Identity

Way back when I was in high school, I did this program through West Virginia 4-H called the Charting Program.  During that year, we 15-year-olds participated in activities designed to promote self-discovery, goal-setting, decision-making, critical-thinking, and communication.  We discussed values and ideals and worldviews.  I learned a lot during my year in the Charting Program, but I learned even more when I was 19 and was trained to teach Charting Classes at 4-H camps.

I remember one particular activity we did in our training program.  We partnered up and took turns asking each other, “Who Are You?”  “Where Have You Been?”  and “Where Are You Going?”  The first time we asked each other these questions, the answers were basic and surface-y.  Then we asked the same questions again.  And again.  And again.  Each time, the answers got a little deeper, a little more revealing, a little more raw.  This activity forced us to think about our identities, what had made us who we were, and where we were going in life.

Every now and then, I think about that activity.  Those are good questions to ask.  I should probably be asking myself those questions at least once a year.

Instead, I get caught up in life.  Carried away by its current.

Who Am I? What is my identity?  Because I am the stay-at-home mom of six children, it is very easy to allow that to completely define my identity.  Somebody recently told me that I talk about my children all the time.  So I looked over my Facebook status updates.  Wow!  I do talk about my kids a lot.  Well, I love them and they are my full-time job, so I suppose that’s normal.

But that got me to thinking — is my identity too wrapped up in being a mother?  Have I forgotten or lost some of myself, the me I was before I had children and the me I will be after they are gone?  See, that’s the thing.  The years are flying by; and, before I know it, my kids will be grown and gone.  I don’t want to be lost once they are gone.  I don’t want to look in the mirror and wonder, “Who am I now?”

At the same time, I don’t want to be selfish.  I am raising children, helping form and develop real, actual, living people.  And I won’t get any do-overs.  I don’t take this job lightly.  And I want to do it the best I can.

Of course, I don’t get any do-overs with my own life either.  And there is certainly much more to me than being a mother.  There are more answers to that question “Who are you?” than “A mother.”

So, how do we balance it all out?  What is my identity?  How do I nurture and develop the elements of my identity apart from “mother” while still being the very best mother to six children?  And how am I supposed to talk about anything else when, for now, raising these six people is consuming so much of my time?

Who am I? —-  Where have I been? —-   and Where am I going?

These are the questions on my mind today.

How about you?

Who are you?

Where have you been?

Where are you going?

Am I the only mother who struggles with how much of my identity should be wrapped up in being a mother?

It’s your turn.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Identity

  1. It’s not about who you are and it’s not about what will happen in the future. It’s all about how you feel, the happiness you are experiencing and the sense of fulfillment knowing you have done well as a mom.

  2. Angela

    I am a spirit with a soul in a body.

    Jennifer…this is always on my mind. Especially as a Christian. Having children while difficult is such an extremely fulfilling and pleasing experience it seems indulgent to me at times. And yet I am at a point where they are leaving my daily presence and I am pondering how to keep a family together, strong as they venture out. What is my role then? How do I keep it together? How do I make it about us and God and not about me and them? I am a strong Christian, I have a carreer and higher education and I don’t fit in in most of the venues I spend my life. Work, church and community. Focusing on Christ and his love for the world is where I land when I get confused. I am a spirit with a soul in a body. A woman’s body who has loved, lost, miscarried, adopted, birthed, cried, danced and is now losing estrogen! It has nursed babies and endured them not needing me as teen agers.

    You are not alone. As a counselor whose foundation is in Developmental Theories of Human Growth and Development… we could have a longer conversation. Seems to me that asking the questions along the way is good, even when there are no answers.

    I am on Day 12 of a Daniel Fast. I have not been able to finsish my kids scrapbooks. I am behind alomost ten years. (Gasp) I literally cry everytime I start with overwhleming feelings of love, loss and thankfullness. I am searching spiritually for the strength to finish the scrapbooks. I believe that God revealed to me, that I have held back my faith that His grace will be sufficient as I move forward. I am now touching the books and trying to get the piles of stuff out in the open. We all need to move on and my identity as a mom needs to include growth into new skills of a platoon leader, pack leader. Moving everyone forward, knowing there is danger and darkness and being thier light and safe place to periodically nuzzle.

    I think about this stuff alot.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Kimberley & Ang.

    Kimberley, there is a deep sense of fulfillment in those moments when I feel I’m doing this mothering thing well. No doubt about that.

    Ang, so much to ponder, huh? I’m glad I’m in good company with my thoughts.

  4. Lana

    Those are questions I’m not sure I want to know the answer to. I’ve never been a mother and never will be. I’ve always lived so much in the moment that I haven’t taken time to reflect or plan. I just am. Maybe that’s why I enjoy your blog so much. 🙂

  5. Lucinda

    Hey, could you come talk about these very thoughts at our MOMSnext meeting on March 15th. We would love to have you as our speaker. We meet at the Luthern church in Blacksburg. 🙂

  6. Oh, Lucinda! You know I wish I could! 🙂

  7. Great questions! And exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately as my guys move into a different stage and since moving 18 months ago. It’s fun, exciting, scary, strange…all wrapped up in one…to ‘struggle’ with a ‘new’ identity.

    Hope you’ve been well. I haven’t been reading blogs for a while so am catching up with ‘old’ blogging friends!!

  8. Rindy, I have been catching up with old blogs again this week as well. Glad you stopped by. You’re right — it is scary and strange and exciting all in one to figure out who we are and where we’re going.

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