Annette Lyon is the mother of four children ages six to thirteen. While thrilled to be past the diaper and sleep-deprivation stages, she’s a little freaked that her kids are growing up too fast. Tower of Strength, the fourth novel in her historical temple series, is Annette’s sixth book, now on shelves. She blogs at The Lyon’s Tale.
“But I’m proud to be known as Steven’s* mom,” Laura said, shutting me down.
I’d explained that I wanted to develop talents and get an education so that when I became a mother, I’d have an identity beyond “mom.” Being known as my kid’s mom wasn’t the problem—not knowing myself anymore would be.
Laura made it clear in no uncertain terms that once you had kids, wanting to be anything but their mother was selfish, wrong. She was thirty years my senior, a mother of ten. I was an 18-year-old college freshman. What did I know about motherhood and womanhood?
Maybe I was off my rocker. Maybe losing yourself was something good mothers did.
I struggled with the issue even after becoming a mom. I’d carved out a “me” area but worried it made me an inferior mother.
Then I got Lily as a new visiting teaching assignment. She and her husband each had one night a week to themselves while the other tended the kids. He spent his nights in the basement, working on his paintings.
Lily said had no idea what to do on her nights, so she watched whatever was on TV. Not a favorite show, because she didn’t have one.
My jaw dropped. She couldn’t come up with anything she wanted to do? I could have listed a dozen ideas off the top of my head.
Chatting at our visits was painful. Lily rarely had an opinion or preference about anything if it didn’t involve diapers or sippy cups. Politics? Current events? Books? How about the school system? Don’t even bother—Lily was practically a robot.
Laura was dead wrong.
My three daughters will someday grapple with these same questions. I want them to have a mother with opinions, preferences, hobbies, and passions. I want them to know I love Rocky Road—and that it’s okay to like Cookies and Cream instead. That I enjoy reading Kingsolver and Piccoult and McKinley. That I laughed myself silly watching Better off Dead. That I love to write. That I will write, because I’m a better mom when I do.
I’m already “so-and-so’s mom.” I beam when I hear that. But when the night stillness settles in and my children’s breathing evens with sleep, I’m still me. My identity doesn’t go to bed with them, to rise in the morning when I start mothering again.
One of the Young Women values is Individual Worth. It’s not “Mother’s Worth” or “Worth You Have Serving Someone Else.”
It’s Individual Worth. It’s who you are, sans spouse, sans children. You, alone—daughter of God.
Laura is an empty-nester now. I wonder if she’s found Laura. Or does she flounder, not knowing who she is without children in the house?
I adore raising my kids. I don’t want an empty nest. But I don’t anticipate that inevitable day with dread, either.
‘Cause I’ll still be me. And I kinda like me.
*Names have been changed.