March 05, 2006

Adult Female Identity

Even at this mid-point in life, a time when life-review is common, (not always a crisis), I am still looking around me for role models, especially in the generation ahead of me, for clues to good living. We all need heroes, people we admire and want to emulate. This was a huge motivating factor in the creation of Purple Women™ – the survey, upon which my book will be based. I cannot wait to delve into the analysis.

They say “you are the company you keep” and I really believe that’s true. As a childfree 40-something, married woman I fit squarely in the category of those who are deemed to have an atypical adult identity. My husband and I live happily outside the mainstream. I wonder if I am alone in my struggle to accept and define myself by my alternative “family” status? We are a family of two, a subset of two much larger complicated families, just like everyone else, but we are not like everyone else.

Identity became more of a crisis for me after my fiancée, now my husband of 8 years, moved me back to his rural hometown right before we got married. It’s the kind of place people move to when they need a bigger house in the suburb so they can raise 2.5 children. As we started out on our co-mingled journey together, we both came to realize, albeit for different reasons, that this was not the right place for us. I am glad to have had the experience. I feel I know him better for it, but I am also glad we moved on. Culturally and socially I was dying.

Over the years I have tried to define myself by my work, with so-so results. I figured, it works for men, so why not me? I got a little panicky when I would think about “my career”. I thought that since I was going not to be a mom that I had to do or be something else. I think deep down I viewed myself through how I feared other people would judge me. That I had no worth if I was not a mom, or otherwise contributing to the economy, or making a difference in the world. This is probably psychological fallout from living in a kid-centric society. I found some solace in focusing the last decade of my work life in the nonprofit sector and as a fundraiser for good causes – both as volunteer and paid staff.

When the opportunity came up to move across three time zones and one border on a company transfer, I really pushed for it. I saw it as a chance to start over, and think through just what kind of life we wanted to build. When we got posted in Canada, I was determined to seek friends who were childfree and had time for extracurricular activities and socializing. It has made all the difference.

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