Stories for Mothers

Who Are You Without Your Titles?

By Merrill Durham

Learning to be authentically you | Ampersand Mother Blog

Have you ever listened to a song, watched a movie, or just had an ordinary moment that stopped you in your tracks?

This happened to me as I listened to Sleeping at Last’s song, “Three”.

Some quick background:
Sleeping at Last is currently recording a beautiful project called Atlas - check it out, you won’t regret it! Their songs start with themes about light, the universe, planets, the Earth, oceans, cardinal directions, and then move to the human experience: the five senses, joy, sorrow, anger, fear, body, heart, and mind. They are wrapping up their project by writing songs about the Enneagram, similar to a personality test (although enthusiasts would never call it that) that contains 9 types. I could write multiple posts about the Enneagram but I’ll save that for another time.

What I do want to share is that I am a Three: The Achiever. I am goal-oriented and success driven. Most things I put my heart and energy to, I will find a way to succeed. I am efficient, productive, and I get the job done. Three’s also have the ability to walk into a room and morph into any type of person they need to be in that moment, like a chameleon. It’s a gift and curse. I love that I can easily relate and connect to just about anyone pretty quickly. The cost, though, is that I quickly lose sight of who I really am.

Learning to be authentically you | Ampersand Mother Blog

Regardless of whether or not you are a “three”, the more I talk to fellow mothers, the more I hear similar patterns of so many of us being “busy people”. We rush from place to place, with a mile-long to-do list. I know I can be a workaholic who has a hard time knowing when to stop. Making lists and crossing items off is just about the greatest feeling. I get joy knowing that I completed a tangible, quantifiable task.

But I keep going until I drive myself to sickness from the stress and the pressure of keeping all the plates spinning. And I did just that 6 months ago. It was a breaking point for me.

I got to a place where I had to start removing job titles and responsibilities off my plate for a season as I reset. That was such a painful process for someone who gets worth from their work. I was in a place of being disconnected from my family and slowly losing touch of the joy I used to have in my work. I knew something had to change. In therapy, I am finding myself asking the questions, “What am I without my accomplishments? Do I believe I alone am worthy of love? Who am I really?” It is really easy to hide behind those titles, and removing them left me feeling exposed and vulnerable. It is a scary process figuring out who I am when I take away all the external validations I clung to in order to define my identity.

Learning to be authentically you | Ampersand Mother Blog
Learning to be authentically you | Ampersand Mother Blog

I am finding that when I feel unworthy, it is typically in seasons where I feel disconnected from my community, family, God, and myself. 

I am finding that I need to step away from social media for a few days at a time so I don’t drown in my need for validation from the virtual world.

I am finding how important it is to not only find my value in external places or titles.

I am finding that I can’t seek affirmation solely in the product of my work.

But this process does not only apply to those who are working.
For all us moms, whether you have a full-time job or a side-hustle to bring in a little extra income, or you are homeschooling your kids, or you are a full-time stay-at-home mom drowning in laundry, diapers, and food on floor, we also get lost in the title of mother.

Learning to be authentically you | Ampersand Mother Blog

I have yet to meet a mom, especially in the early days of motherhood, who doesn’t feel like they lost some part of who they are in the process of growing a new life. Motherhood is all consuming and asks everything of us. It is the ultimate refining process that strips us bare, where we can no longer go back to who we were. And what a gift this journey can be. It will certainly transform you, and I like to think for the better. 

However, my hope is that we can learn how to delicately carry and balance both motherhood & our passions/work.

My hope is that we would not lose sight of the joy motherhood can truly be, despite the fact that connecting with your family is not a quantifiable to-do list item, because really it is the most important 'task'. 

My hope is that we can allow ourselves the time to discover and explore ways to pursue passions outside of the role of mother (this doesn’t have to be taking on a job, maybe just picking up a new hobby that brings you joy).

My hope is that we can set aside “mother”, "partner", “passions” and any other title we bear, and still see who we are in whatever is remaining. Because in our culture, women are rarely valued just for being ourselves. 

We are women worthy of love in our brokenness, failures, and successes. We are valued for simply being human.

May this song be a song of encouragement for all of you Ampersand Mothers today, (and especially you three’s) because, girl, this song broke me and healed me.

“Three” – Sleeping at Last

Maybe I’ve done enough
Your golden child grew up
Maybe this trophy isn’t real love
And with or without it I am good enough

Maybe I’ve done enough
Finally catching up
For the first time I see an image of my brokenness utterly worthy of love
Maybe I’ve done enough

I finally see myself
Through the eyes of no one else
It’s so exhausting on this silver screen
Where I playing a role of anyone but me

I finally see myself
Unabridged and overwhelmed
A mess of a story I am ashamed to tell but I am slowly learning how to break this spell
And I finally see myself

I only want what’s real
To let my heart feel what it feels
Gold, silver, or bronze hold no value here
Where work and rest are equally revered

 I only want what’s real
Set aside the highlight reel

Any of my greatest failures on display
As an asterisk worthy of love anyway

The next Ampersand Mother post is the "Creating: Who You Are Without Your Titles". Lauren will be sharing the process to creating the two paintings above. We are also offering 20% off the "I Am Enough" print! Just put in your email below and you will receive the discount code to the print.