I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the changes and transformations that happen along the journey of motherhood. In the 2+ years I’ve been on this life-long path, I’ve had to face myself in ways that I never have before. It’s been challenging, frightening, painful, joyful and incredibly rewarding.
One of the things I began to notice soon after I had my first child was the internal fight (read kicking and screaming) that would happen against all the responsibility that I now had. I wanted my own life back, the one where I felt more in control of when and how I spent my time. I was tired of being pushed to give more than I thought I had. I was resisting the transition to being a stay at home Mom because I kept wanting to make room for my own desires. If I was honest, the needs of my family felt in direct competition with my own needs.
I spent many many hours in desperate prayer. Often not even knowing what I was praying for…just letting my hurting heart cry out. Those are sometimes the most moving prayers…lifting up groans that don’t even have words.
When the clouds would clear I would, bit by bit, come a little closer to seeing things as they truly were…and it always involved seeing myself for who I truly was. It hurt to see myself less generous, less sacrificial, less patient, less loving than I thought I was…but it was also freeing because now I could move forward with the work that needed to be done in my heart, instead of feeling blind to where to go from here.
I read recently Simple Mom’s article on choices— she states that most of our choices are not between good and bad, but between good and better. This really resonated with me. I didn’t label the issue good vs better at the time I came to terms with what was really happening, but nonetheless, I began to see clearly that I needed to prioritize many good options out there in order to take on only what I could right now and stay healthy and balanced.
In my case; good was pursuing a career that felt rewarding, meaningful and enjoyable and better was being patient with those dreams and committing myself whole heartedly to the care of my little children and family. When I saw that the choice was really between two goods it became essential to identify my priority in life right now so I didn’t fight myself with decisions all along the way.
Something else struck me in a quiet moment. Every yes is a no. This simple little statement, gave me such clarity. When we choose to say yes to something, we also implicitly are choosing to also say no to something else. On a macro level I (well we, my husband and I ) said YES to children, starting our family, and having two little ones close together….this also was a NO to being able to take on much of a career right now, possibly for the next year or so until this stage shifts and we can reassess what demands that YES makes on our life.
Owning the NO as well as the YES reminded me that it was all my decision. In a world where so much is out of our control, putting the time it would take to pursue my career the way I ultimately would like to (at some point) on hold was something I chose, it wasn’t imposed on me. The internal struggle started to ease up.
I wanted to share this because giving our whole selves to loving and raising our children is hard work. It requires sacrifice and commitment. When I work with other mothers I hear their internal struggles with the NO that is involved with their YES. And while I believe that we can not lose ourselves completely for our own well being, we do need to be honest with what we can take on in order to set ourselves up with realistic expectations and diminish some of the inner conflicts that happen as we go through the transformation that motherhood brings.
What do you think? Did this resonate at all true for you? What are your thoughts?
My wife Lisa did the majority of the work to raise our sons now. Their in high school and college now. I do remember her saying that they’re only little for a short time and then it gets easier. I think your idea that you own the choice is correct and it’ll soon be easier for you.
Thank you for the encouragement! I have heard from many women who have older children that the young years are very different than other stages of a family’s life. It has been a growing experience for me to be open and present to all the amazing parts of their very young years and not wishing away one moment of it.
My Mom keeps telling me that these days will go by quickly, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like that’s true! LOL! But it is…I too, am learning to enjoy the moment. They won’t want me to help them get dressed or to brush their teeth for the rest of their lives and someday I’ll probably wish they DID want my help with something! 🙂
Motherhood hit me hard and doubly so because not only did it bring out the “worst” in me (I related to what you said about feeling the loss of independence and the added responsibility…the kicking and screaming…the realization that I wasn’t as kind and loving as I thought I was!), but also because I didn’t know how to take care of myself either. One of the biggest thing was the adjustment to less sleep, that was huge for me. I just don’t function well unless I am more rested, so that was hard for me to get used to. I am so thankful to be learning and growing in these areas now, while my kids are little, so that I can be the Mom I know that I need to be…
I really did like Simple Mom’s thoughts on the good vs. the better, I’ve used it in the last few days and I find that I generally make a choice to invest time and energy in the kids when I look at it that way-choosing to try to meet a need over, say, washing the dishes which will still be there later. I think it’s a useful tool and helps me not get so overwhelmed or down on myself for not being able to do it all.
I had always made the commitment to stay home with my kids and not pursue a working career, but I find that I still feel the pull towards things outside the home, such as ministry. That’s a hard one, because there are just so many needs out there and “good” things to do, and yet honestly, raising kids IS a ministry all on its own…I read a blog called “Stay at Home Missionary”…I like that title! 🙂
I enjoyed your post and agree with your thoughts on the subject. Choosing to stay at home, even though it can feel hard at times, can really mature & refine us as moms (and people) which is something I appreciate. Even when the kids are elementary age I think parenting feels easier… not because there’s somehow less to do (which isn’t true at all) but perhaps because we’ve grown into the role. The truth is, we cannot get back this time with our families and life is so fragile that we ought to be very careful how we choose to spend our time and energy. I believe that we can still use our giftings while maintaining focus on our families and also know that after kids are grown and gone, a whole new season of life will await us to be filled as we wish.
Becky– Thanks for your comment– I agree the good vs better idea helps me on big levels and “small” levels even through the day making the best choices as I go along (like you said, tuning into my kids sometimes when I can put the household tasks aside for a bit).
Kika–So true- motherhood really does refine us and mold us into more mature people I believe (not that other things can’t do that as well….) I also wonder if my giftings will also mature and shift so that down the road when I do enter that new season of my life with grown children I will be pleasantly suprised at what I am uniquely gifted to do inthe world given the growth that is still ahead…great stuff to think about!
[…] great post on the well grounded life about motherhood and the issues we have to work out in our mind as we become […]
Lovely post! I hear you loud and clear. When I was pregnant with our first son I was really torn between staying home full time and returning to work. I had just finished my degree and was back on track for a really successful career.
I knew I would have some feelings of guilt either way (staying home or returning to work). If I stayed home I would feel guilty for not using my degree that I worked so long and hard for and also for not contributing financially to the family. But I also knew that if I returned to work I would feel guilty every minute of the day that I was there and not with my little one – saying YES to the career and NO to my child. Gwynn and I ask ourselves one question when we’re really torn over whether or not to do something and that is “when we’re 80 years old will we regret doing it or will we regret not doing it?” I knew that I would regret not staying home and raising my little boys.
It’s still not easy but I am starting to accept the fact that it will be a long while before I get my own life back and control over my time. I am really aware of the important role I have as a wife and mother and that staying home is the “better” in the “good vs. better” choice. I appreciate Becky’s comment that our kids do grow up quickly and it won’t be long before my little boys don’t want me doing things for them. It IS hard work but it’s also the best, most rewarding, and fulfilling job I’ve EVER had.
Thanks for sharing Lisa it’s good to know I’m not alone. 🙂
That’s a really good point to make. One which many women won’t admit – there is a lot of pressure to be a super mom andr the whole “grieving” thing for your past life is not given much air time. I felt there must be something wrong with me. I really wanted children but when our first came I struggled as you did and felt very isolated, it is a huge transition of roles that few of us are actually prepared for. Having said that I enjoyed it enourmously now, although it would be nice to have a quiet coffee or a day spa treatment again one day!!
[…] week I shared about the choices we make in our lives. Today, over at Simple Mom, I wrote a bit more about when we say yes, but […]
Thank you so much, ladies! I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who has felt like this over the years. I have 2 children: my oldest is going into the 3rd grade and my youngest is going into full day Kindergarten this upcoming school year. I have battled with this over the past 8 years as a SAHM. I completed my degree while still pregnant with my first child and 3 mos. later I gave birth to my daughter.
Prior to completing my degree, I had always envisioned having a successful career, driving the fancy car and being that independent, empowered career woman. Once I had my daughter and felt how precious and important being with her was, I made the choice to be home with her while my husband was the main breadwinner. It’s been a long and difficult path. Because my husband is in the Army, we’ve lived in 6 different states in the past 8 years. I’ve had to uproot and replant our family at least every 2 years. Making new friends, finding good schools, finding a nice home to live in, etc. has all been very difficult to do with 2 children. Because we’ve lived away from family, we’ve had very little support. I’m so thankful to know that I’m not the only one who has gone through the roller coaster of emotions. I remember thinking when i would be alone with my children when they were babies and my husband was away for some military training, I would think how can I do this? How can I tolerate the incessant whining, the endless poopy diapers, their neediness….I would think….what did I do with my life? How did I get here? The time has finally come for my youngest to go to school. I’m having the hardest time in my life with letting go. I’ve had precious times with my children and I’ve had a lot of difficult times. Through those difficult times, it has made me stronger and has developed my character. It’s the type of work where you really learn about your strengths and weaknesses. If I’ve made a career out of staying home and raising my children, I’ve learned valuable life skills of survival and if that’s the case then I haven’t gone wrong. My decision was the right one. My kids will look back and say, “My mom was there…she may have been a little cuckoo but she was there.” I’m not sure if I lost myself along the way or if I appear ungrounded to others but one thing is for sure, there is a time and place for everything in life. These past 8 years have been for my children and will continue to be. Now that they will both be in school, it’s time for me to get a part of myself back. There’s nothing wrong with that. Thank you so much to all of the ladies out there who can admit the truth!
Thank you for such a lovely post. It speaks to us all 🙂
[…] every “yes” I say in life, there is a “no”…and the very best we can all do is be intentional and clear about what we are saying yes to […]
I loooove this article and I, too, took Simple Mom’s words to heart. NOT good vs. bad but good vs. better! I loved this that you said: “When I saw that the choice was really between two goods it became essential to identify my priority in life right now so I didn’t fight myself with decisions all along the way.” That’s where I am now. I have these hopes and dreams AND these responsibilities specific to THIS season…and I have to decide what to keep and what to throw aside. There are many GOOD things I can do and spend time on–but what is BEST for me, right now??
I struggle every day with what I WANT to do and what I SHOULD do, and what I NEVER get to…the “woe is me” mentality, “why is this so hard?!” mentality…and run in circles, while never feeling like i’m accomplishing what I should.
I’m a people pleaser who wants everyone to like me and I want everything I do to be ok with EVERYone–and that’s a lot of pressure!! It’s taxing! I’m learning that I need to focus on my niches, on the people that support and encourage me and on the parts of life that are already going well and need nurturing, rather than being all things to all people and doing everything for everyone–last of all, ME. It is so much about expectations–and I honestly am learning to lower my expectations–especially of myself! It’s one thing not to get it all done in a day, another thing to beat myself up over it!
We’re all learning…and it is a process. Thanks, as always, for giving us something to ponder!!