Lost or Found: Mommy IdentityNov 14th

just a mom

So the other day we had a wrap-up brunch for the women’s Bible study I attend. While there were so many wonderful things to take away from our last session, I found myself stuck on the juxtaposition of two testimonies that were shared.

One woman shared how she found her identity in being a mom and raising her kids in light of her faith. The other woman shared how she had gotten “lost” in being a mom and was searching for her identity. A mommy identity crisis.

For the past few months, I have felt lost in my role as a mom. It’s a hard thing to admit because that confession is packed with guilt and baggage.

Isn’t this what I always wanted?

Shouldn’t raising my children be the crowning achievement of my life?

Can I even imagine my life without them?

So this life isn’t enough??

I feel like those questions have been on the tip of my tongue every time I start a blog post. I’ve wanted to speak them–wanted to see them in black and white, but the guilt is too great.

I guess it’s because in my practical and somewhat pessimistic mind, I can look down the road and sort of visualize the unknown tragedies and griefs awaiting me.

Hello doomsday, right? Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but really? Who is spared grief? No one. Grief is intricately wrapped up in this thing called life.

So I see that grey cloud of grief–hopefully way down the road–and I know that THIS, right here, right now will be a bright patch. Raising my young children–teaching them–coaching them–is a happy memory. But the fact is, I have to work hard at being happy in the here and now.

The hard truth is that sometimes I begrudge my identity as a mom.

So, I want to ask you… are you lost in your identity as a mom, or are you found?

I believe my current position is ambivalent. And by the way: I love that word.

Ambivalent.

ambivalent

 

I think this word perfectly encapsulates how I feel about my identity as a mom. On the one hand, I absolutely LOVE being a mom. I love the golden moments:

I love you to the moon, Mommy.

I hurt my hand, Mommy. Could you kiss it?

Your child smiles with her eyes.

Your children are beautiful!

Oh yes. During those moments I could easily have as many babies as the old uterus would allow.

kids and blocks

But then there are the dark moments:

The excruciating hour before bedtime.

The meltdown at Target.

The marker on my couch.

The horror of my child being rude to someone.

Yep. I could do without all  the above. I could be anyone else during those moments. Just not the mom with a sweaty upper lip and a child hanging from each arm.

I wish I could have sat both of these women down and cross-examined them. Find the golden mean and thus change my life, and probably the lives of others.

But this brings me to my other great takeaway from Bible study…Weakness is strength. I think sometimes people misunderstand how easy it is to be a follower of Christ.

Yes, I said easy. Because here’s the deal: Christ uses the weak. He uses the broken. And maybe, for now, my identity is an ambivalent, conflicted mom who constantly questions her own heart. That sounds like an astounding weakness, doesn’t it?

I don’t know how it’s used. I have yet to find my shining purpose. Maybe for now, my purpose is just to be vigilant in doing the mundane. Enduring the meltdowns. Kissing the ouchies. Washing little socks.

For me, this is a daily struggle. Am I alone? I do want to hear from you. Wish we could all just hang out and swap sob stories. I feel like we’d all walk away so encouraged in knowing that we are not alone.

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22 Responses to Lost or Found: Mommy IdentityNov 14th

  1. Amanda November 14, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I think it’s only normal to feel both sometimes. I am happier than I’ve ever been, I feel like I was meant to be a Mom and raise these boys; but that doesn’t mean sometimes I don’t wish for more, I don’t know, recognition? of the hard and wonderful job I’m doing.

    • hillary November 14, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Yes! Maybe its the whole being unrecognized, unacknowledged that gets to me. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Mona November 14, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Hillary,
    Ten to fifteen years ago I felt the same way. I was always searching for my identity. I wasn’t satisfied with “just being a mom”. I tried so hard to find myself. I think part of our problem is cultural. The American women is still trying BE it all. “Bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.” And thanks to Martha Stewart, we must have the table set to perfection and a full course meal ready for the hubby when he arrives home. Then add the expectations of compliant Christian housewife and patient mother and there we have a recipe for disaster. None of these things in and of themselves are bad but the motivation behind them is where we go wrong. Now that I can look back on my mothering of the first two kids I can see where I went wrong. I was searching for my identity in the wrong place. I’m about to say a very Christiany thing but here goes… our identity needs to be found in Christ. We ARE mothers, wives, sisters, co workers, friends but our IDENTITY is in Christ. Once I truly embraced this truth so much pressure left me. It was and still is a process but my expectations of myself, my husband and kids did a 180. It’s easier now to embrace the seasons of my life. I’m sure you have been told more than once that this season of motherhood is so short and will be gone before you know it. It’s soo true! It’s so short. By letting God have our identity we can EMBRACE this season that includes the mundane, repetition, the spilt milk, and the tantrums. I wish I had figured this out when raising my oldest but two things I know are true about our God. He loves me and my children more than I can fathom and He has their (and mine) best interest in mind ALL the time. So my failures in parenting are not where it ends. I finally made the choice to step back and relax, let God be God, and embrace difficult seasons. And by embrace, I mean hug it, kiss it, call it your friend (for a season) because it’s where you are and there is no sense in resisting.
    I really appreciate your openness. Thanks for sharing :) .

    • hillary November 15, 2013 at 12:50 am #

      Mona! Wow! Such astounding words. I hear the phrase about our identity being in Christ often. And I don’t think it really has resonated until I apply it to such a quiet, but difficult cross-roads. When I wrote this post I was hoping for insight from my readers. I know God provided that through you and the other commenters. I really appreciate your wisdom.

      You have awesome kids–I can testify to that! So thank you for sharing your experience here :)

      • Mona November 18, 2013 at 10:20 am #

        :) Thanks! I got to see Coco yesterday. She’s growing up so fast!

        • hillary November 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

          I saw you across the rows and I wanted to come give you a hug! Bummed I missed you :( But I did get to hang out with your fabulous daughter and that did my heart some good :)

  3. Chris Carter November 14, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    There is purpose in being a mother… but it comes with a cost, like every other purpose. The cost? Annoyance, frustration, boredom, endless struggles and exhaustion to name a few. But within that purpose, lies a mission- and in that mission, there is room to feel and fluctuate and roam to wonder and question and be- ambivalent.

    It’s so individual- like everything else. Some moms have been lost their whole lives and find peace in this purpose. Some moms have a desire to be more than a mom, to fulfill another purpose- to walk more roads and cross more paths. Some moms already had a purpose before parenting, and they simply add this one on to their list.

    It’s personal. Each one of us has a different perspective and story. For YEARS I could honestly say I “survived” motherhood. There was nothing about it that was good. It was horrifying and exhausting when my kids were sick. It did steal my career and my peace (what little I had) and sometimes, it weighted so heavily on my faith that I thought there was no hope. I gave up over and over again.

    So this season of “ambivalence”? So true, so real, so exactly where you are- where we all are often. And yes, those moments that are beautiful? We will hold them tight in our dark days. But it’s work. A lot of work.

    And with each season of our purpose- there are more hard climbs and some possible hard falls. But like everything in our lives- ebb and flow girl. Ebb and flow.

    And in the end- You have raised two precious souls that will walk this earth and find their own purpose.

    And in the very end… Our truest call is Him.

    Lastly- I find that asking myself “what do I want to remember when I look back on these years? This time? This season? What would make my heart sing?”

    Do that. Focus solely on that. I find great joy in doing- just that. :)

    HUGS!!!!!

    • hillary November 15, 2013 at 12:46 am #

      Oh, Chris! You always answer my heart questions. Thank you for this. Can we organize a pow-wow? Like get a bunch of moms together and you rally us forward?

      Ebb and flow. I will remember that. That is a beautiful picture, especially now that I live near the ocean. I think I’ll write it on my bathroom mirror.

      Thank you for coming forward and giving me an eternal perspective–I really needed it!! Hugs to you, too!

  4. Rhoda Jane November 15, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    Wow. I really appreciated Mona’s comment. Thank you, Mona, for sharing. Spot on, yet something we fail to remember.

    • hillary November 15, 2013 at 8:53 am #

      amen.

  5. Kristen November 15, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Thank you
    Thank you
    Thank you
    for this post.

    For the past few days (heck maybe even months), I’ve been in a funk.
    I am an out of work, stay at home mom and have been for almost two years. I don’t really want to go back to work but I will have to soon. I feel I have no purpose other than being a mom….negotiating fights, making dinner, helping with homework.

    I love my children dearly and thank God every day that I am blessed to have them. But some days I really can’t bear to hear “Mommy” one more time.

    Add that to the monster puppy we have at home and the stress of a sick family member and I’m in a total funk a dink.

    Thanks for letting me know that I’m not the only one.

  6. Meredith November 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    You are not alone!! I go back and forth from being lost and found. Sometimes, I feel so desperate to find myself again, and sometimes, I feel perfectly happy right where I am. I think that’s part of God’s plan. I think that we can’t be found until we are lost! :) Great post!!

    • hillary November 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Ooh–perhaps I can just include your words at the end of my post? You put it so eloquently: We can’t be found until we are lost. Brilliant!

  7. Adrienne November 16, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    To be quite honest, I feel extremely lost in my identity as a mom right now. And there’s a HUGE amount of guilt hovering over me for not enjoying the here and now more. I just can’t snap out of it, I guess. So? consider this sob story swapped! I just went to get a glass of wine. 😉

    • hillary November 17, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

      Yah, I wish we could just share a bottle together :( Hugs!

  8. Johanna November 17, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Hi Hillary,
    I don’t usually comment on blogs, but this post has resonated with me and I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge that. Being a mom is hard. It may be the hardest job there is, but somehow I feel self-indulgent and unproductive doing it. I frequently feel unfulfilled, which I think is similar to how you feel about your identity as mom, as you put it. I feel I should be contributing to society more and contributing financially to my family. But this is what I chose and I’ll be darned if I don’t try to do better at it every day. I have to eek some sort of pride and fulfillment out of this job, whether it’s successfully coaxing Bekah into the stroller without a tantrum or just congratulating myself for not losing it with Catie for an entire afternoon. So I guess that’s my advice to you….for what it’s worth.

    And I think it bears saying that the expectations on us, as you say, are ri-dic-u-lous. I’ve struggled with that a lot. Society, and heck, even other moms, tell us that we have to sacrifice everything; all our time, bodies, energy, resources, and creativity for our kids, and furthermore, be incredibly happy about it. Finding the balance between self-sacrifice and self-fulfillment and agency is the name of the game, and I don’t know the rules. So hang in there, Mama. You’re sacrificing enough (and btw, I have mad respect for anyone who has the balls to homeschool. seriously)
    Love to all,
    Johanna

    • hillary November 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      Hey Johanna! Thanks so much for commenting! I can’t even explain how good it is to know that others feel the same way. Misery loves company, eh?

      I like that you celebrate the small victories–that is something I need to do. Going a whole afternoon without losing it? That deserves a cookie for sure. Or maybe a glass of wine.

      I have mad respect for a mom who will fly across the pond and make a life in another land. Girl, you guys rock. Hugs to you! I miss Davis and all the sweet people we met there–you guys included. I hope we get to hang out again at more philosophy events or something :)

  9. BrerMatt November 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    I think we overly burden ourselves in comparisons. “This is not who I thought I would/should be.” Instead, we are better off when we can say “This is who I am, and it’s good.”

    • hillary November 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

      Sound advice. Thank you for reading!

  10. Nicole Leigh Shaw November 19, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    I think we need to be us,first. Use the best parts of who we are to inform the way we mother. After all, we are raising our kids to be whole people, so they need to see us whole.

    Hugs, babe.

    • hillary November 19, 2013 at 9:03 am #

      Thanks, friend. Apparently I’ve been confused lately haha. Feel like I’m finding my way back.

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