For me, it happened right around the time my first baby, Lily, turned one. Our first real summer.
Gone were the days of toting a sleeping infant wherever I wanted to go. She was mobile and had fallen into a routine, and so, by 7:30 every night, I was on my couch scrolling through pictures of all the summer fun my childless friends were having.
It was in those quiet evenings in my own home, that I started to feel lonely and trapped and a little aimless.
It’s strange in those early days of motherhood, I think, because your former life is still such a tangible relic. You feel the same as that carefree version of yourself and yet a million miles away at the same time.
You lose yourself a little. You forget who you are.
It probably happens at a different point for every mom, but I don’t think it’s an avoidable reality. At some point, you’ll likely find yourself staring into a mirror and wondering, “Who am I?”
Now, I (obviously) don’t know everything about parenting. I don’t know how to get babies to sleep through the night or how to convince a three-year-old to wear shorts or how to get two preschoolers to play longer than 10 minutes together without someone crying.
But that question? The one you ask yourself while staring into the finger-smudged mirror? Well, I do know that the answer changes everything.
Sure, you’re a mom, and that fact has great implications and impact. But that’s not all you are.
And, if you spend your days defining yourself only by your ability to put kids to bed or feed a tiny army, well, unfortunately you’ll always come up short.
Because that’s not all you are.
We’ll always come up short if we base our worth on the things we do.
There’s not much sure footing in parenting anyway, is there? Just when you’ve got a handle on something or feel pretty good about where you’re at, the tide comes in and shifts the sand underneath your feet.
Nothing stays the same. It can’t. When people are involved, tiny or grown, everything moves and adjusts and muddies and changes.
Well, except for one thing.
I lose sight of my identity still sometimes.¹ It happens on long, whine-filled days or weeks where Jake and I pass only like ships in the night. Weeks when I remember how much easier it all used to be before this season.
And it’s in these moments that I remind myself who I am.
I am who He says I am. Nothing will change this fact.
And that’s all the matters.
The days are still whine-filled (we’re working on this one, believe me). Jake’s hours are still long. The sacrifices parenthood demands are still real and hard and draining.
But I choose to live in light of Truth. I choose to wake up each day and hang my hat on who Christ says I am. To be thankful for the sacrifices asked of me because I see how they have refined and shaped me; how they have taught me to love more fully. How much better I am because of them.
I know that lonely, aimless feeling of motherhood well. Doesn’t every mom?
But I also know the feelings of joy and restoration and wholeness that come from knowing who I really am.
That girl on the couch three years ago? She was just on the cusp of the good stuff.
I think we all are. It’s just a matter of choosing.
¹ This is a recurrent theme in my life. I started thinking about identity 13 years ago (what!) when I read the book Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson. In it, Anderson lists 27 aspects of who we are, and because the Internet is a magical tool in which everything is hidden, I found them all here in this handy PDF file in case you’re interested in reading more.