We can easily spend our days living in labels. There are the labels others give us.
Overweight. Social Butterfly. Photogenic.
Labels we place on ourselves.
Determined. Hard working. A Failure.
Labels that have everything to do with what we believe about our worthlessness.
C student. Second string. Not partner material.
Meet someone new at a party and you’ll be asked (especially if you live in my area) is “What do you do?” And what follows is an exchange of labels.
I’m a doctor. . .
I’m a runner . . .
I’m a stay at home dad . ..
Or whatever the case may be.
I’ve often walked away from conversations like this either feeling very accomplished or defeated depending on who is standing on the other side. I realize such emotions have everything to do with my love of labels. Being known as a particular kind of person who does particular kind of things– it all goes back to labels.
In my book Birthed, I write about my struggle with the label mother. After years and years of open-minded efforts, I could not get what I wanted. It tortured me EVERY DAY. In the grocery store line, the dry cleaners, or a small group meeting when asked about my children I’d always say:
“No, I’m not a mother.”
It felt so unfair after all that I was putting my body through to reach my goal. . . . What did I do to make God so mad at me?
But as I dealt with the pain and wise teachers showed up to lead me to greener pastures, I began taking on this loaded label. I was a mother. I was not excluded. God did not hate me. The only difference between me and the moms clubs: I was not on a non-traditional path.
For, who says that motherhood has to look a certain way?
Who says that the “real” mothers are only those who regularly change diapers or pack school lunches or sign school permission slips?
Who says that you can’t nurture hearts and have a full home of family without birth certificates to go along with it?
Motherhood, in my case, just had to be re-packaged.
Now, when people hear that we have a child with our legal last name, most say: “You must be so happy! You’re finally a parent.” But I cringe. For this not how I feel about my journey of parenthood at all.
While I love our daughter and am so glad she’s a part of our home, I became a mother long before her birth.
I was a mother to those who embryos that lived in me but did not make it to full-term.
I am a mother to those who find themselves in my congregations or friendship circles— adults and children a like.
And I mother those who I’ve met in orphanages around the world especially as our family journey intersected with the organization Feed the Children (while my husband was the CEO). Now, it’s a work I continue through the foundation, Our Courageous Kids and the unofficially adopted children that are a part of our lives. (And I hope more to come!).
So when my daughter came I knew she was not “an answer” but the addition to a full life. It’s how we parent her now, looking forward to introducing her to many siblings from all over the world.
My soul care word of the day is this: if there’s a label you’re longing to be used about you, take it on.
Who says you have to be a size 2 to be beautiful? Or a pro-golfer to be a champion? Or an a published author, songwriter or playwright to be creative?
Re-define your longings. Live them out. Be willing for them to take a path you might not have expected.
Who really needs to be normal after all? It’s so boring.