Almost a year ago, I got my third tattoo. I love all three of my pieces, but my third will always be my favorite as it represents not only my kids, but also me, and the kind of person that I wish to be for my children.
I got it last summer, a few months after Oliver was born. My motherhood journey has not been easy, and while I’ve had my share of pregnancy and labor struggles, that’s not what I’m referring to. The actual process of becoming a mom, of understanding what it means (and what it doesn’t), and embracing it all, has been difficult for me.
I don’t fully understand why I’ve struggled with becoming a mom the way that I have. But I do know a few things that have played a role in the struggle: unrealistic expectations, naiveté, selfishness and, perhaps most of all, the tendency I have to find my identity in things that don’t matter.
Sure, I was blindsided by how difficult parenting can be, and became frustrated and disillusioned as a result. And sure, I was naive about what being a mom actually looked like. And absolutely, I was (still am) a selfish person that has a hard time letting go of spending all my time, resources and energy on me. But ultimately, the thing that made my transition into motherhood the most difficult, was the way I was finding my identity and self worth in things that didn’t really matter, and when I had to give up, left me reeling.
My journey to becoming a mom has taught me so many things, but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I tend to find my purpose in what I’m doing, and not who I am. I heard someone say recently that we need to be careful of becoming human-doers, instead of human beings. I wrote a little about this struggle in my post, Your Kids and Your Job are Not Your Purpose. In a nutshell, what motherhood has shown me is that I can’t find myself in a job, in my kids, or in another person. I believe I was put on this earth with a God-given purpose to carry out, and no matter where I’m at, who I’m with, or what my job description may be, my purpose remains the same.
The best way that I can describe my personal purpose is to explain my tattoo.
There is a verse in the Bible that says, “children are a blessing from the Lord.” Have you heard of it? It will be a familiar verse to most of you, regardless of your religious belief or background. It is a verse that in many ways has become a cliche and one that honestly, I understood less once I become a mother. I knew that children were technically a “blessing,” but dangit! Everything about becoming a parent was so. hard. But shortly before I decided to get this tattoo, I looked up the verse that followed. It says, “For they are like arrows in the hands of the warrior.”
Suddenly, I understood. The fact that children are a blessing doesn’t diminish the pain that we experience through our struggles to get or stay pregnant. It doesn’t diminish the pain we experience in child birth. It doesn’t diminish the frustration of raising small children. It doesn’t diminish the heartache that can accompany every step of walking through this life with our children.
It does mean, however, that we are not victims. We are not just survivors. We do not just have to passively let life take us under with it’s struggles. We are not just parents; we are warriors. And my kids are not just the next item on my life plan to check off; they are my spiritual arrows. They are the arrows that I hold in my hand and will one day send out to protect and defend those who are hurting. Because everyone struggles, but not everyone knows that we don’t have to be defined or defeated by that struggle.
So my tattoo contains my bow, and it contains my arrows. But it also contains shafts of wheat. Wheat is the symbol for love and charity. I firmly believe that all my efforts -be they personal, relational, physical, spiritual or mental – must be defined by love and charity. I believe that, in addition to knowing God, it is what I’m here for. It is the purpose that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
I am currently a mom, and in many ways, I will always be a mom. But there will come a day where I no longer have the job title of “mother.” My job will be done. I will have raised my kids to be fully functioning, independent members of society who now don’t need a mother, but of course, will always have their mom.
Many of you will have heard by now of Joe Biden’s tragic loss of his son, Beau. As I listened to Biden’s recent speech about his son, I was touched by the following words: “my dad’s definition of success is when you look at your son and daughter, and realize they turned out better than you.”
I so resonate with that parenting philosophy.I want to raise my kids and equip them with everything they need to be better than me. To excel past my highest achievement. To love harder, to grower beyond, and to achieve far more then I personally ever thought possible. But I not only want that for my children, I want that for everyone that I come in contact.
Long after my last child has left the house, and long after I have moved on from whatever job it is that I will do next, my purpose will remain the same. To love, and to be charitable. The context of how I apply that love and charity might change with each season, but the driving force will remain unchanged.
Now, for the fun part. Last summer I had two babies – Theo, and Oliver. But I wasn’t content to just put two arrows in my “quiver.” I had the tattoo artist add a third arrow. I knew I wanted at least three children, and I knew my motherhood journey was far from over. I didn’t know when, or how or who, but I KNEW there would be a third.
I’m thrilled to announce that we are expecting our third child sometime this winter. I’m not sharing a due date because, lets be honest, my babies have a tendency to come whenever the heck they want. I’m currently in my second trimester and both baby and mommy are doing well.