Whether a woman stays home with her children full-time or works outside the home, being a mom can be a tough gig. It’s exhausting–mentally, physically, and emotionally. There’s the sleep deprivation that comes with having young children–which only gets worse when our kids are teenagers. There’s the craziness of our kids’ schedules–baseball practice, soccer practice, dance lessons, enrichment classes, and the list goes one. And there’s the ever-present, often overwhelming, emotional weight of motherhood.
It’s no wonder the internet is rife with articles and posts about losing oneself to motherhood and with advice on how to prevent that from happening. Untold numbers of women struggle with a diminished sense of identity and self-worth because the person they used to be–career woman, fitness buff, social butterfly, or even friend–has all but disappeared and been replaced by a very tired lady whose spends most of her time seeing to the needs of everyone else. The monotony of motherhood can be crushing. I get that. I do.
Still, when I hear or read about women losing themselves to motherhood, I sometimes struggle to relate. I don’t deny that their feelings are real and justified. They just aren’t my feelings, and I suspect there are other women out there who, like me, don’t feel like they have lost themselves to motherhood.
The reality is that each woman’s journey looks different. All of us, whether we struggle or not, should make time for friends and personal interests and make self-care a priority. Thanks to women’s websites, magazines, and blogs, more moms are getting that message. And fortunately more information and resources are becoming available to mothers.
Ironically, however, some of the very articles that are designed to encourage mothers wrestling with self-doubt can cause other moms to question their own feelings about motherhood. Why am I so content? Am I not meeting my full potential? Should I be working harder to find myself? Should I be more ambitious? More driven? More interesting? The unintended message that some women are getting is that motherhood is not enough–that struggling as a mother is a sign that women do and should want more and be more.
This message is misguided. True, many women want something other than or in addition to motherhood in order to be fulfilled. It doesn’t mean they love their kids less or that they aren’t awesome moms. But by the same token, there’s nothing missing or uninteresting about a woman who is fulfilled first and foremost by being a mother.
Just as it’s okay to struggle with frustration, boredom, and even resentment about motherhood. It’s also just as okay not to.
Yet, even the most content, most fulfilled mom can start to question her identity as her children start to leave home. I know, because two of our children have already left home, another graduates from high school this spring, and in another four years our nest will be completely empty.
This reality is both frightening and painful. But it isn’t a crisis of identity. Being a mom isn’t only the best and most important job that I will ever have. It is also my purpose and my calling. It is more than what I do. Being a mother is who I am–whether my children are babies, teenagers, or adults with families of their own.
Exactly how I will live out my calling as a mother once all my children have left home remains to be seen. But I do know that I have continued to rely on and cherish the support, advice, and prayers of my own mother throughout my entire adult life. Her job did not end when my brother and I grew up, and I suspect that mine won’t either.
Yes, how I go about my day-to-day life already looks much different now than it did when all of my children were small. All too soon, my days won’t look much like a mom’s at all. But no matter what else I do or how I spend my days, in my heart and in the depth of my soul, I am a mother, and that will always be my most important work and my highest calling.