I think as women we really struggle with this concept of identity a lot (or at least I hope its not just me!). Look, I’m not saying men don’t struggle with identity too but I tend to notice its a bit more pronounced in women. I think for women with children it can be even more so.
After having my two sons (in 16.5 months no less) I felt like I completely lost myself. There was no time for anything other than work, kids, a few friends and keeping up the house. I felt ragged. That’s the best way I can describe it. I would look at pictures of myself in younger times and wonder where that chick went and whether or not she was planning on reappearing any time soon. I felt uncomfortable in my skin, not just physically but in all aspects. Who was this new girl with baby food on her shoulder, unbrushed hair and no makeup on?
Then there’s the mom guilt. Ladies – I want you to hear me when I say this: “All Moms” I repeat, “ALL Moms feel guilty.” We feel guilty for the dumbest things. Literally just yesterday I felt guilty because I use Pampers diapers and not organic diapers. No joke. That literal thought passed through my mind and even camped out for a few minutes. I feel guilty because I don’t produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed and have to supplement with formula (and my guilt wants you to know that the formula is organic by the way). I feel guilty because I work. Never mind the fact that I am blessed with a flexible job that enables me to work from home two days a week and flexible enough hours that I can feed my youngest in the morning when he wakes up and be home when my oldest gets up from his afternoon nap so we can have the afternoon together. I feel guilty that I don’t make my baby food from scratch, that I haven’t washed my youngest’s sheets in I don’t know a month(s)???, that I’m sometimes too exhausted to engage with them and I take the easy way out (i.e. Sesame Street or Despicable Me 2), that maybe they don’t get enough interaction with other kids, that maybe I’m a bad mom and everyone is too nice to say anything.
Sunday at church a beautiful woman named Amy told me, “You know you’re more than a wife and a mom right?” For some reason that got me. “Your children are a part of you but they don’t have to become all of you and you don’t have to hide behind being ‘just a mom.'” I feel it necessary here to point out that this has NOTHING to do with being a working mom vs. a stay at home mom. It has everything to do with identity and where we choose to find it. For me, finding my identity in my husband and children is easier, it requires a lot less searching on my part. A lot less of the work and rigor of diving in and realizing that my name is Lyndsey, not Lyndsey-Will&Caden’sMom or Lyndsey-Steve’sWife, just Lyndsey. A lot less of the introspection and the dreaming and the daring to live and be all that I’m called to be.
I think we, as people, lose our identity in a lot of different things be it work, or kids, or partner, or the things we have, or the things we do not have, the things we do, and the things we do not do. We are more than these things. We are so.much.more.
About a week ago, one of my favorite mentors made a comment that kind of rocked me. “You can’t blame Steve (my husband) for your own loss of identity. You choose to make margin for yourself or not to. I would wager that you haven’t really known yourself since before you had the boys. AND, you’ve had a lot going on and had two kids in less than two years and bought a new house and have taken no real break from work or anything really.” And then she did this beautiful thing. She invited me to make margin for me. She told me to take a few days off work, to come stay in her guest room and to rest and reflect and read and just pause. And I’m going to and its already scheduled and on the books. And its just Step 1 but its a step. And for whoever is reading this, even if its just one person: I invite you to do the same. To make margin for yourself. To stop holding your breath trying to meet everyone else’s needs first and to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. To allow yourself to dream the really really big dreams. The ones that feel silly and out of reach. And quite frankly to tune out the guilt and to dive into those really uncomfortable hard to reach places. And finally to be the more that you know you are.