Four years ago, I started to experience a huge identity crisis.
You see, four years ago, child #3 was two weeks away from graduating high school. Child #1 had graduated three years prior. Child #2 had graduated two years prior and had left for college three and a half hours across the state. Child #3 was enrolled to start college in a different state altogether–a seven hours’ drive in good conditions. Child #4 was two years away from ending her formal schooling years. Suddenly, what I thought would take forever to get here was upon me.
And I didn’t like it.
I had always thought of myself as a mom. At the soccer field, the most often asked question was, “Which one is yours?” A standard reply would be, “I am __________’s mom.” while pointing a finger to the moving bodies on the field. The same held true at the softball field, at the basketball court, in the karate studio, at the band concert, at the theatre productions…everywhere I seemed to go, I was known as someone’s mom. That included at church! Even after spending several years with the same parents, the conversation on the sidelines would always be focused around our offspring. Of course, I was a wife as well. And a daughter. And a friend too. But those things always took a back seat to those four wonderful little people who kind of looked like me and really looked like each other! But suddenly, I was two years away from no longer attending concerts and soccer games and theatre productions and awards nights and all the other activities that earned me the title of chauffeur. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Yes, I was still a mom, but my role would be changing. The biggest problem, though, was I had no idea what my new role would even look like.
Back in those busy days, a trip to the grocery store, often with four kids in tow since we homeschooled, elicited comments such as, “No school today?” or “Oh, you have the day off!” In the beginning of my homeschooling journey I was not quite sure how to answer those comments and questions. Eventually we all decided on a simple answer. The truth. “No, we do not have the day off. We are homeschooled.” That brought many an eye roll as well as many curious looks. I suppose it probably did strike someone as strange that I would subject myself to the
torture blessing of keeping four kids, ranging in age from eight to thirteen, home every day when the public school system is free. I’m sure some doubted my ability to teach these kids. I won’t even go there or my point for this post will not be made! The fact of the matter was, those years were hard! And I didn’t think they would ever end.
But, here it was. The end was in sight. Even having my youngest still home for two more years was different. She was a junior in high school. She did her school work through a college that year so technically my only job was to drive her to choir. Oh, and make sure she actually DID the college work as well. What would I do in two years? How would I fill my days? Should I think about getting a job? If so, doing what? I have a college degree. Unfortunately, the state of Minnesota doesn’t recognize my certification from a different state. To get certified here would take money, and with two kids in college, money wouldn’t be sitting around our house at all.
Two years have passed since child #4 graduated high school. She has moved out on her own and is attending college sixty miles away. We have downsized from a house that once held six people, a cat and a dog to a townhouse that houses two people and two cats. (Miss you Yogi and Molly) An unexpected health issue was diagnosed two years ago. Another, less serious but extremely painful, was diagnosed recently.
Last week I went to the grocery store…by myself. (Yes, I know there are moms out there who would give almost anything to do that) That’s not something I am used to–see paragraph above about always having four kids in tow–nor is it something I do a lot since it is difficult for me to bring groceries into our house alone. Grocery trips are usually saved for weekends when my husband is home. Anyway, last week I needed just a few things and hubby was gone for work, so I kind of had to do this alone. As the cashier was scanning my groceries, she said something that brought me back to prior years. This time, though, the comment was directed at me. “Off of work today?” she asked. My mind raced to come up with what to say. I can no longer say I am a stay at home mom. What do I say now when someone asks me what I do? I mumbled something about being a stay at home mom even though my kids were grown. She kept scanning and said, “Wow. I wish I could be home every day with nothing to do.” Later that day, after deciding that going out by myself would never happen again, I read something online (from someone I know) that stung. I will not repeat the person’s words, but I have to say something…
In this society, being a woman who stays at home is not looked on favorably–regardless of whether there are children in the home or not. I think, though, that at least if there are children at home, people tend to accept that as a viable vocation, but it seems that once the children are all in school and certainly by the time they all move out, it is expected that the woman goes to work somewhere. And, in my experience this last week, if she doesn’t do that, she is considered lazy or a burden.
I was hurt and angry at that insinuation.
I spent over twenty years being a full time at home mom. There were a few months sprinkled in there where I worked during the evenings or during the day, but those were very few in the grand scheme of things. I was responsible for all the cleaning involved inside a household; sometimes I was responsible for outside maintenance as well. I shopped, cooked, nursed, rocked, bathed, coached, chauffeured, scrubbed, cried, and even educated my children. I spent hours reading Dr. Seuss, visiting the library, playing with Legos, taking walks, riding bikes, wiping noses, washing bottles, washing clothes, and a host of other things that came with being a full time mom. I am not lazy. If that were the case, my kids would have been taken away from me for neglect. I now have health issues that would interfere with keeping a job outside the home. I am angered that some would assume my husband thinks of me as a burden because not only does he have to be the sole provider (something he has pretty much always been actually), but he also has to help me do things that I used to be able to do by myself. Yes, I am aware that he is tired when he comes home. I am aware that sometimes dinner isn’t ready and that probably frustrates him. I am aware that my health issues cost him extra money in medical bills. Despite all of that, I don’t think he feels I am a burden to him. Maybe he does–he reads this so I’m sure I’ll find out one way or the other. But, I suspect if he did, he would have left when he had the opportunity three years ago. I am also angered that I am often looked at as less than valuable because I do not work outside the home and “contribute to society in a positive way”. I already struggle with who I am and what I am supposed to be doing. I don’t need people making it worse.
The truth is, and this is something I am working hard on moving from my head to my heart, I am valuable because God says I am. His Word tells me I am:
- loved by God
- purchased at a steep price
- clothed with the righteousness of Jesus
- a new creation in Christ
- a daughter of the KING!
These are just a few ways my identity should be wrapped up in Christ and not my kids or my husband or my work. Again, I’m working on grabbing onto these truths and making them my truth rather than just my knowledge. I’m not there yet, but every day God is cementing these things a little deeper into my soul. It is only by staying in His Word and soaking in these truths day after day that the cement will dry and my identity crisis will end.
In the meantime, I have to nurse the wounded heart that comes from peoples’ words and accusations. I know God can help with that as well.