For This Season
(This piece comes from an online dialogue I participated in with a group of mothers struggling to figure out how to be a happy mother and if motherhood meant that we must put ourselves aside for the sake of our children “for a season” or if there is another, healthier approach. In the last couple of years, this is the exact question I have had to answer for myself. This is what I have come to believe.)
Becoming a mother is a disruption like no other. Most of us are unprepared for what it will cost us. I know I was. A wise, older woman once told me that when we have children, we lose control of our lives for two years. I’ve found that she is correct in that there is a huge change in life after the kids hit toddlerhood. The fog lifts, and you begin to rediscover yourself. What’s more, things feel less overwhelming because you are (usually) sleeping better and are not so much at the beck and call of an adorable tyrant. So in that sense, motherhood does get less time-consuming, and there is more time to invest in other things besides being a mom as time goes on.
On the other hand, while I understand the language of “it’s a season,” I think it can actually be damaging. I know too many women who lived in “it’s a season” for so long that they lost their ability to follow their passions, pursue their callings, and invest in what God had for them outside of their families. That is tragic. I think it is imperative that women figure out what God has made them for and what they love, whether a vocational or a side activity, and work to find a way to make that a part of their lives. For example, a mom could take a weekly photography class or hire a mother’s helper one afternoon a week in order to work on a writing/sewing/running/whatever-it-is project that invigorates her and brings her joy. She could go to justice conferences if that is her thing, or have a regular time to volunteer without a baby on her hip. She could take a business class or enroll part-time in culinary school. The possibilities are endless really. As her kids get older, a mom who has taken time to develop her passions and discover her calling will find herself ready and willing to engage in them more fully because she has not lost her identity in Mommy. Mommy is not all that we are.
I understand that some women love motherhood and are simply created to do it very, very well. If that is you, bring other kids into your life. Is there a single mom who could use your mothering so that she can provide financially for her kids? Could you be a part of your church youth group staff? Are there community development opportunities that would allow you to mother other children in your neighborhood and be a positive influence in their lives? Having the “gift of motherhood” is incredible and honorable, and it should be used not just to bless your family, but also the Body and the hurting world.
If you are like me, you do NOT have this gift and find motherhood life-draining and not life-giving. Please understand, I adore my kids and really enjoy them (most of the time), but motherhood takes a ton of my energy and to do it well, it takes a lot of self-discipline and methodical decision making. Mothering isn’t natural for me like it is for some of my gift-of-motherhood possessing friends. So if you are like me, you cannot let motherhood be your only calling – not even “for a season.” You will dry up emotionally and spiritually and become useless to your family, to yourself, and to the Kingdom. Women in this position feel stuck; they feel like something huge is missing in their lives; they feel like they cannot measure up. It’s about much more than having a bad day with the kids, it’s a call from God’s heart to yours that you are ignoring part of what he has made you for. Instead buying the lie that you aren’t enough to do it all, realize that taking time do the things that God created you to do will actually make you a better mom in the present, and it will teach your children how important it is to pursue their callings regardless of the technical challenges of doing so at different times of life. And it will revive your tired soul in a way that you cannot possibly anticipate. When we are doing ALL that we are created to do, we become fully alive and our very best selves.
Whatever your passion, dedicate some amount of time whether an evening every week or a morning every month, to further discovering and practicing what God has made you for. If that is mothering, awesome. The world needs women who identify this as their gift and walk powerfully in that calling in their homes and communities. If it is something else, do not be afraid to take steps toward that calling even “in this season.”
2 thoughts on “For This Season”
Totally tracking with you, Clarissa! I don’t really know how to describe it well either (though I like the way you say it!), other than to say that some people are wired-nurturers and some aren’t. From my observations, the moms that are natural nurturers tend to be a bit more content at home because they are using that gift and thus feeding their own souls through their parenting. For others of us, parenting doesn’t feed our souls in the same way.
I think it all comes down to the (mis)perception that good parenting is monolithic. It’s not. I am generally confident about being a great mom to my boys, but I am still not the most nurturing mom. I can be (and am as needed), but it’s not my reflex. I suspect when my boys look back on their childhoods, they will remember me as adventurous and fun and empowering.
You are right that “gift of motherhood” may be a bad way to say it… I wonder if “gift of mothering” is better. I am obviously deeply committed to my kids, but feel exactly zero interest or desire to “mother” anyone else. In contrast, I have friends to whom children flock, and they are another mom to so many. That’s more what I meant (mothering outside of our own families) because I really do see that as a unique gift and calling that 1) doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as it deserves, and 2) is wrongly assumed on too many women (like we all want to be in the nursery).
I’ll also say that recognizing where I am not naturally gifted has given me the freedom to let them enjoy those things in other people (like their very nurturing grandmother) without feeling threatened. I can’t be everything to them, and I don’t need to be. I just need to be myself, deeply confident that God gave me these kids on purpose so that I could mother them in my way. It’s easier open their boundaries a little wider to be loved in other ways by other people when I don’t think I need to be everything.
By the way, I LOVE your last paragraph. Sounds like God is drawing a very particular ministry on your heart… Go get it, Claire! I can’t wait to see what comes from it!
Dalaina, this is SOLID GOLD. This has been a lot of my journey in the past few years, since my first, was born, actually. I too, am so tired of the phrase, “it’s just a season.” Someone literally said that to me this week. With really good intentions; it was not judgmental, and I’m sure they are just perpetuating what they have been told. And pretty much any older woman I dialog with about feeling torn between home life and serving outside the home with my gifts, I am encouraged with the phrase, ‘it’s a season” in hopes to remind me that it is a precious fleeting time that we get with our littles, and I need to cherish every moment. The problem is I can’t cherish ANY of the moments, if I’m miserable because I don’t feel made for being with my kids every waking hour.
I am going to push back on one thing, and it is more an issue of semantics, than the actual ideas you are communicating.
You referring to mothering as a gift. I’m not sure I would say it that way, because I think it can devalue those who don’t have that “gift”, as though they are a less good mom… and that somehow, it could be inferred that kids who have a mom with the gift of mothering are the ones who are truly blessed. (I know that is the opposite of what you are trying to communicate). I guess I would say that while some are more naturally nurturing, that God equips each woman, (through natural gifting, and the Holy Spirit) to be the mom that her kids need. So even if a woman is working full time outside the home (whether by choice or necessity), she is still gifted to be the mom her kids need. And thus you could say she has the “gift of motherhood” because God has equipped her to love her kids well. I realize then it starts to sound like every mom has the gift of motherhood (which starts to become meaningless). I guess I identify more with the concept of calling. We are called to love our kids sacrificially, but the particulars will look different for each person. We are called to guide them in walking in wisdom and love as they grow up, but the particulars will look different for each person. Some may be called to stay home (a calling confirmed by a sense of peace about it), and some may be called to pursue things that have nothing to do with their family. Even though there are a lot of home-based things I love (like cooking, crafts, organizing, etc.) I feel like I’m dying when I don’t get to use some of my other gifts. I just don’t know how I would feel if my kids grew up and said about me, “she didn’t have the gift of motherhood.” I think i would feel sad, like I failed them somehow.
I totally resonate with the sense of calling. It’s not just that I want to escape my kids (though God knows that is the plain truth some of the time). I literally feel this fire in my bones, physical craving. I want to photograph people. I want their lives to be documented and valued. I want to capture their stories, and affirm them that they are known and seen and in a way that a photograph can make a person be remembered, I want people to know that they are not forgotten. Multiple times a day I come up with something that makes me want to stop what I’m doing that moment and pursue it. Yesterday it was that I wanted to go to the local children’s hospital and take pictures of the children there and give them to their families. I want those children to feel beautiful and important, and known, and seen. To know that they are not forgotten by God, or His church. I know that a picture doesn’t necessarily communicate all those things, but that’s why I’ve got a mouth, right!? I feel this unbelievable magnetic pull to show people they are loved through taking their picture. Only God could dream that up, right!?