Who am I?? {The Mother Identity Crisis}

Beauty, faith, Family, friendship and family, homemaker, Marriage, motherhood, parenting, Random, Women, Writing / Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Every time I have a baby, I feel like I go through a sort of identity crisis. And the funny thing is, as I reflect back on the years and times after each of our 4 kids, it seems I follow a circular pattern with these crises. Yet, when I’m in it, it feels completely new and unlike anything I’ve ever been through before. (Except to my husband, he’s seen me go through all my crazy ups and downs through the years enough to pick out the pattern. Like the weather. And, since he’s smart, he knows just when to seek shelter and when it’s safe to enjoy the milder and peaceful times.)

When I think about myself and the time following the birth of each of our four babies, I think of a caterpillar struggling to get out of her chrysalis and learn how to fly. At first, I want to stay snuggled up in my comfortable little cocoon. But whether I like it or not, I have to go through the metamorphosis from a young woman to a mother; from a mother of one to a mother of two, or three, or four. On the other spectrum, when it’s time to come out of my cocoon, I try too hard, too fast. I push and wriggle and stretch and finally maneuver my way out, expecting to fly free and strong with my new wings. But my wings aren’t dry yet, my body still weak from my “incubation” time.  Through the months and years that follow my transition from “me” to “wife” and “mama”, my husband and children pump their life and energy into me and my wings strengthen and I fly a bit better.

With each new child, each new transition, I have to learn to get used to this new body, this new life. I struggle, oh how I struggle. I love being a mother; I love all my babies – all the joy and wonder they bring. But I can’t deny there are times I’m nostalgic for the simple days, when I was a simple caterpillar taking my sweet time crawling around on the ground with no real place to be or anyone to be in charge of except for myself. Once I became a mother my whole world – my perspective – my whole life changed. It wasn’t about me or myhusbandandme anymore, it was about another human being that needed me and us for everything. This excited and terrified me all at the same time. I wrestled with my new identity. I floundered as I tried (in vain) to separate my “individuality” from my ‘role’ as wife and mother. I wanted to embrace this life but I didn’t want to lose my old self either. I didn’t know how to be both or if that was even possible?

Some days, I look at myself and see a beautiful new creature, a wife & mother. Other days, I don’t even recognize myself; I have no idea who I am. Yet, if I search deeper, under this magnificent outward transformation, my simple wormy body from my past life remains. The dreams and memories of my childhood compose my skeleton, my framework. My past experiences, mistakes, triumphs, and lessons are my muscles, holding me up and giving me strength for the life I lead now. With each baby, I have to look harder to find myself, to figure out how to keep my original interior alive under my ever-transforming exterior. Every time I go through it, I have to re-organize myself and figure out who I am now and what God wants me to do. I’ve gone through a lot of different phases in this process. First there was my “Arbonne days” (I see those eyes rolling and mine are rolling right along with yours!). I finally gave that up [Applause!!] but have been involved in other projects here and there in between the seasons of pregnancy and infancy. One thing I’ve stayed consistent with is writing/blogging, which I am obviously still doing and very much enjoy. Each of these experiences provided me many lessons and have shaped me into who I am and how I understand the world and others today.

This time, now that my baby is one, I can say that I feel like I’ve done a better job staying focused on the task at hand. – Said the crazy lady. 😉 But I still struggle with knowing what God wants me to specifically do. There are so many things I am passionate about and would love to do to serve God, while still serving our family. I go through times when I love and fully embrace my role as an “at-home” mother whose sole and “full-time” job is to care for our family and manage our home. I love my family and want to be here for them, especially now while they are young. I’m eternally thankful to my husband, who works hard at his job that allows me the freedom to be available to our family like this, which I know is rare and not a realistic possibility for every family. I know there is no job more important than what I’m doing at home with our children and I really wouldn’t want anyone else but my husband and me being the primary care-takers of our kids.

Yet, every now and then, I’ll see an ad for a full-time job that I know I’d be very good at and I would enjoy working with other adults in a building that is not my house. It is tempting sometimes to not feel like there is more I could offer the world. I have other talents and knowledge outside of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, cooking, and housework. (I guess that is a lot right there though, huh?) Plus, on a practical note, while we aren’t living in poverty, our family’s needs are catching up to our income quickly. I can’t help but think a little extra could be helpful  so we could proactively save money, share more with those in real need, maybe enjoy more family vacations that are important parts of childhood, tackle important (and fun) house projects, and maybe, just maybe, have some money to retire with. It’s too bad there isn’t a job that only requires an hour or so of work a day and offers a decent pay. (That’s wishful thinking, right?)

{But then I feel guilty even thinking and writing about these “worldly things” because I know we live a “rich man’s” life compared to so many around the world. And I wonder, how literally are we, as a family, supposed to apply Christ’s call to “sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” I mean surely he doesn’t want us to really sell our house and all our stuff and live in a cardboard box begging for food and clothing our kids in newspaper? Right??  But I would if He really made it clear that’s what He wanted…}

At this point, the “world” would tell me to go. Go out and “live your dreams.” “Find yourself”, “don’t waste your talents on snotty noses and dirty dishes.” The world offers me a more “glamorous” life – one full of “achievement” and “success”, one that would make me feel “important”, “fulfilled” and “useful”. (Thanks Sir Topham Hatt.)

But none of those empty promises are real. This life – me, my husband, our children, our family, our friends and community, this is REAL. Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing, wiping noses, kissing ouchies, reading and telling stories, helping with homework and in the classroom, praying and talking about God and life together, managing bills and purchases, working hard to make money by saving money (and maybe making a little extra from time to time), this is what matters, this is what is real and everlasting. I need to find a way to be passionate about what God has called me to now. This season will pass, the kids will grow-up and not need me in the same way they do now and I’ll have a little more time to commit to other jobs/volunteering outside of the home. I’m sure, when that time comes, I’ll enjoy the new opportunities but I will look back at these years and miss them. And I hope, by living this life as fully as I can now, that I will have good memories to look back on and miss. 

Part of answering God’s call to serve Him through my vocation as wife & mother means giving up me. It means I have to give up myself so that I may truly give  to others, so that I may give God – LOVE – to others. I have to offer myself up, but this doesn’t mean I am not me anymore. A caterpillar is still the same caterpillar after her metamorphosis, her body has developed and transformed, but it’s the same caterpillar. And her new wings are attached to this same original caterpillar body. It’s the same with motherhood. I’m still the same girl, the same woman, the same me. I’ve gone through many changes and transformations but I’m still Erika. My “wings” – my husband, our children, our family and this life we live together – are attached to my original self. If I tried to take my wings off, I’d never fly again, my body would die. And what good would my new wings be if not for my body to fly with? 

The life I lived before all this was important, essential, to allow for my transformation into my next “life stage” of marriage, motherhood and family life. I can’t separate that life away from this life now and I don’t need to. But, I also can’t live that life the same way anymore. I shouldn’t try. I have wings now and so I must fly. I have a husband (whom I LOVE deeply) and children (whom we LOVE and adore beyond all measure) and so I must be a wife and I must be a mother to these whom I love so dearly and who are an inseparable part of my life now. And, it seems, they’ve been part of my life the whole time and always will. This is who I am. This is what I do.

2 Replies to “Who am I?? {The Mother Identity Crisis}”

  1. This is beautiful, Erika…. This is going to sound cheesy, but I saw so many “answers” just in your asking these questions. Does that make sense? Like, you are confronting the reality before you, even though it is messy and not clear-cut. This encounter is so essential. And most people (even myself) don’t do it enough. We just plug through our days without acknowledging this longing for something else– even if the “now” is good, there is always that longing… And someday that which is longed for may become the present, but then there will be more questions and another need for confronting *that* reality.

    Okay, I am tired. This probably doesn’t make sense. Good post.

    1. Sarah, thanks for the comment, I really love being back from others.
      Yes, it makes sense and I’m glad if I helped you in your “searching”. I did have another paragraph about being disgruntled with my own chronic dissatisfaction but took it out because this was already long enough!
      St.Augustine really wins the best ideas contest of all time, Our great is restless until it rests in You, oh God.
      In a way, this restlessness helps me remember that this life, and who I am here and what I do here, is not an end in itself but merely part of the path to the end goal.

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