We often wrestle with our new-found identity as a mom, but our purpose remains the same.
There are many changes that take place in a woman’s life when she becomes a mom. Everything in her life is different than it was before that moment when she first held her baby in her arms. Her time is now no longer her own; she has a little one who requires constant tending and care. Every decision now includes the impact it will have on her child. Even the family budget must stretch to include the daily needs of caring for a baby.
While all these changes are often on a mom’s radar before becoming a mother, what often comes as a surprise is the way in which motherhood impacts a woman’s identity, her sense of meaning and purpose.
After all, in our culture, our identity is often equated with what we do. Consider what happens when we meet someone new. We usually introduce ourselves by what we do for a living. We might tell a new friend, “I am an accountant” or “I am a teacher.” Sometimes we add to that description what we do for a hobby, especially if it is one we devote much time to such as, “I am a marathon runner” or “I am an artist.” As motherhood begins to take over such a huge part of life, moms may find that those things they used to do (and find identity in) are set to the side to focus on her children.
For some moms, it might happen when they set aside a beloved job to stay at home to care for children. For others, it might be when she stops her usual morning run because it’s just too complicated to do with littles. Or when she no longer has time to participate in ministry at the church because it conflicts with nap time.
A mom might feel that her work in caring for her children takes over everything, so much so, that there’s nothing left. All those things that once gave her life meaning and purpose have changed, and she may start to wonder, Who am I?
This question is one many moms wrestle with. Sometimes a mom’s heart can respond to it with bitterness at the loss of purpose in her life – of trading her former life for her current one. She may begrudge the things she’s given up to focus on caring for her children. On the other hand, sometimes a mom’s heart can take on motherhood as her new identity – it is now what gives her life purpose and meaning. She may find herself exalting this identity, looking for life and hope in it, even putting aside anything that conflicts with it, including other relationships and callings.
Both responses are problematic because both root one’s identity in what one does. The question is, what happens when we can no longer do that thing that gives us our identity? What happens when the thing that gives our life meaning is no longer there? Whether it is a career, a hobby, future goals, or motherhood itself, when we find our identity and meaning in the things we do, and then we no longer do those things, we are left feeling empty. Uprooted. Lost.
The Bible tells us something different. It tells us that our identity is not rooted in the tasks that we do. Our purpose in life is not based on how we fill the hours of our days. And our meaning and value is not found in our achievements. Rather, our identity is found in our relationship with God. We are His beloved children, created in His image to live for Him in this world (Genesis 1:26-27). Our meaning and purpose are found in who we are as His children. As God’s image bearers, whatever tasks we do each day, whatever callings we have, whatever goals we set, are all done for God’s glory. While the jobs we do and the roles we have will change throughout our lives, this is something that never changes. Our identity as a cherished daughter of the King always remains. While God gives us important work to do in this life, that work doesn’t make us who we are.
For the mom who wonders who she is, know this: you will always be a child of God, crafted by His hand and for His glory. He may call you to various jobs and pursuits throughout your life. He may call you to devote a season of life to your children. He may call you to other roles and activities, but none of those things are who you are.
Your meaning, value, and worth is indelibly linked to your relationship with him. “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom. 8:15-17).
The years at home with little ones are all consuming. It shifts our life in dramatic ways. But when our meaning and purpose is found in our relationship with God, we remain grounded, confident in who we are – no matter what tasks fill our days and no matter what changes lie ahead.
Christina Fox is a licensed counselor, retreat speaker, and author of multiple books. Her latest book is Like Our Father: How God Parents Us and Why That Matters for Our Parenting. She and her husband have been married for twenty-five years. They have two teen boys and live in the Atlanta area where she coordinates the counseling ministry at her church.