The Identity I Needed
When meeting someone new, we instinctively size them up. A simple “What do you do?” can reap loads of data points about a person’s job title, education level, socioeconomic status, interests, and more. Then we can categorize the other person and file them under a label privately defined in our own heads.
When people ask me that question now, I say, “I’m Teague’s mom.”
I’ve been saying that for one year, and it still sounds odd to identify myself as someone’s mom. It’s like how newlyweds feel when trying on the monikers of wife/husband for the first time. “Let me ask my wife.” “That’s my husband over there.”
As humans in relationship with other humans, we are used to having multiple identities from a young age: daughter/son, sister/brother, granddaughter/grandson, friend, student, and on and on. As we grow into our identities and take on new roles, we can get caught up in titles and positions, and let ourselves be defined by them.
Each situation involves an identity that is dependent upon another person. Being someone’s mom is both very personal and impersonal. Previous titles—like my own name— are stripped away, and I can simply be defined as a that child’s mom.
But being called someone’s mom—whether through adoption, fostering, or birth— is also an extremely personal privilege. When you become a mom, your new identity is forever tied to the life you are helping to create and care for.
When I was pregnant, I bought into the lie that I could lose my identity by becoming a mom. All my previous hard work in my professional life, the degrees that I earned, my “unique personal brand” that I had so carefully crafted on social media, my friendships and relationships, all would be wiped away as I became consumed with being a mom.
Maybe this lie has some truth. Here I am at my child’s one-year mark, writing about being a mom. Most of my social media posts (ok, all) are about my son, and my whole day is coordinated around his needs.
But another thing is true too, I love it. All of it. In my new mom identity, I am more confident, less concerned with what others think, and feel more complete and happier. I am having so much fun!
I didn’t know that I actually needed the identity of “mom.” But God did, and I thank him. Teague was a missing piece that makes my identity—makes me—more complete.
I wish we as a whole didn’t focus on the status tied to our role or identity. I wish moms didn’t worry about “losing their identity” or “feeling like their old self” or “getting their body back”. I loved who I was before, but I don’t want that back or miss it. I love who I am now more.
It’s difficult for anyone to transition from their old identity to their new parent identity. I am grateful that Nick and I have a loving and supportive community around us. I wish every parent could have that.
Ultimately, the greatest identity anyone can have is as God’s own child. We are adopted into his family when we receive him and believe in his name (John 1:12). I’m so glad that I can claim “daughter of God” as my most important identity. Being in relationship with God is key to helping me manage and navigate all the roles in my life, especially as a new mom.
Jamie Alter is Graham Blanchard’s New Mama-in-Residence who shares her insights and lessons learned on the roller-coaster new parenting journey. She is the Director of Brand Development at Alter Endeavors, a digital marketing firm.