Let me illustrate. Shortly after my daughter was born, my husband and I went to a college alumni networking event. As we started to mingle, the inevitable question came, “So what are you doing now?” My answer, “Caring for our infant daughter.” From that point on it was as if I disappeared into the floor; no one wanted to talk with me, while everyone chatted happily with my attorney husband. I was stunned, and devastated. I still thought of myself as an intelligent, interesting person, but clearly all of a sudden no one else did.
Or take this scenario. A father friend of mine took his three small children out for coffee one morning, as he wrangled the whirling tutus and the baby on his lap, people gaped. Finally one woman came up to him and said “It’s so AMAZING how you handle all three of them!” He said later it was as if he had one arm and was taking care of three kids, while no one ever stops his wife when she’s out with three kids. While his audience saw him as a freak of nature, he simply thought of himself as a father.
Identity Whiplash happens when mothers and fathers crash into outdated assumptions others have about us that conflict with how we think of ourselves, leaving us dazed, confused and even questioning our identity and our decisions. Continue reading