A few months back, I wrote a blog post where I interviewed a friend on the huge adjustment she went through when she got married. She ended up getting pregnant right away and decided to become a stay-at-home mom. That led to a long-term identity crisis that only got worse when the communication with her husband broke down as he started spending more time away from home building his own business. A couple of hours after I published the post, I received a text from a close friend of mine that blew my mind. She wrote, “I feel like I went from being an obedient child in my mother’s house to being obedient to my husband.” Those words have been echoing in my mind ever since. See, my circle of friends is mostly composed of women who are very similar: we always strived to be obedient to our parents.
In Haitian culture, as in most Caribbean cultures, obedience to your parents brings your family honor. When a family has kids that submit to the will of the parents, it’s a source of pride. Kids that publicly rebel bring shame. Like, they literally aren’t discussed, their names seem to be forgotten, and their very existence is ignored. This is only made worse in the context of church culture. Growing up, I focused so much on not messing up. In my mind, if I messed up, if I made a bad decision, it wouldn’t just bring shame to my parents, but also to God and His reputation in the world. I became so afraid of messing up that I ended up being afraid to live. Even now, I’m a super indecisive person because I’m haunted by a fear of messing up. In my mind, if I mess up, the entire trajectory of the rest of my life is irreversibly messed up as well.
When I got married to my husband, and especially when I had our kids, it seemed like my entire identity hinged on being a wife and mom. It became overwhelming to the point where I felt suffocated emotionally. Who was I really? What did I REALLY want out of life? I knew what the “right” answers to those questions were as a Christian: be a supportive wife, mold my kids characters’ and make sure that they grew up to be people of high moral fiber that would be lights in the world. At one time I was passionate about those things, but now saying them out loud felt flat and false.
I realized that I didn’t really know myself because I hadn’t taken a whole lot of risks in my life. I had rebelled against my parents’ wishes when I started dating my husband at 21. That decision had given me the courage to pursue teaching instead of medicine as a career. But for ten years after that, I retreated back into my shell and my husband and marriage became the place where I hid from the world. My husband and kids became my excuse for living an existence where I kept my God-given gifts and personality hidden because of fear.
Thank God I have a perceptive husband; he encourages me to push my boundaries and figure things out, but for a long time, I had resentment because he already knew his purpose and pursuing what he feels is his mission. I wanted the same thing but didn’t know how to go about finding it out. It brought a lot of tension to our relationship because I begrudged the time he spent away from me and the kids trying to pursue his dreams.
I still don’t have concrete answers, but I keep repeating this quote to myself: nothing will change if nothing changes.” So now I’m trying to do things like speak up when I would usually keep silent, go out when I would usually stay home, and basically do the opposite of what I feel like doing. I’ve been going off feeling for most of my life, and I’m not satisfied, so I figured doing the opposite of what I usually do is a good start.
I know a lot of people are thinking, “But where’s your relationship with God in all of this?” I know I’ll get comments about how a relationship with God gives you a sense of purpose and mission in life. But can I be real? Religion can be a great place to hide from God too. It’s easy to get caught up in displaying a certain persona in the attempt to please God. That comes from a place of relating to God as an authoritarian parent who will hit me on the knuckles when you break a rule, not a loving Father who wants the best for me. So I’m determined to relate to God as a daughter relates to a Father who will lovingly correct my path if I start to stray, and give me healing in the places where I’m broken. And I’m certain that in the process, I’ll become a better wife and mom because I’ll be a more confident, happy person.
Till next time!