Last week in my MOPS group, one of the other women commented on how there’s nothing like becoming a parent to evoke feelings of self doubt. I felt comforted to hear my own thoughts echoed by another mom (especially from this particular mom, who also happens to be a pediatrician—it’s nice to know that even the professionals doubt their parenting skills!). The comment sparked some lively discussion around our table, and it’s something that’s been swirling around my head ever since. Why is it that parenting manages to obliterate my self confidence in a way that nothing else can? Where are these feelings coming from, and what am I supposed to do with them?
Upon further reflection of this issue, I’ve decided that my parenting-induced insecurities are largely due to the fact that birthing and raising a child is the most significant task I have ever undertaken. I consider my role as Charlie’s mommy to be a privilege, and not one that is to be treated lightly. The weightiness of this role is compounded by the cacophony of expert voices telling me exactly how I should parent, and the people-pleasing part of me wants to listen to every. single. one. of them. This all hearkens back to my perfectionistic tendencies, something I’ve written about extensively but haven’t come close to conquering. Unfortunately, when the experts can’t even reach a consensus on what perfect parenting looks like, my hopes for attaining this elusive status of Super Mom are futile.
Shortly after that conversation with my MOPS group, I met with a friend who is a recent empty-nester. Over the past year, several of her previous roles (work, ministry, etc.) were unexpectedly stripped away, and she found herself wrestling with questions of identity and purpose. It was in this place of working to redefine herself that she audibly heard the voice of God say, “You are my child. I love you.” God’s message to my friend reminded her that all of her past titles paled in relation to the significance of her role as God’s beloved daughter.
I was encouraged by my friend’s story, particularly because I have been grappling with identity issues of my own. For the last several months, my primary identity has been that of a New Mom. It has been an all-consuming role that is rewarding and terrifying and has required more of me than I knew I could give. But as Charlie is getting older, I’m realizing that, while I will always be Charlie’s mom, he won’t always be my baby. Though frightening and somewhat heartbreaking, this realization is freeing. It is a reminder that even if I COULD be the perfect mom (I can’t), that title wouldn’t last. Instead of chasing after an unattainable image of the mom I think I should be, I can abide in my one true identity: that of a Child of God who is undeserving of His love, but has received it anyway!
I know that I will fail Charlie as his mom, and if my identity is tied up in being a perfect parent, those failures will be devastating—for Charlie, and for me. I am thankful that in Christ, Charlie and I both have a perfect Father who offers unconditional love and abundant grace. When our identity is found solely in Him, there is no room for feelings of shame or doubt.