Finding me


Tabi Melhorn graduated from Bellwood-Antis in 2011. She is a mother of two who lives in Philipsburg. Her blog is entitled That Blonde Mom.

Oh how funny it is to look back. The world in my rear-view mirror is so very different from the one I’d envisioned. This is not to say I am disappointed with the way things have turned out… no. But it is not what I had always anticipated either.

Tabi Melhorn
Tabi Melhorn

I can’t tell you that I had some convoluted plan for my life gone derailed by having a family while young. I only went one year to college, essentially undeclared. I did not have a special ability that I’d planned my life around. I was fundamentally floundering, bouncing along, waiting for something to come along and make something of me. It’s not that I lacked ambition, or was talent-less; it was just that my life was uncharted before I was married at 19. I had no real sense of direction or aspiration. I just wanted to live.

There were a lot of things I could’ve been, some I probably haven’t even considered. But I usually deem that I am, in a shell, a mother of two and housewife. It is my caricature. We all do this, caricaturize ourselves. Sure, I could also say I dabble in singing, and writing, and have blonde hair and own a cute house and have traveled a lot, and have malaria, and blah blah blah. But these are just things ABOUT me. It oft leaves me with this question: who AM I? Not WHAT, but Who?

I think a lot of young mothers feel this way. We go about keeping the house, giving baths, changing diapers, folding laundry… and somewhere along the way we see that we do not know any longer who we are when we strip these things away. If I am not my children’s mother, who am I? If I am not a homemaker, who am I? If I am not a wife, what is left? And it can be a lonely thought process to meander down…

When I first was married I moved in a cute little apartment my husband had already lived in for about 6 months, and got a job as the office administrator at a mental health practice. I drove to the city each day in my nice SUV, wore beautiful dress clothes and stilettos, ran the entire office and branch of the practice myself, came home and made dinner, cleaned my house, made my husband his lunch for the next day, made baked goods and took them to my husband’s work on my days off, went to the gym most days… I did it all. I should say that I had this sense of arrival. I married my lifelong crush, a successful and kind man. We had a home together. We made good money. We were what you were supposed to grow up and become… and we did not like each other very much.

We made good money. We were what you were supposed to grow up and become… and we did not like each other very much.

I want to be honest here, we did not get along. We both worked long hours, ran a ministry, did everything we were supposed to do, and we didn’t like our life, or each other, all that much.

It was a sad time, looking back. Empty. Even then, not knowing who I was, only what I was.

And then I quit my job, and became a nanny. It was a decision I made in the middle of the day at my office job. I was sitting in my office, and a doctor at the practice came and just went off on me about some paperwork situation. Let me be clear, I am not perfect, but I was VERY good at that job. And I was tired of feeling unappreciated. So I went online, found an ad for a nanny, applied and took a phone call from the family in search the very next day. I needed something new, somewhere to put my hands at work and feel that I was succeeding. To see the fruits of my labor; and children, I have found, make it very clear what you are inspiring in them very quickly. So I took the job and I loved it. I was good at it. I found my niche.

4 months later, we discovered we were expecting our first daughter.

We were shocked. And suddenly we found a need to make it work, to get along, and to likeeach other. Things were good.

Fast forward 15 months after our first child was born, and our second daughter was born. In 2 years time, I stopped working outside my home, had one baby born, moved 4 hours away to take over a new ministry, got pregnant again, bought a house, and that gave birth for a second time. Things that take many couple 5-10 years to do, we had done in 2.5 years since being married. It was fast, tornado fast. And in the tornado, my identity was swept away. I knew not who I was, it seemed that there wasn’t room for it.

And there I was, married, 2 kids under 2, a house… No, Taylor Swift, I wasn’t “feeling 22”.

I felt old and tired.

I was feeling lost. I was weary.

No, Taylor Swift, I wasn’t “feeling 22”.

What was supposed to come next? There was always a next: something more to go and get. And now, I wondered, what was next?

Was I just supposed to sit at home every day, try to tidy up after my toddler who was constantly undoing whatever I had just done, nurse my newborn, and show up to youth activities for my husband’s ministry? What else was there for me? Was there anything that was mine? Not even my body belonged to me, having spent the last 2 years either pregnant or nursing, or both… Was my purpose nearly to survive?

I know, I sound ungrateful and selfish. My own voice annoys me as I write these things. A lot of people would love to be married, and have a house, and have children and get to spend every day with them. A lot of people look at my life, and they think, she has what I want. But the grass is always greener…

Do not mishear me. I LOVE my husband and the ministry we run. I LOVE my beautiful home that I work tirelessly to keep up with (although my toddler would have you believe I never clean up, as she always finds a way to “help” me by undoing whatever mommy has just finished doing…). I LOVE my beautiful daughters.

But life has become this mechanical, monotonous thing in which I do not know what I am supposed to be… WHO I am supposed to me.

My days are filled with keeping nap schedules like clockwork or bracing for sure death, chasing my oldest, nursing my youngest, or pumping milk for when I am needed at youth events , bible studies, meetings, or the never ending list of things I’ve taken on to organize and facilitate.

I do what is needed and asked. I do the things that no one sees are needed for my family to be fed, and cleaned, and on time. I try, often without success, to keep a tidy home. I help out at church and run retreats and I really LIKE a lot of these things. But none of it is for ME. And all too often, I forget about myself. To make room for Tabi. What is mine? What is for me?

And then I ask myself these annoying questions: What is mine? Who am I? What am I doing?

And after I ask that, I swallow a bowl of guilt and shame. I should be grateful. I should be quiet. I should hold my tongue and be thankful, because it could be worse. I should be less self-centered and blah blah blah.

But you know what? That gets old. I am human. I have feelings, and dreams, and I want to be somebody.

I know good and well, I am more than a mother and wife. BUT I ask myself what is this “more” that I am??

Have you been there? Have you looked around in the midst of your craziness and asked: what more is there to me beyond my survival??

I have.

And let me tell you what happens when you don’t know who you are; even the fullest, richest, busiest life is empty. Everything that you DO, is not enough. It is sad. It is dark. And as I said, it is EMPTY.

There is an echo to your life. Your life: the pit of your soul where you dump all your activities, and work, and schedules; it will never fill up.

What you do, and what you fill your days with, will never be enough to fill you and tell you who you are.

The emptiness of being unidentifiable is all consuming. It is a fire that’s flames will lick everything in its path and make a ghost town.

 Who you are must be found, known, and then: celebrated.

I am seeing now a way to dig myself out of this sea of sameness, to find the island that contains WHO I am. I want to tell you all that I have the answer on how to fill in the blank to the nagging question of who I am, but that is not true. I do not know where to find this answer.

Here’s what I do know: it’s time. It’s time to make room for yourself in your life. Is there space to be you? Make space. Do it. Right now. It is time to stop basing my identity on what and how much I am doing, and discover WHO I am.

This lack of knowing who we are is cancerous, deadly. Your soul is one that deserves to be fed. Feed it. Find what feeds it. No one can starve forever. It will kill you, the emptiness, if you do not figure out who you are.

As parents, spouses, we often lose our identities in keeping up with things that need done, and people who count on us. But know that you are burning both ends if you do not leave space for yourself.

I have been a monster. An exhausted, angry, emotional monster. I have let the monster of me, destroy so much of my life. I have yelled, and cried, and been generally unkind in the darkness of my life, because I have not made room to discover and keep who I am. I have allowed a rock to form where my sense of self had been, and in my tracks I have destroyed others. When I don’t make room for me, I am not gentle. I lack peace in every corner of my life. So I now pronounce myself on a journey to knowing Tabi. To unearth the me that has long gone buried underneath the weight of living my every day. She is in here somewhere. I will find her.

Who I am is worth finding, knowing, and celebrating.

When I know myself not, I do not have room or anything at all give, to love my children, care for my husband, or pour any of myself into any one or any thing else. I must learn to make room for me and in that space learn who I am. It’s time to make a recovery. Everything in my life depends on it. Everything.