I can remember the first day it happened. It was 2007. Miley Cyrus was still a normal human being. I was a new mom to a very colicky newborn whom would projectile vomit every time she was breastfed. Blogs and parenting books were on the rise, and all I knew to do in an immediate nature was cling on to some vaguely appealing form of parenting and hold on tight, almost like choosing an identity for myself at a checkout line. My husband came home to sobbing wife in a living room full of unfolded towels on the floor, a book in my lap and a laptop in the other, and a screaming baby in an infant seat, and me viciously trying to figure out online what was wrong with my baby when I KNEW.
I KNEW deep down, as a woman who left her career to stay home with her baby, whom had never had any semblance of parenting experience whatsoever. I knew what was wrong with her.
Breastfeeding. She was not getting enough milk, and the milk she was receiving was making her puke. As a now eight year old, she still does not do well with dairy, which I had to cut out of my diet while trying to nurse her.
But when well meaning advice and internet and books and ladies in the stores will tell you, “breast is best”, you stick with it, even when your gut tells you NO, because that’s the motherhood identity that you chose at checkout, right?
You chose this identity of breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby wearing, organic eating, oil diffusing, homeschooling, cooking from scratch, or maybe career-pursuing, private school searching, daycare seeking, balancing it all, and while all of those are beautiful choices (really, they are), they do not line up with the heart of who you are on the inside, the hidden heart that no one else sees, but you go along with it anyway, because you sold your soul to the identity that you presented to the world.
Because that’s the thing: you read that paragraph above describing two women, two distinct “choices” and begin to identify with one of them.
That? Why, that is the spell that current society has cast on the art of motherhood. It has slapped certain “labels” on it that persuade a mother, especially a new one, to prescribe to a certain set of parenting and behaviors almost as if stay at home mothers and work at home mothers are some sort of rival sports teams or religious sects.
They are not. But we all describe ourselves in this fashion. We feel the need to “create” this superhuman by describing them as such:
“Hey! I’m (fill in the blank). I’m married to (fill in the blank) and we have (fill in the blank) super sweet kids. I enjoy (fill in the blank) and (fill in the blank) and couldn’t live without my (fill in the blank)!””
Your fill in the blanks are not your identity. I can assure you this in freedom because I am a fill in the blanker myself.
It seems, for a season, that prescribing to an ideal in motherhood somehow makes it easier, that you live by these certain unannounced rules and OH MY WORD do not give my baby that cracker since it is not organic, but by the time baby #3 comes around, you are eating pizza 3 nights a week so save your sanity and carefully neglect to share THAT in your fill in the blanks. Because that does not “line up”, now, does it? (We still eat pizza and hot dogs quite often. Go team!)
I once posted a photo of my kids eating Lunchables at a Target Cafe right before we went to the park. A mother tried to “help” me by commenting that those are “full of junk and the crackers are not EVEN whole wheat”. Well, MERCY. Guess that did not line up with the mama agenda I had tricked the world into thinking of which I was a part. Guess what? THEY WERE ON SALE. And my kids loved them. And right now I am justifying a choice that is SO MINOR compared to the troubles of this world. Really, people. We’ve got it made and don’t even see it.
This generation of mothers has turned these false identities of motherhood into idolatry. We worship this idol of who we want to be instead of embracing who the Creator made us to be. We send out the trumpets of judgement every time someone posts a photo online of messy homes, or kids in the buggy without a germ free cart cover or babies deemed “too old” to use a pacifier. Since when did the world become our conscience? Since when did we allow virtual reality to define what REALLY happens in the waking hours of our lives?
If I could do it over again, and go back to the Hannah Montana days of the mid 2000s, I would have skipped breastfeeding three times over, dusted my mantel with those cloth diaper prefolds, listened to my gut and my grandmother instead of a parenting book, stuck to the jarred baby food that PEOPLE GAVE ME instead of making my own, and STAYED OFF OF THE INTERNET AND PLAYED WITH MY BABY IN THE FRONT YARD THAT WAS OVERGROWN.
Yesterday at church, the pastor put weight to this idea of a “motherhood identity crisis” that has been brewing in my heart for some time. He noted that when we wake up, to ask ourselves these two very simple yet profound questions:
Who am I in Christ?
What will I BE for Jesus today?
Jesus does not care that I no longer make my own laundry detergent. Homeschooling is not a religion, clean floors are not next to godliness, and guess what? Sometimes I still raise my voice.
But who I am in Christ, and what I will be for Him that day is really the only identity I need to worry about.
This post originally appeared at Letters From the Nest, published with permission.