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Reinventing Mommy

Here are four ways to deal with a motherhood-induced loss of identity.

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“Being a parent is hard!” My sister’s words tumbled forth in a Monday-afternoon email. She continued, “Of course I wouldn’t change anything, but I didn’t realize what I was giving up by having kids or how hard it would be.”

What prompted her lament was that, as a mom of two toddlers, she could no longer participate in the community theater scene the way she had since she was a girl. The leading lady parts she had once played were no longer really an option for her with two active little boys to care for.

As a mother of three young children myself, I understand her feelings. I, too, often feel like I “gave something up” when I made the decision to take on the role and responsibilities of motherhood.

There were the obvious things I said goodbye to — my job as a magazine editor and my place on the improv comedy team I had helped to found. But there were also the more subtle things — money for extras, regular haircuts, time with friends, free time and kudos for my accomplishments. And while, like my sister, I wouldn’t change a thing, sometimes I do feel like my identity had been altered beyond recognition.

I know I’m not alone in these feelings. Many moms I know experienced a big identity shift with having kids. Some, like me, left their jobs to stay home. Others continued to work but no longer have time for hobbies … or friends. The fact is, caring for children is all-consuming and unless you hire a full-time nanny, something has to go.

Still, most moms would say that their kids are worth it. The trade-off is a good one and they wouldn’t go back. So what is the reason for the deep sense of loss many women experience?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I think for Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995, roughly) there’s one obvious culprit. My generation has grown up being told that self-empowerment (i.e., self-satisfaction) is the key to thriving in life. In other words, I will live well when I discover who I am and live in a way that’s true to myself. But what happens when “who I am” isn’t the changer of diapers and wiper of noses? I can begin to feel pretty down about my quality of life.

In the past five-and-a-half years, since I got married, I’ve experienced some serious identity whiplash. Here are some things that have helped lessen the shock.

1. Seeking My True Identity

When I was in college, I had a debilitating illness, and one of the symptoms was laryngitis. Up until that point in my life, I had identified myself as a singer. When I couldn’t sing any more (and some days could barely walk), my identity took a hit. Suddenly, at the tender age of 20, I was asking God who I was apart from some things that had formerly defined me.

Motherhood has been similar. One good thing about my mommy identity crisis is that it has exposed areas where I probably shouldn’t have been finding my worth in the first place. Sure, it felt good to receive kudos at work for a job well done (a sloppy, yogurt-covered smile just isn’t the same), but the truth is, I wasn’t any more valuable exercising my skills in the workplace than I am serving my children at home.

Each time my identity has been bruised, I’ve found it helpful to go back to the One who created me and ask Him to show me who He wants me to be in this season. Stubbornly clinging to what I “used to be” only leads to frustration and disappointment. The good news is, His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and He promises to be with me every step of the way.
Reinventing Mommy

2. Accepting a Season of Sacrifice

My friend, Catherine, says before her first child was even born, she knew that motherhood would be her greatest season of sacrifice to date.

“In discipleship Jesus calls us to lay down our lives and to pick up our cross and follow Him,” she says. “As we take on the mindset of disciples, we are more ready to take on those sacrifices motherhood entails and to lay them down as offerings to Christ rather than the burdens this world may call them.”

We don’t live in a world that likes to sacrifice … anything. Instead comfort and indulgence is preached at every turn. If your happiness is based on these things, you will likely feel dissatisfied in parenthood. “There are trade-offs,” I told my sister. “Try to remember the amazing investment you’re making into growing your boys into fine men. It doesn’t get the same accolades as playing lead roles, but it really matters.”

Remembering that my sacrifice counts (and that Jesus invites me into His sufferings) can keep me going when I’m on weekend house-arrest with sick children (again) or changing the fifth poopy diaper of the day.

3. Finding an Outlet

As my sister and I chatted about both having given up theater, she said, “Don’t you just wish our ‘thing’ was running?” Her point was that going out for a jog would be an easier activity to fit into mommy-life than playing the lead in a stage production.

My friend Chelsea, who once aspired to be an off-Broadway stage producer, found herself married with two young children instead. When she scaled back her work producing at a large church to stay home part time, she discovered something was missing. “I needed a creative outlet,” she says. “In those moments when the kids were napping, I needed something to do. I was working part-time, but my mind was still full-time.”

She began by gardening and growing herbs. The herbs led her to explore her culinary talents and soon she had earned a reputation as an excellent cook. Cooking opened doors for hospitality and building community. Of her transformation, Chelsea says, “You have to decide it’s OK to be someone different. Take a look at what you like to do and find something you can fit into your life.”

4. Taking Initiative

One piece of my identity that has suffered in motherhood is my social life. Six years ago, as a single woman, I had coffee or dinner with a friend almost every night. I thrived on these social interactions.

The season of motherhood doesn’t afford me as many relational opportunities — and I miss it. I’ve discovered that the path of least resistance is to just stay home rather than find a babysitter for date night with my husband or take time off to have coffee with a girlfriend. “Staying in” is my default mode.

In fact, as I was working on this article, I sent a Facebook message to Chelsea, asking her to tell me more of her story. I was almost startled when she suggested meeting in person to talk about it. Over cups of frozen yogurt we talked about the good the bad and the ugly of motherhood. It reminded me of how often I subsist off of digital communication instead of taking initiative to create the community and fellowship I long for.

Motherhood is a season where many women feel as if they are losing something, but with a little perspective, creativity and effort, it’s possible to find something more valuable than what you lose. As Jesus said in Matthew 16:25: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” As I look to Him to reinvent me, I will become the best version of myself.

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Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a regular contributor to Thriving Family magazine and Boundless.org and writes children’s resources for several publishers. After having three children in fewer than five years of marriage, Suzanne and her husband, Kevin, who is a children’s pastor, consider themselves on the family fast-track — a blessing they wouldn’t trade for anything. Gosselin is the author of the newly released, Expectant Parents: Preparing Together for the Journey of Parenthood.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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Reinventing Mommy

by Suzanne Gosselin time to read: 5 min
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