I consider myself a connoisseur holiday letters, which I have sent and received pretty consistently since I first had children. Since my friends and I are roughly of an age, most of our children have left, or almost left, home. This year, I am struck that my letter and the ones my friends send still focus on the doings of our kids, with some people adding a bit of travelogue or home repair updates. It makes me wonder if having children means that ever after, we live and see the world through others’ eyes, sometimes at the cost of closing our own. I know holiday letters are not an intimate genre, particularly not the mass produced kind, but it seems that I and my mother-friends reflexively place ourselves in the background and move the kids to the foreground of our lives and our relationships. This posture of stooping over our kids becomes so engrained, it is hard to straighten up and reclaim interest in our thoughts and feelings after the kids have grown.
Being in medicine complicates things a bit. My non-medical friends would be baffled if I wrote about how amazed I am about the way that we are finally understanding the illnesses I treat at a genetic level, or how I believe I have experienced an inner paradigm shift in my understanding of psychiatric disorders since I discovered evolutionary biology. But other professional friends are equally reticent about their inner lives—they may report promotions or job changes, but not how they have been evolving and changing themselves.
In the end, I can’t decide whether the loss of interest in one’s self, or perhaps just the expectation that no one else would be interested, is a natural part of growing older, an artifact of being mother, the result of being in a fairly esoteric profession, or simply my own view of things. In the end, being a mother/doctor seems to have greatly expanded my sense of who I am, but with some loss of the value I once placed on reflecting about my experience and sharing it with others.
Of course, nowadays I can blog about it, and leave the kidalogue for my holiday reports.