Losing Myself

Becoming “Mom” stirred up a difficult question: Who am I . . . really?

taken from http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2016/august/losing-myself-motherhood-identity.html

Losing Myself

Image: MATT HOFFMAN/STOCKSNAP.IO

When I was in college, I had a lot of friends who told me that what they really wanted to do in life was be a mom. Yes, they were getting degrees and they wanted to work, but really, their highest hope was to become a mother.

I nodded and affirmed them. I hoped that one day I would become a mom, too—but I never really knew how to respond to their longing for children. I’d never felt that; what I did feel was a desire to pursue other things—dreams of writing and teaching and speaking—and I wasn’t sure when having kids might fit into my life.

Perhaps that is part of the reason why, at first, becoming a mom was so difficult for me. I had gone on to teach and write and speak . . . and then I became a mom. Once she arrived, I loved my daughter fiercely and relentlessly. But I also felt that I had somehow misplaced my identity—my very self—in the process of becoming a mom, and, like a missing wallet, I felt waves of panic when I couldn’t find it, no matter how hard I looked.

I felt subsumed by motherhood. I couldn’t get my bearings; I couldn’t find my footing. Without the trappings of my former life, my identity was deeply shaken. When I didn’t have time to read and study, or when I didn’t have margin to talk with my husband for uninterrupted hours, I felt misplaced. When I didn’t have the emotional energy to meet with a friend for coffee and discuss our faith and our friendship, it was then that I felt that I was losing myself. Add to that the exhaustion I experienced, the raw responsibility I carried for another’s life, and the unrelenting needs that my daughter had, and I felt like I was drowning.

I remember looking at our living room one day: my daughter’s burp cloths and toys were scattered around the space, and a stack of papers was waiting on the coffee table for me to grade. Who was I? I knew, intellectually, that I could say that I was a mom, and I was a wife, and I was a teacher. But who was I now, really? Nothing felt the same. My life had been rearranged when my daughter was placed in my arms. Where was the Ann I knew before I became a mom?

Losing to Gain

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus tells his followers that in order to truly find your life, you have to lose it. This is a radical, upside-down statement, and it jars me every time I read it. Because what Jesus is saying here tosses my idea of identity very far out of the proverbial window.

What the Bible tells me is this: Losing my life for Christ’s sake is actually a good thing. It’s not something to be feared. And in truth, I hadn’t actually lost myself in my new role as a mom. Did it feel like it? Certainly. I felt confused and disoriented as a mother. But motherhood didn’t actually change my identity; it simply stripped me down to the marrow of my existence by altering the external circumstances of my life.

Was my deepest identity ever found in being a wife? No, but for years I had enjoyed the sense of identity I felt in our marriage, and when our marriage shifted into parenthood, I worried that the change in our relationship was a blow to my identity.

Similarly, was my deepest identity ever found in my job as an English instructor? No. But I liked the feeling of purpose and validity that my job offered me, and when I couldn’t give as much effort and energy to my work and my writing, I felt that part of my identity slip.

And was my deepest identity ever found in the friendships that I enjoyed with other women? No. But when I didn’t have time to connect with them and receive their love and affirmation, I felt that part of my identity falter.

Everything outside of me changed when I became a mom, and it made everything inside of me feel unsettled. But the truth that I came to learn was that the Ann I knew before I became a mom had never gotten lost. In fact, she was right where she always had been—hidden in the identity of God:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3, ESV)

Ever since the day I believed in Christ as my Savior and King, my identity—my very life—has been hidden with him in God. That has never changed, no matter what job or role or responsibility I have carried, motherhood included.

A Daily Choice

I would like to say that I’ve “arrived” and that my identity always feels secure in Christ. But I’m not yet fully free of this desire to put my identity in other things. At times, I still find myself trying to cling to external accomplishments or human relationships as an anchor.

When I do that, the inevitability of disappointment is quick to reveal itself. When my husband has to study late, or when being a parent is testing my limits, or when friends don’t have time to hang out, I feel that fear rise up again. Who am I if I don’t always feel emotionally close to my husband? If I’m struggling as a parent? If my friends don’t pursue me relationally?

When I look to others to ground my identity, it will be shattered. Instead, I must make the choice to look to God. I must, as Scripture says, “Set [my mind] on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2, ESV). If I focus my heart on the Word of God and on the love of Christ—on those things that are above—I will be reminded of my true identity: I am Christ’s. I am his, and his alone, and my worth and identity are solely wrapped up in who I am in him. He calls me beloved, chosen, adopted, treasured.

When I look to Christ for my identity, I can love others without placing my worth in how they respond to me. I can do my work with joy and freedom, knowing that my value is not found in the outcome of my projects. And I can let go of the fear that I will be subsumed in my role as a mother, because all of me has already been wonderfully and completely subsumed in Christ—the safest and best place we can ever hope to be.

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The Full Mentor Mom Answer on Child Being Bullied

Dear Mentor Mom,

My first grader came home from school upset because he was called “fat” by another kid. We talked about how that wasn’t very nice and how it’s a person’s character that matters. Any other advice on how to manage bullying from the bullied perspective?

When our children are hurt, especially by the words of another child, it is easy for our emotions to take over very quickly. In our house, I say “Someone poked Mama Bear!”  So after giving them momma comfort and hugs, the first order of business when my children were hurt or bullied was always to take a little time to process what they told me and PRAY before I respond. No matter what the situation is, there is always the potential to have a beautiful teaching moment with your child.  It is a very real life example to them of how words and/or actions can be hurtful, and yet because of the example of mercy that Jesus shows us every day we can choose to extend that same grace towards someone who has hurt us.  And most importantly, this gives us one more opportunity to remind our children that we are created perfectly in God’s image!  Other children’s opinions of them, while hurtful, are of very little significance compared to the Creator of the universe and HIS handiwork when he knit your child together in your womb.  Remind them of all the wonderful traits and special gifts that God gave them that make them so wonderfully unique.  Here are a few practical ideas if your child has been hurt or bullied by others:
1)  Stay calm and pray before you respond!  Try not to react out of extreme emotion, but instead take a very supportive stance with your child and let them know you are concerned.
2)  Make sure to get all the facts as straight as possible before picking up your phone to call the school or another parent.  Often times, young children perceive things in a different way OR (I’ve learned this from experience) your child may have said/done something hurtful as well and they just “forgot” to tell you:)
3)  Remember that you are the adult.  Although it feels very personal, it will not help your child to engage in a battle with another parent.  Equip your child with the words to say(“It hurts my feelings when you say I’m fat” or “Can you please not make comments like that because it hurts my feelings”), practice with them, and then encourage them to go back and handle the situation on their own. I would also email the teacher and give them a ‘heads up’ so that if my child is needing some extra help or support, the teacher is aware of the situation and can help out.  Often times, we sent our children to school holding our breath and fearful of what would happen, only to have them bounce home from school and say “It wasn’t a big deal, we’re best friends now!” Assure them that if that does not help the problem, you will be there to help them take the next step.  The next step would be talking with the teacher to see if they’ve noticed the issue and asking for their input/advice.  We’ve never had to move past this step, but my next course of action would be to talk to an administrator if the teacher is unable to help.
4)  Pray with your child before they go to school each day and remind them of their worth in Christ.
5)  Leave love notes in their lunchbox or backpack to let them know you are praying for them and they are NOT alone in their struggle.  And don’t forget to celebrate their success in handling their own conflict.  If they are able to go back to school, express their feelings, and find some resolution…by all means celebrate with them!!  It’s a HUGE deal for them to effectively deal with conflict.  Many adults haven’t mastered that skill yet;)
6)  **  This one is important **  Be very careful with the daily behavior that you model to your child!!  It’s easy as adults to be very angry with people who act rudely towards our child, but we have no problem acting rudely ourselves in traffic at school, long grocery lines, sporting events, etc.  Your child is learning from everything you say and do.  The best way to prevent rude and bullying behavior is to start with your own family and make sure you are teaching and modeling the love of Christ!  And P.S., when you mess this one up, don’t be scared to ask for your child’s forgiveness and tell them you were wrong.  (I have a lot of experience with this step!)
7)  Some bullying behavior is very serious and should be treated as such.  If your child has been physically injured or is fearful for their safety, you must intervene.  Contact your child’s teacher and administrator and seek their assistance and advice in helping your child to be protected.  Although you may feel very fearful for your child, try to remain calm and not overreact to the situation as it may make it even scarier for your child.  There are so many times in parenting where it feels like we are falling apart on the inside for our children, but this is a time where your child needs you to be strong and steady for them.
8)  Lastly, don’t forget to fill up your ‘mom tank’ each day with truth and encouragement from God’s word.  It is HARD being a mom, and it’s heartbreaking when your child is hurting.  You can not minister to your child’s heart effectively if your heart is running on empty.  After seeking God, seek the encouragement of other mothers/friends that you respect and can point you in the right direction.

Love, Kara