Maria Morera Johnson reflects on how her identity as a woman of faith has developed over the years.
I remember the moment when I became "Mrs. Vicky’s Mom." It tickled me when my daughter’s classmate, unable to recall our last name, called me by the best way she could remember me, as her friend’s mom.
In a time when I was juggling with so many identities, wife, mother, teacher, daughter, coach, and who knows what else, I not only didn’t take offense, but delighted in the child’s ingenuity, and the dawning realization that perhaps, I was merely an abstract thought for these kids.
It was funny ... right up until it wasn’t. As my children got older, and the demands of a growing family got bigger, I found myself struggling with a bit of an identity crisis. Where did these roles end and the real me begin? Acknowledging that the go-go-go of those years were exhausting emotionally as well as physically doesn’t take away from the fact that they were also fulfilling and happy years. I sometimes wonder if making the time for that manicure I passed on or the coffee with a friend I “couldn’t” find time for would have made a small but meaningful difference in the busy-ness of my day as a little stress relief.
Taking Time for Oneself
I love talking with young women, especially young mothers, who are doing a much better job of self-care than I did, than perhaps many women of my generation did. I love to see my adult daughters take time for a fun activity, either by themselves or with friends. I delight in their understanding that taking time for themselves is essential for both their mental health and their physical well-being. It is not selfish to take a small break in the day and breathe. To set aside for a moment the many hats and remember who we are.
It is all the more important to remember whose we are.
See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. (John 1:3)
If I came late to the realization that I must take time for myself and my interests, I came much later to the understanding that I must also tend carefully to my spiritual needs. Even in this area, I was focused on learning as much as I could about the faith so that I could pass it along to my children. That time was well spent, but I wonder what impact I might have had if I had taken that weekend retreat that seemed so impossible to schedule or gone to the book club on those Tuesday nights when the allure of the comfy couch and whatever distraction was on TV called to me.
An Opportunity for Growth
There is beautiful wisdom in growing older and seeing these things, not as a lament or deep personal criticism, but as opportunity. There is the opportunity to share these thoughts with our children, but there is also the opportunity to apply that wisdom to ourselves, too. What I have learned is meaningful to me now. I am still a mother, navigating relationships with adult children who need less hands-on time from me and perhaps more heart-time, to love them and pray for them. I am learning to be a grandmother, to spend time with these little precious ones in a way that delights them and encourages them to grow in all the many ways they do. And to pray for them, too!
The Importance of Spiritual Growth
As a young woman, I would see the older women in my parish at daily Mass, at daily Rosaries, and suppress a little chuckle at their sibilance in whispered prayers and the jingling of their rosary beads. I laugh out loud today, realizing I have become "the older woman in the pew.” I am happy for it, to be in this new season of life.
And perhaps this is where the real wisdom comes in: I need to tend to my own continuing spiritual well-being. To seek those groups of women with whom I can share these experiences, with whom I can pray, and learn, and let down my hair, and even explore new devotions and new experiences related to growing in relationship with Christ.
I am still wearing many hats: wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt. I wear other hats, too: editor, writer, teacher, friend, whatever-somebody-needs-today. But always I am Maria, child of God.
Copyright 2023 Maria Morera Johnson
Images: Copyright 2018 Holy Cross Family Ministries, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Maria Morera Johnson, author of My Badass Book of Saints, Super Girls and Halo, and Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love writes about all the things that she loves. A cradle Catholic, she struggles with living in the world but not being of it, and blogs about those successes and failures, too.