can write about my feelings in the voice of someone who is not brainwashed (even while my non-blog self occasionally feels that way), has helped me immeasurably. Being a dad is a big part of who I am -- maybe an even bigger part than I anticipated -- but it is not the whole of me. I've been trying to use this blog to both illuminate my struggle for that balance and to facilitate it, and now, as my son gets older and demands even more of my time and energy, I might have to try a little harder.
I love it when my son calls me Daddy. I would just prefer everyone else call me by my actual name.
This post originally appeared on Dad and Buried.
Follow Mike Julianelle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dadandburied