“Have you lost yourself in being a mom?” asks the back cover of a new book out by the editor of the women’s Christianity Today blog I write for, Gifted for Leadership. The title of the book is Mama’s Got a Fake ID: How to Reveal the Real You Behind All That Mom. “It’s easy to lose your identity when others see you as a mom and little else,” writes author Caryn Rivadeneira. “What happened to the artist, the organizer, the entrepreneur, the leader – the person you’ve lost touch with?”
I’ve gotten to e-know Caryn and respect her greatly; she clearly loves and values the high calling of being a mom. But she’s struggled with her experience in motherhood – that, “as different as we all are, we still get crammed into the same box and slapped with the same label.” Her book explores mothers’ loneliness, their desire to be known for who they really are (not just as ‘everymoms’), and to be appreciated for their true selves.
While I can appreciate these notions, her struggle – and those discussed in the book – have not been my own. I’ve rarely felt unfairly judged or stereotyped by society, that people assume I’m stupid or incapable, or that false labels are slapped on me because I’m a mom. I also haven’t experienced the sense of lost identity and related loneliness that Caryn and the other moms who appear in her book (and on her blog, The Mommy Revolution) describe. I’m not sure why, though I have a few theories. The book actually made me wonder if I’m the exception to the norm.
But like Caryn, I do fully agree with a tagline associated with Gifted for Leadership: “use your gifts.” And I agree with Caryn’s related point that my being a mother is only one role – albeit a vital one – that God has put me in. I’m also a wife, friend, daughter, writer, runner, reader– etc. I didn’t lose these identities when I became a mom. One of my favorite lines in Caryn’s book is: “God wanted my children to live in a house with a woman who thrives on writing in the midst of chaos, who isn’t all that organized, who gets a charge out of new ideas.” Yes. Mothering aligns with who I am, it doesn’t compete with or negate it. It all goes together.
“We need to let go of the one-size-fits-all programs and know ourselves. I‘m not talking pop-psychology here, but about understanding the person God created you to be and taking on His freedom in that knowledge. The biggest part of balance is understanding where you are in life and how you can be the person God created the most fully and freely.”
Agreed. And this is no less true when you’re a mom (no matter how consuming that role can be) than at any other time in life.
The concern lurking in the back of my mind while reading Caryn’s book was this: what about moms on the other side? Those of us who are know and live out the various gifts and interests God’s given us – even to the possible detriment of our mothering? Because I struggle more on this side of the equation than on the one Caryn focused on in her book. My fear isn’t that I’ll lose myself in my mothering but conversely that I’ll be overly engrossed in playing out alternate facets of my identity to the neglect of my kids and household. I can easily be too focused on other things to give my children the degree of attention that God desires – and that they need to thrive.
So I felt a bit relieved when I reached the book’s penultimate chapter called “Treasure Your Limitations.” Caryn quoted a woman who, in response to the ‘mom identity crisis’ question, wrote: “I feel God hems us in at times for his own purposes. He uses our children and their needs to hem us in; he uses our husbands’ conflicting schedules… I just pray that I fulfill what it is he wants me to do within the hedge he’s erected.” Caryn goes on to discuss moms’ need to embrace contentment during a phase of life that may require us to curtail or table some facets of our identities for a while to better focus on mothering. For someone in my position, then, this input is the book’s big takeaway.
What about you? Where you feel you fall along this spectrum?