In The Mommy Zone Column

My Third Identity Crisis

I’m confused. Once again, I need to rethink my place in society.

It all started out so subtly. A few years ago, my oldest son left our family of eight to serve a two-year church mission. It was a difficult adjustment to have him apart from us for so long, but we adapted and created new versions of ourselves without his presence and life went on.

When he returned from his mission, things were different. He’d grown and changed in incredibly miraculous ways, however, our family would never be the same.

Last summer, my second eldest son left us to serve his own two-year church mission in a far away, foreign land. This too was a monumental life-altering experience as we were forced to reshape and reshift our family dynamics a second time.

He’s still currently serving, relishing every missionary minute with 11 months remaining. He too has matured, transforming in marvelous ways. His mission moments have changed our entire family for the better.

These evolving experiences have left enormous holes in our family mechanics and weighty hollows in this mother’s heart, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s the way it’s meant to be.

In four short weeks, my third son will leave home, traveling to a distant and exotic land to embark upon his church mission. I’m troubled, anxiously contemplating how I’m going to reconfigure myself and our family yet a third time.

Soon, I’ll wake up and half of my kids will be gone, fifty percent of my six children will have spread their wings, departing the safety and security of our family nest. It gets harder and harder to let each soar and my soul aches at the thought of letting another one go.

I desperately worry if I taught him enough, if I loved him enough, if I was mother enough.         But nonetheless, my time is running out.

My heart yearns for the days when they were all babes in my arms, when their squishy newborn-soft cheeks craved nuzzles and cuddles. Gone are the days when I rocked them to sleep, softly singing in the night, and when their chubby toddler legs ran quick for my tender embrace.

Their scrawled penpal notes on my pillow, preschool dress-up plays, stickfigured artwork plastering the refrigerator, and sticky cheek kisses are but cherished memories of the past.

As each child’s stage of development passed in turn, another wide-eyed youngster would fill the void in the family gap, but alas, I have run out of children.

Now I stand on the brink yet again, with life forcing me to recreate myself once more, minus a third precious child. I can’t yet envision what this new transformation will bring.

I willingly sacrificed my original identity for the cherished designation of “Mom” more than 23 years ago. My precious children are too quickly leaving, one by one, in turn, and I fear I must relinquish this treasured moniker all too soon.

Nevertheless, I knew this day would eventually come, but at what cost to this mother’s heart. The fleeting role of motherhood comes with a heavyhearted price and my third son’s payment is coming due soon.

But, I must remember, this is the way it’s supposed to be, bittersweet investments and all. My identity crisis is worth all the risk for mothering privilege.

However, I can take solace in the fact that since my youngest daughter is only eight, my sixth and final motherhood payment isn’t due for at least 10 more years!

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