This Lenten season, I’ve spent hours reviewing my life – where I came from, where I hope to go, and most importantly, how motherhood has shaped my journey.

From the time I was a child, my driving force was to one day grow up and have a passel of little people to care for, guide, and love. In 1981, my dreams came true with the birth of my first daughter followed shortly after by three others. It was a role I immersed myself in with a searing passion unlike any I’d ever known before. Being a mother was what I was truly born to be, but I often wondered if it was the only thing that defined me.

Webster says “definition is the condition of being definite, distinct, or clearly outlined.” For the past 30 years, I guess you could say that this was true of my role in motherhood. With the conception of my children, a deep physical and emotional connection to another human life began. I took on the role of “she-bear” watching their every move, protecting them at all cost. I’ve shared their joys and felt their pain. They became the air I breathed, my reason for forging ahead in trying times, and my ultimate joy.

But as they grew to be teenagers, I learned that there were many factors that went in to being a good mother. It wasn’t just the feeding, clothing, and holding their hands late at night when they couldn’t sleep that was important. Along with instilling moral and spiritual values that are crucial for a deep rich life, I came to understand that for them to be free to become who they were meant to be, it was necessary that I develop my talents that enriched my life apart from them.

A mother should always lead by example, and I came to understand that I would not only be short changing myself, but them as well if I didn’t delve into all aspects that went into making me the woman God intended.

So, to answer my question, “does Motherhood define me?” Absolutely! It’s the culmination of 58 years of love, laughter, history and becoming. It’s because of those four beautiful souls I was blessed with so long that I continually strive to be the very best I can be and in the end, a complete individual.

Today, this fourth Sunday of Lent, I will bow my head and thank God profusely being defined as a mother – a truly beautiful and precious gift.