Reverse Identity Crisis

Caryn: Wow. Feels like we’ve been a bit neglectful of our Revolution! Good to be back writing here. My excuse is that I’ve just gone through perhaps the crazy-busiest month of my life. Normally I enjoy my nice little homebody, introverted life, spending my days mommy-ing the kids while ducking back often to check email or get some work done. But for the past month (six weeks, actually)—since the release of my book, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.I’ve spent tons of time on the road. Traveling to conferences, driving to speaking gigs, even driving to one place to be on a little TV show. That was fun (I’ll get a link up to it one of these days!).

Of course, I loved all of it. But then something weird happened, just after I finished taping that TV show last week. I had been away from home for yet another overnight and as exciting as it had all been at first, I was seriously getting tired of this “life on the road” (you know, the road ain’t no place to start—or raise—a family).

It hit me in the South Bend, Indiana, Target. I had stopped there quick before getting back on the road home for two reasons: 1. I wanted chai and oatmeal. 2. I felt guilty for leaving my kids so much and wanted to get them something. (Okay. One more: 3. Because the only other things to get them in South Bend are Fightin’ Irish things and I just can’t do that. Sorry.)

So anyway, while at Target at 10:30 am on a Monday morning, you see lots of moms and kids. Granted, I’m usually beyond annoyed when I have my kids with me at the big T (though, as we’ve noted before, it’s better than when we’re at the big W-M!), but seeing those moms and kids made me miss mine like mad! I got teary-eyed at Target!

So I grabbed some non-Irish souveniers, got my chai and oatmeal, and nearly ran to my car.

Here’s the weird part. It was in that same car—outside a different Starbucks!—six-and-a-half years ago that I had my first identity crisis after realizing how much like myself I felt after a brainstorming meeting with Dave Goetz (all detailed in the book!). This time, I sat in that car having a reverse identity crisis realizing how much I needed to get home to my kids to feel like myself again. Crazy, huh?

But since I’ve gotten to a better place, I realize this reverse ID crisis just supports my contentions about the “integrated life” we need to strive for. We need to have things in our lives that are just for us—that are ours. We need to do things and be things that God made us to do and be. We can’t deny who we are once we become moms. But, I think once we are moms, our mommy roles and resposibilities become so intertwined with who we are, that we can’t deny the ways that makes us more “ourselves” either. We need it all—meshed or intertwined or mashed up or whatever word suits you—to feel like and to be the real us.

I’m not saying we should have our kids at our sides at every waking moment or that time away from any one facet of our identities can’t be really good for us, but I’d love to hear about ways women have been successful at integrating their lives in the day to day.

Carla: A: We have been on a Journey kick at our house of late and I love the shout-out to the fabulous Steve Perry. B. You are so dead on with this.

No single part of our lives represents the whole of who we are, no matter how great or fulfilling or miserable it is. There is such a temptation to talk about life, ourselves, motherhood as a single entity, as something that stands alone. It’s certainly easier to give advice and make decisions and write articles and preach sermons when we distill something to a single point, but that doesn’t reflect the true integration and complexity of real life.

This is true for what’s best in us and what’s not. We can be a combination of success and failure, confidence and uncertainty, strength and weakness. That’s the beauty of being human.

8 responses to this post.

  1. It seems there are really strong opinions in opposite directions on this topic. There are those who would say that you SHOULD spend all your energies ONLY on your family. And there are those who say that you SHOULD develop yourself as a person outside your family…for your sake (After all I am a person apart from being a mom) and for their sake (because they need to see mom relating to other people, and that the world doesn’t revolve around them.) Yet I find I don’t strike a balance very well. It’s not about physical time for me…meeting my family’s needs. But more about emotional margin and healthy living. While I am ministering to others, do I have anything left for my family? Or (as I often experience) does the stress of one spill over into the other and I end up doing neither well…On the outside they may both look fine, but not in my heart. I think the older I get I’m finding I have had far too generous assumptions about what I can fit into my little cup. I pour and pour and pour and yet I’m surprised when things spill out….and I’m not talking about the love of Jesus! Yet, perhaps the wise woman (wiser than me!) could give perspective on the delicate yet healthy balance…being a woman with God-given gifts I desire to develop, and yet being a wife and mom with God-given responsibilities to love and serve well. Anyone?


  2. Posted by Robyn on April 29, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I totally get it, Caryn. When I am out running errands on my lunch break, and I see moms with kids, I wish I had my little one at my side. Then, when I take her grocery shopping with me, I swear “never again.” LOL. My identity as the mother of Rylie is inseparable from “me” as a whole. I am her mommy 24/7/365, no matter where, no matter when. There is never a time when I am not “on call” to do what she needs of me.

    However… my belief about what she NEEDS of me does not include being at her beck and call every moment of every day. I don’t believe that is what makes me a good mother. There is plenty of room for other people to be involved in caring for her, feeding her, bathing her, kissing her owies, etc. I don’t really believe that “helicopter” parenting is best for kids, nor do I believe in doing everything for them. My goal is to raise a healthy, happy, independent, Christ-follower woman. Not to be anyone’s nursemaid. To that end, an age-appropriate pushing out of the nest is sometimes necessary. I do not need, nor want, to be the center of my child’s universe. God should be the center of her universe. I’m just here to guide her and love her.

    Honestly, I believe I have a healthy “balance” most of the time. It’s not my responsibility to do everything, so I don’t even try. I recognize my limits. My husband and I share household duties and child-rearing responsibilities, (though I really do much more than he does. Mostly because I work a lot less than he does and I have more time.) I’m investing in my daughter’s emotional and spiritual growth by carefully choosing her daycare provider and then spending the afternoon hours with her myself. I’m investing in myself and my God-given gifts of teaching and administration by pursuing my career. Granted, my career-track is significantly slower than it would be if I were childless, but I am fine with that. Could I be “climbing the ladder” more quickly? Sure. But 1) why? I have plenty of time. I’m only 30. and 2) it’s not worth the cost to my family and my sanity. I don’t take on more than I can handle.

    For example, my husband and I both have further college education that we would like to complete. But we have found that it is just too much to have both of us in school at the same time. Someone has to be the support and pick up the slack. So I just finished my Master’s Degree and he just started his. When he is done, in a year or so, I will go back to school to do the other degree I need in order to be a school administrator. We work together as a team to make sure that EVERYONE’s needs are met. Sometimes we fail. So we pick ourselves up, figure out what went wrong, and fix it. And we reassess. Is something becoming too much? Do we need to cut something out? Do we have room to add fill-in-the-blank to our lives? I’m sure that what we can handle, what works for us, will change over time. We have to be aware and flexible.

    Anyway, I think that “more than I can handle” is different for every person. Some people can handle more (physically, emotionally, mentally) than others. (Ever met someone that just seems like the Energizer Bunny and you can’t figure out how they do everything and do it WELL?) And that is FINE. What works for one woman, for one family, might not work for another. Recognizing that is one way that we can support each other as women, as sisters in Christ, without judging each other’s gifts and choices.


  3. Great post. I agree. I’m personally in a good place with all of this although it took me a few identity crises to get to where I am. BUT. I’m sure it will all fall apart at some point (probably sooner rather than later) & I’ll leave Target crying or something. Then I’ll have to speak truth to myself, try to figure out what’s out of whack, have a glass of wine, & try again.

    I agree that balance, rest, whatever you want to call it does/will look different for everyone. God has made us unique individuals & He has given us various gifts and talents to use for the benefit of His kingdom, our communities, our families, etc. It’s great when we can support and encourage our friends/the women (and men) in our lives in all of this instead of judging them & projecting our own desires, passions, hopes and junk on them. That’s what I’m trying to do… I fail at times, but I’m starting to be more aware of when I fall into judging others. Hopefully it will continue to improve… This web site is really helpful in this area.


  4. Posted by Krissi on May 1, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Anyone out there who thinks its OK to be “just a mom”? At least for a while? Anyone thinking that we may all be affected by our culture and the need to achieve? Can we enjoy our lives, work toward doing what the Lord puts in our heart to do without measuring by how “successful” we are (which, by the way, is probably measured by the cultural standard, not a biblical standard).
    Just wonderin’.


    • Posted by Janice on May 3, 2009 at 10:54 pm

      A hearty “YES” to all your questions. I have enjoyed my life/role as a mom so much more than my first career as teacher, and I know that home is where God wants me to be right now.


    • Posted by Robyn on May 4, 2009 at 8:41 am

      Absolutely, Krissi. I think that’s the whole point. That we should all enjoy our lives and work toward doing what the Lord puts in our hearts to do. Which is different for every woman, every person. And that’s okay. God has different tasks and gifts for each of us. We can measure our “success,” like the parable of the talents, by how we are investing our gifts and completing the work that God has laid out for each of us, whatever that might happen to be.


  5. Posted by Carla on May 1, 2009 at 7:20 pm


    It’s absolutely okay to be “just a mom”!!! What we want more than anything is for all moms to feel the freedom to be whoever God is leading them to be, no matter what that looks like. It won’t be the same for everyone–nor should it since we are all unique creations of God. But no matter what path God puts us on, we can support each other as sisters in Christ and encourage each other to keep seeking God, to keep living the dreams God puts in our hearts, and to find contentment with every stage along the way.


  6. Posted by MamaO on May 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Your post on identity crisis was just what I needed to hear. I have found myself pulled (by the girls and their moms!) into ministry with high school freshmen girls and feeling tremendously guilty about the time it takes away from my own 3 teenage children and how it might negatively impact my son who is already in the high school youth group. This really resonated with me: “We need to have things in our lives that are just for us—that are ours. We need to do things and be things that God made us to do and be. We can’t deny who we are once we become moms”. I have not done ministry for 13 years and this feels right and I am enjoying it. This gave me the words to explain this to my kids. Thanks!


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