What We Do Isn't Who We Are

"Let me get this straight? You were an engineer and gave that all up to be just a mom? I could never do that!" The words stung for longer than I would have liked. I wanted to just laugh them off and chalk it up to differing opinions on what is best for each individual family. But I couldn't this time.  

They brought me back to the days in that first year of being a stay at home mom when I felt like I was having an identity crisis. The sting wasn't coming from choosing what is right for our family and whether to work full time, part time or stay at home. This was about something much deeper. The words struck me so hard because I had once again become lulled in by the mundane and lost sight of myself over the piles of never ending laundry. I had forgotten that what I do does not define who I am. 

Motherhood is a tricky thing. It's a phase of life filled with the irony of helping our little ones discover just who they are while simultaneously giving up so much of who we thought we were. But with that sacrifice, motherhood ushers in a beautiful opportunity to find out exactly who we were meant to be. We just have to make sure we are looking to the right place to find our standard of measure.

Before I became a mom, I had a really great career as an engineer. I thrived on the long hours spent solving technical problems, but I knew I wanted to stay home with our child. When that time finally came for our family, I hung up my hardhat and replaced it with a diaper bag slung over my shoulder. I dove right in to being a full time mom and loved every tiring minute of it. As the sleep deprived months of the newborn stage began to wane and routine finally began to return, a strange feeling of being misplaced crept in with it. For so long, I wanted nothing more than to be a mom and I loved it. Why did I feel so conflicted and lost? Why was I not sure who I was anymore?

Wrestling with and praying through these questions reminded me of something a friend had said during our struggle to have a baby. After our first round of IVF and pregnancy ended in a heart breaking miscarriage, a friend who knew the pain of miscarriage all too well herself, graced me with a new perspective. She suggested that perhaps our lost pregnancy was more of a gift of hope and a future possibility than it was a loss of life and a dream. She reminded me that though it was my dream to become a mother, motherhood itself wasn't about me at all. It was about my child being born at the perfect time for his or her life to begin.

He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.
— Psalm 113:9

Motherhood gives us an amazing opportunity to have a front row seat to watch our children being born into the lives God has designed for them to live. If they come six months too early then they will miss out on the life God has planned for them, for the friendships they will develop, for the careers they will one day hold and for the lives they are meant to influence. Only He knows the perfect timing and what our future holds.  So when I find myself being overwhelmed with the daily grind of motherhood, her wisdom helps me step back and refocus. Motherhood isn't about me getting to be a mom as much as it is helping my daughter discover who God intends her to be. Guiding my daughter through her own self discovery is making me realize how mistaken I can be on how I define myself.  

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9

These early days of imagination come with so many little discovery stepping stones. My daughter recently came home with an adorable little construction paper crafted "Me Book" that was all about her favorite things and how she saw herself in the world. My heart soared when we looked through it and saw all the possibility, confidence and creativity. The one little fill in the blank statement said it all...

When I grow up I want to be: Wonder Woman and help people who need helping

Do I think she will actually fly an invisible jet and catch bad guys with her magic lasso? Of course not. But I do think she has the heart to reach super hero status when it comes to her ability to love the people in her life.

Whether we are dressed up in costumes role playing princesses or super heroes, firemen or teachers, or sitting around the dinner table talking about dreams, we want to impress one thing on their growing minds and personalities. When you grow up you can be anything you want to be. We want them facing this big world with a confidence of who they are and understanding what talents they bring. We see them through the eyes of loving parents; one who sees all their characteristics and talents, personality and possibilities. We see them for who they are and because of who they are, we know all that they are capable of doing. 

That's how our parents raised us. We became one of those things we dreamed of being and we're good at it, but something can happen in that phase of our lives. If we're not really careful, we start listening to how the world defines us and assigns our worth. We begin answering the question "who are you?" with what we are known by and what roles we play. Over time, we find ourselves assigning our own worth by where we see the importance our role plays in society. 

Not long ago I had that startling conversation with a new friend. As she asked "Who are you and what do you do?" I began telling her about myself. "I was an engineer for almost 10 years until we started our family. Now I'm a stay at home mom, a blogger and Bible study leader." Frankly, I was feeling pretty good about my answer. At one point in my life I was pretty smart and had a pretty reputable career. Now I'm really good at counting to 10 and saying my ABC's, but I do all these volunteer, Godly things and raise the child we worked so hard to have. I'm very happy with my life and what I'm doing. But her response was so shocking and threw me for a loop. "You were an engineer and just gave that all up? You're just a mom now? I could never do that." It stung... for days. It bugged me that it bothered me so much until I realized it wasn't about the working mom versus stay at home mom viewpoint. It was because I had once again adopted the world's standard of what defines me and my worth. I had forgotten how my Heavenly Father sees me and who He says I am.  

Something crucial gets lost along the way to living out our dreams. We get comfortable in our roles. We get lulled by routine and we stop seeing ourselves as the loving parent sees us. We stop defining ourselves by who we are and start ranking our worth by what we do. Our lives, the roles we play and the titles we bare become medals and plaques we used to compare ourselves to the world around us and thereby judge what we deem to be our worth. Comparison is by definition subjective and puts us in the precarious position of assigning our own value in a sea of shifting standards and neglecting the standard Christ has already established for us. 

Right now I am a stay at home mother to our daughter, a blogger and leader of Bible study groups. But that is not who I am. Just like you, I am the daughter of our Heavenly King and Father who looks down on us and says, "My beautiful child, you can be anything you want to be because I see your heart, your personality, your characteristics, your talents. I see my reflection in your creation. You are mine and you are worthy."

You aren’t what you do. Your profession isn’t who you are. You aren’t defined by your roles; career woman, wife, mom, sister, brother, husband, etc. Those are gifts that you have, and they are purposes that you fulfill. But they don’t define the core of your being. You aren’t the sum of your mistakes or the messed up identity you once wore like an albatross around your neck. Your identity is simple. It’s clear. It’s beautiful. Your identity is purely who God says you are. Beautiful, redeemed, renamed, engraved on the hands of Christ where you will never be forgotten.
— Logan Wolfram, Curious Faith

 

What we do every day matters. If we want to reach our full potential in the roles we play and want our children to truly believe what we tell them about who God says they are, we have to believe it ourselves. Now is the time to use all our talents and gifts to build a firm foundation for our children to build upon. In doing that, we have the incredible chance to come out of our shells and become confident, courageous women that step up to the task God has set out before us. Buried right in the middle of the runny noses, scraped knees and piles of laundry lies a beautiful truth. Just like Queen Esther, perhaps we have come to our position for such a time as this. {Adapted from Esther 4:14} That confident woman isn't found in comparisons and competitions. She is found rooted deeply in Scripture, in prayer, in encouragement from other Godly women. She is found in cheering on one another as we excel in the roles we are meant to play and in reminding one another that who we really are is far more important that what we do. 


At a recent speaking engagement with our local MOPS International group, we talked about defining ourselves and encouraging one another to fulfill our roles as moms. Thank you so much for the opportunity to come speak to your amazing ladies. You were all so welcoming and encouraging. Moms need other moms and Mops is an amazing place to find that wonderful support that we all need!