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Finding My Identity In Parenthood

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I remember vividly sitting in my corporate corner office, my best friend and co-worker on the swivel chair in front of me. She was expecting her first, and though I’d been married for quite a few years at that point, I wasn’t quite ready to follow in her footsteps. When she asked me why not, I remember quickly responding that I wasn’t ready for the attention to shift forever away from me.

At the time, it seemed an almost humorous response, and my friend certainly took it as such. Yet, deep down, what I meant was that I wasn’t ready to lose my identity quite yet. I wasn’t ready to have my success and my accolades actually be my children’s successes. I still had dreams I wanted to chase and aspirations I wanted to pursue, and the idea that one day, someone would judge my abilities chiefly by the way my children behaved in public, and not by my extensive resume, was foreign to me.

So I put off having children, and kept climbing the corporate ladder. I’d just finished an especially busy season at work when my husband and I took a road trip to the Pacific Northwest. We left the last week in October and came home the first week in November, when I promptly found out we were expecting. I thought I’d be nervous and anxious about the major life change, and in many ways I was. Yet, I was also strangely at peace about it, and actually looked forward to taking a step back for just a little bit.

I saw my own mama do the same thing when she was raising us three kids. I saw her step out of the limelight and into the backstage. She became a seamstress and a nurse, a referee and a professional chef. Of course, she didn’t do any of these things publically, but in our sweet little home in the country, she was all of that to us and more. She was a dancer, a party planner, a therapist, and a sounding board. She never really received much raise for her life-altering work, but the fact that my siblings and I are all still immeasurably close and stop by to see her and my dad every day speaks volumes for the way she raised us.

So maybe right now, I’m at a season of life where it isn’t all about me. For so long, I thought when that day came, I’d dread it. I thought I’d cling so tightly to the past, where I was racking up awards and receiving recognition, and struggle to release that and step into the shadows. I have a friend the same age as me. She recently acquired a travel visa and went to spend a year in Australia doing mission work and just exploring the region. She went with a small, local non-profit designed to bring help and hope to the homeless. She told me about her upcoming trip, and I felt just a tinge of envy. She was doing big, impressive work that would make a difference to so many!

However, just the other day a stranger came up to us in the grocery store. She was an older woman, and we met in the baking aisle looking for flour. She took one quick look at my kids in the cart in passing, then turned around to give us a second, longer stare. “Your children are beautiful,” she told me with a smile. “Look at how he’s just sitting in the front, and she’s in the back. They’re even playing with each other and having fun!” I looked down at my children, and sure enough, my daughter was giving my son a backrub from inside the big portion of the shopping cart.

I laughed and thanked her, saying something quickly along the lines of “Well they aren’t always like this, but you’re sweet” and we kept going. When I got everyone loaded up in the car, however, I couldn’t help but smile at the pride I felt.

I’m not traveling around the world on a major trip, and I’m not doing anything particularly groundbreaking that the mother down the road isn’t doing. Yet, I’m immensely proud of this thing called parenthood, and the new identity I’ve found through it. It’s funny, I don’t even mind taking a back seat when the view from here is so beautiful.

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