To warn you, this blog post may get a tad deep [for me, at least] and perhaps a little rambling. If you’re not in that kind of mood, I totally get it. Might I recommend gazing on some cute kitties in real time instead? 

The other night I was procrastinating going to bed. [Am I the only one who gets “too tired” to go to bed? My husband certainly thinks it’s a freakish anomaly of mine.] And so, I delved into the most advanced time wasting device modern man has to offer. [You may know it as “Facebook.”] For some reason, I examined my own profile, which is rare, a shocking reality in the face of the embarrassing amount of time I spend unabashedly stalking “networking” on FB.

And what did I discover upon investigating myself? I have a baby. And apparently this baby is the only thing going on in my life. Evidence: a status update about teething, a tag in a video of my daughter waking up, a picture of said baby eating a crucifix, a tag in a video of baby scooting, a ridiculous picture of the baby hanging from the pull-up bar…you get the idea.

And let’s not even talk about my instagram feed, in which truth-in-advertising would demand my user name to be “menaunfilitered.” [I have a friend who likes to remind me that when I was pregnant I said something along the lines of, “those women who post hundreds of pictures of their children are just over the top. I might share one or two every once in a while.” Ha. Hello, Over the Top, my name is Sarah. I’d like to join you.]

My first reaction to seeing my own FB page was, “maybe I should post a profound quote or Scripture verse or political news article, so people know I’m still intelligent and my brain hasn’t converted to Mommy mush.” I quickly nixed that idea, because really, it was pretty contrived and vain, even for me.

However, as I thought about the page more, for some reason I got a pit in my stomach, and I thought, “Is my very self now defined by my child?” Am I no longer “Sarah,” but rather “Mother of Philomena”? And, “Did this naturally arise from motherhood or have I forced it upon myself?”

I don’t have an answer to these questions yet, but they certainly provoked me to examine my experiences of the past seven months. At the risk of sounding corny, I can honestly say hands-down these have been the best months of my life. I’m not some kind of idealist who remembers during my day-to-day-ness the holy vocation of marriage and motherhood. Most days I’m probably complaining about teething or not being able to wear necklaces, because she chews on them. [Yes, my problems are big.] And living on one modest income is tough. Very tough. 

And yet, amidst this, I am happy. So, so, so, happy. [Imagine me saying that in sing-songy voice with a bluebird next to me.] When I was pregnant and we made the decision that I wouldn’t go back to work full-time [no, I don’t think that’s the right decision for everyone, but it’s what we discerned was the best for our family right now], I was scared, completely freaked. I spent most of my pregnancy with anxiety that I would get bored at home with a baby, that I would feel under-challenged, that I would miss full-time teaching too much. I was afraid people would judge me for not “using” my advance degrees. [By “people” I mean myself.]

Aaaaand, like most anxiety, it was all for naught. I’m afraid I’m sounding all sugary, but I truly, deeply love being a Mother. I almost feel guilty that this gets to be my job. And yet, I am grateful. Many women close to my heart long for motherhood, but lack of husband prospects or infertility stand in the way. My heart aches for them, and I desperately pray I will never take this gift for granted.

Returning to the night of the Facebook profile dilemma, I tried to remember what my page looked like a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. Even fondly reminiscing through my rose-colored glasses at my fancy-free single life, I have to acknowledge that my page probably didn’t consist of things that much more exciting than a baby learning how to crawl. Most likely, I had statuses about things like “Margarita Thursday” [truth be told, I’d love to have a mid-week night out with my Atlanta besties again] and going to see some cliche indie concert [I miss you, Joshua Radin] or my latest “Lost” theory [RIP]. And definitely there were pictures of me in significantly more fashionable clothes and accessories, no doubt. [Oh, expendable money, how I long for thee.]

As a single person, I felt very defined by the things I did– teaching, friendships, young adult groups- and most likely my online self reflected this. Single-ness in and of itself is difficult to be defined by, simply because it is by its nature a lack of something. And that’s okay. Often it is good to lack something. I know my 20s lacked a husband and baby, but they were filled with truly amazing experiences that helped form me and prepare me for my life now.

And this life is very different. I can’t do whatever I want; my life is not my own. I am Ryan’s wife. I am Philomena’s mother. And yet, in this “limiting” of self, I have actually found a freedom of identity. It’s as though I was always meant to be defined as “mother.”

But, you know, even in my unattached single days I was never my own. I was always His beloved. That is, indeed, the most defining of identities. And correspondingly, the most freeing.

This probably didn’t make much sense. And I’m fine with that. Excuse me while I go take a picture of my daughter waking up from her nap.


23 thoughts on “defined

  1. good post.

    i’m not even that fashionable and i’ve lamented the inability to wear necklaces and earrings and having expendable money.

    noted: your bed is made and your comforter is in fact very nice : )

  2. I love this and I think you’re wonderful. It’s refreshing to see a woman who is joyful and confident where she is, not where she isn’t or where she was. It makes my heart smile every time I see you pictures of dinner and the baby :)

  3. I completely relate to this! When an old friend recently made a facebook status update saying “Your baby could be the star of a show called “babies I don’t care about””, whether or not it was directed at me, I certainly felt that way. But, I figure that the people who really know me as I am today understand and (hopefully) appreciate my love for my girls and maybe even sometimes like the pictures/quotes. Those who don’t appreciate it can ignore me and I’ll try not to be offended. :)

    • Oh, Kim, what an excellent, profound post. I actually remember reading it three years ago and being very moved! (Wow, how much has changed in my life in those years.) Re-reading it has given me an even deeper appreciation for your words.

  4. Thank you for this! I love hearing your deep thoughts :)
    You said so much of what have felt in these past 8ish years so well. I’ve gone back and forth too between being ok with being defined by my motherhood/wifehood and then trying (in vain) to find myself outside of these roles. Silly me. I can tell that you and Ryan have changed a lot since Philomena entered your lives–you are both seem…content and accomplished–in a “finally, we’ve found who we are” sort of way.
    Anyway, who could NOT get overly obsessed with a daughter as cute as Mena?

      • Along that vein (sorry, I read the post and have been following comments without really commenting myself). But not in a weird stalker-ish way of course.

        I digress, along Erika’s vein though, I will honestly say that I don’t think I really, truly “found myself” until becoming a parent. Good bad or otherwise, I feel like it’s just been in the past 5 years or so that I’ve really come into my own.

        Great post, Sarah, very thought provoking.

  5. It’s not obsession. It’s that pure self-giving love that you hadn’t experienced before. It’s an attempt to share that joy with others. And you do it beautifully!

  6. Sarah, I think so many mamas can relate to this. You said it well when you were talking about the single life,” As a single person, I felt very defined by the things I did- teaching, friendships, young adult groups- and most likely my online self reflected this.” This can be a mothering trap as well, especially as the babies grow, can play on their own a bit, and mama has a bit more mind space for speculative thought (ha!, did I just type that?).
    It is a beautiful, beautiful vocation we live and a gift to us from God to have our ability to “finds [ourselves] only by making a sincere gift to others.”

  7. Beautifully written and so very true. I don’t even know you but it is obvious how well motherhood suits you. I too feel so blessed to be able to call staying at home with my kids my “job.” It is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done!

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