Somewhere in-between carrying a diaper bag, potty-training twins, and staying home full-time, I think I lost my wallet … and my identity. What happens to us when we become moms? All of a sudden, we are engulfed in a new identity and our old one somehow vanishes into thin air. When was the last time I thought about a girls’ trip to Vegas, or learning to golf, or simply having a day to myself?
I think it may happen to women more often than men, but we tend to lose our own identity in the people we love. When I was preparing to get married, I felt relieved, thinking, I’m glad I’ve found my partner. I somehow thought the work would be done. And it’s not marriage’s fault. There is work to be done that is the same whether we are single, married, mother of one, or mother of none.
The work is on our identity.
Not just who we think we are, but who God created us to be! It’s big. It’s our life’s work. Don’t forget to continue the journey even after you’ve earned all your other badges of identification – spouse, mom, sister-in-law, widow, divorcee, single-again. Carry these badges with a sense of honor and truth. There is a piece of wonder and redemption in each of them. Some produce scars and wounds that may never heal, and some have great power to be all-encompassing, sometimes to the detriment of our true identity.
Let me unravel a bit of my story, as this all may start to sound familiar or relatable. Ten years ago, I was ecstatic to accept the proposal of my boyfriend. Our love story was pretty much ideal. We knew each other from our teenage years as our families went to the same church. I should clarify … he was a teenager when I was a crazy 20-something (I am six years older). Not only was I a typical 20-something, going to bars and dating guys who were totally inappropriate for me, but I was also in the midst of becoming an ordained minister. My call to ministry, and in fact, my whole relationship with God has been my best example of how to find true identity. I have an entire book of imperfect people called by God to use as a guidebook of faith, and on top of that, I also have strong sense of discerning where God is calling me to go. More often than not, I could sense about three months into a relationship that a guy I was dating was seeking God’s love, not mine, and within a couple conversations, we would part as friends. I had the time of my life dating really fantastic guys (even if wildly inappropriate) (I’m an extrovert, btw), and I’ve remained friends with most of them.
Back to my true love, the one who proposed to me–the one who is six years my junior. At that point, I was thrilled to shift my identity from single person to married couple. I will admit that I was naïve and thought the work of identity would be over. Shouldn’t everything just fall into place? Shouldn’t I be happy to be a wife, and be forever-and-ever by his side?
This ball of yarn didn’t immediately unravel for me–quickly, we dove into how to go down the baby-route. Unfortunately, this process was not a smooth one for us. We had fertility issues. In the back of my head, I knew this might be the case for me, and I just prayed it would work itself out.
So, there I was, the Type-A extrovert, who had accomplished everything I wanted to by the time I was 30, and here was one thing I couldn’t control. In another post, I can go into the depths of what processing infertility does to a woman’s head and heart, but for the sake of time, I’ll fast-forward to the present.
I am a mom of three! We have six-year-old twins, a boy and girl, and a little girl who is 2 ½. After becoming a mom, I decided I wanted to stay home with my twins. I put in my notice at my church where I was a full-time minister. My twins were 6-months old when I started my journey as a stay-at-home mom. I loved it! It was exactly what my heart desired.
After two years of staying home, I felt called back to ministry. I needed something outside of the daily routine of caring for my kids. Without giving it much thought, I agreed to work at a teen homeless shelter. I experienced an extreme transformation as I coached teens that had been abandoned while still caring for my own young family. After about nine months, I knew it was just too much, especially since we had talked about trying to get pregnant again. Luckily, I had the option to quit that job and stay home again. About six months later, we got pregnant with our youngest. I was exhausted from running around after two three-year-olds, but I loved having one more baby (and no extra fertility issues—thank you Jesus!).
Once our youngest turned 6-months old, I again felt called back to ministry. But it was more than just called back to the profession I loved, I felt called to find myself again. Who was I outside of making breakfasts and endless snacks, arranging playdates, finding a preschool, and keeping up with laundry? Please tell me this is not where it would end for me! Again, I don’t think my husband was going through any of this identity dysmorphia. Did I recognize myself in the mirror? And more than that, Was I pursuing the things that stoked my fire?
Having wanted children so badly, I first felt guilt over not wanting to be with them all the time. Then, I felt guilt over figuring out what to do with all of them while I pursued my identity. I finally decided that my life was as important as everyone else’s in my family, and that would mean leaving my guilt behind for a healthier sense of who I was and what I was called to in the world. We moved back to the city where we both grew up, bought a house we loved, and moved my parents in with us to help with the three children! I found an exercise studio I was excited about going to (barre classes), and I started praying about where God might use me next.
I was asked to be the Pastor of Discipleship at a large suburban church outside of Denver, and I accepted enthusiastically! What I forgot about full-time ministry is that it is all-encompassing. Truthfully, I loved leaving the house every day and going back in the evenings for meetings and classes. I loved buying beautiful pieces for a professional wardrobe again. I loved developing Bible studies and classes, and seeking out scholars to come speak at the church.
The fit couldn’t be better. But, outside of my excitement I couldn’t help but question, Was I abandoning my family? My husband helped me answer this question. Yes, we needed to figure out this new normal, but no, I was not abandoning them. He assured me he could do some after-school pick-ups and make a few meals for the kids. He saw the light in my eyes, and he knew the spark for my own life would seep back into our family life. It sounds like a short road back to my identity, but it took about a decade! I will always be a mom and I love being a partner to my husband, but the missing piece was finding the courage to say, “Yes!” to God and to myself.
I function with a just-in-time kind of inventory these days–I focus on the present moment and I trust my calendaring skills to keep everyone organized (and I order my groceries online – ready to be picked up in a few hours at our local store … better than sliced bread!). I know this version of our life feels chaotic, but there is adventure and passion and excitement. And so much so, that it has actually spilled over as my husband has been able to dream bigger because I am encouraging him to say, “Yes,” too!
What pieces of your identity are missing? Is God calling you to add something to your life that would call you out into the deep waters?
As a UMC Pastor, Annie's heart is to see people find love and freedom in Christ. Currently she serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at St Andrew United Methodist Church. She and her husband, Eric, have three incredible (& busy) children: Noah (6), Mia (6), & Emerson (2). Annie is a dreamer, visionary, and connector of people. She loves traveling, exploring new eateries, Barre classes, and nights out with girlfriends.