01 June 2010

Identity

Our culture associates many problems with maternity. One of the biggest is the identity loss a woman supposedly experiences upon becoming a mother. I think this is one of those things I'm going to angrily denounce as worldly and selfish (which is in no way to suggest that I personally am immune to its allure).

Is "personal identity" something we see promoted/encouraged/praised in Scripture? Maybe someone out there can verify if this is something Freud or some similar secularist fabricated. It sounds suspect to me.

What is "identity"? I don't have an authoritative definition, but here's what I usually understand women to be referring to when they talk about losing their identities:
pursuits I enjoy or am good at . . . attributes which attract people to me . . . others' recognition and perceptions of me . . . parts of myself that I like--->the sum of these things, which defines me. Note these are all ostensibly positive. This is because everyone seems to think her identity is something valuable and worth maintaining/cultivating. No one ever doesn't like her identity, or what she perceives to be her true identity. Identity is that imaginary self we cherish, the hot chick in the mirror with her face turned to just the right angle and her cheeks and belly sucked in. She never looks like that in real life. Our identities are all skinny girls trapped in fat girls' bodies.

Now, what do I feel like I've lost in motherhood? This I feel capable of answering:
freedom, public presence, worldly acclaim. That last one we know to be rubbish even if it feels good. How did I previously use my freedom? For vain and idle pursuits (comparatively, if not absolutely, and I wouldn't rule out the absolute either). How did I previously use my public presence? Usually, for idle diversion and to pursue worldly acclaim. Ok . . . this is going really well . . . .

What virtues are lost if identity is lost? Did becoming a mother make me less patient, kind, faithful, humble, selfless, forgiving, charitable, joyful, peaceful, kind, gentle, good, chaste, pious, self-controlled? Hard to say. But it didn't necessarily make me any more of those things either. What it probably did was point out how impoverished I am in all of them. Children are a big dose of Law.

The Son of man came not to be served but to serve. He emptied himself. He must become greater and I must become less. "Whosoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." You do the math, Mom.

I can say one thing pretty confidently: whatever I thought was or is my awesome identity doesn't seem to be missed by anyone but me. Furthermore, I don't miss the tiny fraction of Old Me I perceive to have been jettisoned, and I have huge hopes for Future Me. And true
hope is not about being able to play tennis again someday.

Further reading
here.

10 comments:

Sue said...

Amen, Sister!

And you apparently have a husband who agrees with this. My children's father, who decided after 10 years he wanted to play around, did not value me as a stay-at-home mother. There is NOTHING I could have done that was more important.

Monique said...

“ What is identity?”

Dr. David Scaer once remarked that the way you perceive yourself is almost always never the way people perceive you. I especially think about this in terms of what my kids think of me. How or what kind of mother do they perceive me as?

Rebekah, I love your last paragraph. It’s a hard dose of reality and yet so very true- a great description of true humility.

And may we petition our Lord daily to impress upon our hearts the image of our lowly Savior, who humbled Himself below angels and men, and who speaks to us, saying: “Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.”

Rebekah said...

Sue, yes I do, and I thank God for him constantly.

You know what your kids think of you, Monique? They think you're great. You are their world, and their world is happy. Kids don't have all our hangups.

Untamed Shrew said...

I'm sure my kids perceive me as a ticking time bomb. It's not far from the truth. Mo's Bible quote inspires me to put two verses together that I need to ponder hourly: Let your attitude be that of Christ Jesus, (who said) "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them."

Colleen said...

I think when people say that they fear losing their identity, what they are really saying is that they fear losing their activites, passions, career, talents and social life. Motherhood really shouldn't affect these things. Women do not morph into their children (although Facebook pictures would not see it this way) once they have them - it's mothers that choose to ignore these things once they have children. A child does not steal your identity or cause you to loose it - let's be honest - that's all moms. I know so many mothers that won't even go out with their friends because "They can't leave the children with their husband for three hours". Uhh...yeah, you haven't lost your identity, just your mind. Your husband is more than capable. It's okay once in awhile to put down the baby, pick up your cell phone and do something you enjoy. Your child will be waiting for their mother when you get back.

Marie said...

Personally, I think individuals in society need to cultivate a "family identity" much more than personal identity. This would seem to fit with a Biblical worldview.

Mrs. Hume said...

Gee, lemme see.

Would any of us know who Abraham or Sarah was had God not blessed them with Isaac?

Uh, didn't think so.


The surest way to make sure your "identity" dies is to have no kids. The whole line of reasoning is goofy.

lisa said...

Marie, I love that. Good call!

Colleen said...

Mrs. Hume,
I don't believe that ANY child of God is worthless if they don't have children or that their identity dies because of it. There are many people without the ability to have children (myself and my husband for example and many of our good friends) and that does not make us without identity. We are children of God, husbands, wives, sisters, daughters, sons, friends, pastors, writers, business owners. Having children does not give you an identity, nor does it give you purpose. It means that your uterus works. Those things, identity and purpose, are things that are already built into us, from the God who gave us breath. Believe it or not, I actually love my life with or without children. Child of God, that is my identity, not how many children I leave behind when I go.

Elaine said...

My identity is lost in Christ and therefore I can enjoy motherhood and serving those around me (even though I do have my moments that may not seem so). But it is so, because I am hidden in Christ.