It’s been said that it’s not until you become a mother that you truly find your identity.
That’s not true for me. When I became a mom, I suddenly had no clue who I was or what I was supposed to be doing. I felt lost in a sea of never-ending diapers, burp cloths soaked in spit-up and sleepless nights staring at the baby monitor willing my child to sleep.
Is this all there is? I asked myself.
Cue the second child, second round of diaper changes, constant spit-up, sleep training, etc.
And then last Friday happened. I took my two boys to story time at the library since it was pouring rain outside and we all know a stir crazy two-year-old and indoors don’t mix. I thought getting out of the house and reading some stories and listening to music would be good for everyone.
Apparently my toddler disagreed. The minute story time began, he made it very clear he didn’t want to be there. He refused to sit in my lap and to my horror, started running circles around a little girl sitting quietly on the floor (I’m laughing about it now…sort of). The teacher said, “Jackson, let’s sit cross-legged on the floor please,” – but she was really looking at me when she said it.
I know, lady, I thought. Believe me, I know.
I didn’t stick around for any more reminders. I hauled my children out of there. And that’s when Jackson, eager to express his newly discovered independence and his hatred for all things indoors, decided it would be a great time to take off running into the stacks of books.
I was unprepared for this sudden sprint and struggled to click Logan’s car seat into the stroller so I could chase down my manic toddler. I lost him for about two minutes. I ran from stack to stack with everyone staring at the crazy mom in a winter coat and rain boots, losing her mind.
When I finally found him, it took everything in me to keep from spanking him right then and there (just being honest).
“Do NOT do that to me ever again!” I yelled in a hushed whisper. “You never EVER leave Mommy like that!”
For his part, Jackson appeared contrite. But when it was time to get into the car and head home, he started throwing another tantrum. I drove us straight home and put him up in his room in time out so I could collect myself. The tears threatened to pour down my cheeks any minute.
Is this all there is? The thought sprang to my mind again. Was I always going to feel this out of control? Was I always going to question my abilities as a mother?
In Becoming MomStrong, a book by pastor’s wife and mom of seven Heidi St. John, she talks about surrender. Not sacrifice…surrender.
A good way to describe this stage of life, isn’t it?
Heidi writes in her book that this season of life is about surrendering to circumstances outside your control. It’s all about being open to the unexpected – which we moms know happens pretty much every day. By trying to control everything around us, we only feel more and more out of control.
Surrender doesn’t mean we make everything about our kids. We need to take care of ourselves too – otherwise what good are we to our children? But surrender does mean that we stop searching for our identity and let God show us what He wants for us. Sometimes what we dream up isn’t really what comes to fruition. And that’s okay. God’s plan is always better than any plan we can come up with for ourselves.
There’s no guidebook for motherhood. No written manual that tells you where to reclaim your lost identity. Rather, I believe our new identities are being shaped and molded by what we experience as moms, both good and bad. Motherhood strengthens us in ways we can never imagine and it’s through that strengthening that a new identity emerges. Will it be what we predicted or expected? Probably not. That’s where the surrender part comes in. If we spend all our time focusing on trying to control everything around us so that what we think should happen does happen, we’ll miss out on the magical moments with our kids. Moments that creep up throughout the day and last only seconds.
For example – after the library incident, my kids woke up from their naps refreshed. They sat together and played with toys quietly for fifteen whole minutes. Fifteen! That may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it felt like an eternity. And instead of focusing on what I should be doing (laundry, dishes, the list goes on), I sat still and watched them. I soaked in the moment and for those fifteen minutes, I felt like the best mom on earth.
Embrace the chaos. Embrace the uncertainty. Surrender yourself to it. Don’t try to find your identity right now – it will find you. Just be. It’s through rest, not action, that we truly discover ourselves and who we’re meant to be in this new stage of life.
Do you struggle with finding your identity after becoming a mom? What lessons have you learned along the way?