This year I sent my baby, my one and only little boy, to Kindergarten.
I wondered how I lost my identity to motherhood along the 6 year journey. I wrestled with so many emotions, but specifically who I was and what I have become over the last 6 years while devoting my whole being to being a mom and learning not only the ropes of motherhood but also of parenting a special needs child.
Rewind 7 years, and like many families we entered a season of trials in our family, including the loss of a brother, a 10 week early preemie, quitting my career, moving out of state away from all family and friends, marital problems, and the final trigger, our baby being diagnosed with autism.
Through it all I had one focus: being a mom.
All moms make sacrifices and put their kids first, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of losing our identity and the person we were created to be.
I got caught up in learning everything I could about autism, therapies, and diet. It was more than a full-time job, and I let the circumstance take control of me and who I was.
Motherhood throughout the past 6 years became my job. It took over my heart and mind, which impacted every relationship I had, including my marriage.
My love for my child and maternal instinct to provide him the very best replaced me as a person and the characteristics I hate most in myself took over.
My type A, impatient, and perfectionistic personality took over. My need for control, anxiety, and worry were at its peak. Looking back, I held it together on the outside, but inside I was a mess.
I let motherhood control my entire identity.
Becoming a parent instantly changes your identity, whether you are prepared for it or not. You are no longer independent because your life is now intertwined with someone who is completely dependent on you. You make decisions with someone else in mind, and your lifestyle shifts to accommodate this change.
The question is, how much of your identity do you lose?
This year, when I sent Easton to school, my role of being a mom changed drastically. Suddenly I had time to breathe. Having free time was so foreign to me that I felt like I needed something else to fill my time.
My first instinct was to go back to work to feel valued and to fill the time with busyness. It’s easy to feel like being a stay-at-home mom carries no value in our society. Let alone a stay-at-home mom who has 6 hours of free time a day!
That’s a lie.
The truth is I very much needed a year to breathe, maybe two, we will see. I needed a year to find a piece of my identity that was not rooted in what society deems valuable.
I am so thankful that in my role of “mom” I knew going back to work wasn’t best for my son. He couldn’t handle the change of before and after care this year, and I couldn’t handle a job while still caring for his needs outside of school. My marriage also needed my focus and extra time, and I certainly needed the time.
Despite the many questions of, “what are you doing with all your free time ?” and feeling devalued over the last year I have refocused my heart and mind on regaining some of who I am.
Here is what I have learned:
Busyness is a tool the enemy uses to destroy. There are seasons of life, especially in motherhood, that are busy and can take control over family if you aren’t mindful and careful with how you spend your time.
Eliminating exposure to social media (for me this was time away from Facebook) and being extra mindful of worldly values has allowed me to refocus on what my role is within my four walls as a servant, wife, and mother. I am free from feeling like a slave to the demands of what society says motherhood and a valued woman look like.
As a woman I have realized I am the glue that holds my family together. When I am not confident in who I am, it is detrimental to my family and my role as wife and mother.
My identity cannot be tied to a job, role as mom, wife, trial, or any other circumstance but the qualities and character I was created with, and how I have used them with purpose.
Whatever your identity is, know that it is the glue that holds your family together. You are worth the time to protect that identity.
For some this may be a few hours of reading, or a workout class, a conversation with a friend, quality time with your husband, or even time alone.
For me it took several months of calm and a lot of grace to learn how to use my time purposefully and realize my value as Jackie Strawn for my family, and not just as, ‘Easton’s Mom’.
Motherhood is one of my greatest gifts, and I am so thankful and blessed beyond belief to be a mom. I have talked to so many moms about how we lose part of our identity beyond the sacrifice as a woman and mom while being hammered with today’s standards on what is valued.
I hope this post encourages those who are knee deep in motherhood or facing a transition in their role. Hold tight and find your identity beyond motherhood for what is best for you and your family.