I've been working at the same place for almost six years now. When I started my job, I had no children. Had never been pregnant. Had never tried to get pregnant. A and I weren't even married.
The place has been good to me. They've given me so much flexibility, and it's interesting work that's changed enough, over these years, to keep me challenged. I like working, and not just as a form of respite from parenting. It's fulfilling, what I do. It's important, and I enjoy it.
Lately, though, I feel so strange during the time I spend at the office, and I think this odd feeling comes, somehow, from my body being (more or less) back to its non-pregnant state again. I used to work full time. Now I'm just in the office two days a week. And those days, although the work I do has changed—gotten more interesting—are weirdly like the days I spent here years and years ago. The architecture of the place, the relationships, the procedures. It feels wrong and somehow false that I keep doing all of it the same way I ever did. I have changed shape so many times in these six years—physically and emotionally. I am different. And yet that is invisible, mostly, to the people I see at the office. Now, unpregnant, no longer on maternity leave of any sort, no longer obviously wretched with sleep deprivation, I look—if you don't pull up my shirt or look really closely at my facial lines—substantially unchanged from the unmarried twenty-something of as-yet unproven fertility who first walked in the door on an August morning in 2002.
I am slow with these identity shifts; it's taken me ages to wriggle my way into feeling like a real human being while caring for one child, then two. I've thought much less about what that means for who I am elsewhere, without the little people who've stretched me out and reshaped me.
I guess I will eventually figure out some new and remarkable way look at this. For now, my work identity feels like an ill-fitting shell. Is it like this for you, working, if you do? A lot of mothers seem to experience their work as a reassuring source of enduring identity during the changes of motherhood, but for me it is starting to feel phony.