(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.”