Thursday, February 16, 2017

Permission to be a Mom


Women wear a lot of hats. Within the obvious titles-wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, professional, stay-at-home-mom-there are innumerable roles we must play and holes we must fill. As wives we must be confidante and encourager. As career women we meet deadlines and reach goals. As mothers the holes and roles are infinite. For me, these countless duties and to-dos leave me frazzled and fatigued. I find it somewhat jarring, as I'm sure many of you do, to shift among these various roles. I'm teacher all morning, mama all day, and wife in the evening, in addition to housekeeper and cook. Let us not forget that we are individuals with hobbies and goals and dreams of our own! There is no break and most of these roles overlap for us. I don't believe any other group plays as many roles as women do-even those without biological children still play mom to somebody or something.

If it isn't apparent, I am a perfectionist with high standards for myself. Unfortunately, there is no room for perfectionism in motherhood. Naturally, this adjustment results in this recurring thought that I am falling short of what I could and should be doing. I'm constantly left feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, and guilty. In essence, I wrongfully believe that I'm not good enough. I think this is a product of my generation. We praise the women who "do it all." The ones who always have a fresh face of makeup on, who find time to run every morning and attend a yoga class every night. The women who raise four perfect little children whose clothes always match. The women who work eight hours a day and still have a four course meal waiting for their partners. Women can do anything men can do, we are taught, and so we do everything men do...in addition to everything women are "supposed" to do. This reminds me of the saying, "You can do anything, but you can't do everything." In other words, just because we can do everything-everything that was denied our great-grandmothers-doesn't mean we should or need to do it all.

I don't think I am alone in feeling guilty for doing less. Americans must do, do, do; produce, produce, produce. There should be no down time, no relaxing. There is always something we should be doing as mothers. When baby is napping, there is laundry to do, dishes to be loaded, dinner to be made. There is no time to nap, read, or Heaven forbid, shower! It is in the home that I feel most torn. When my daughter is awake, it is play time. While she is rolling around on her baby gym, I am thinking, "Okay, she is calm. I have about ten minutes. What task should I complete?" When I stick her in her swing and begin checking off my to-dos, I feel a powerful guilt wash over me. All of these sayings run through my head, "She's only little once," "You're gonna miss this," and so on and so on. I'm constantly feeling torn.

One Sunday service cannot flip an entire lifestyle on it's head, but God can. Since Juniper has been with us, we've made it to church more often than not. That time is sacred to me. For one hour each week my daughter is taken care of and my husband and I get some alone time with God and fellow Christians. Coincidentally, the first series upon our return to church after our daughter's birth was focused on aligning our family with God's intentions for what a family should look like. While the entire series provided a gamut of truths, one particular lesson stood out to me. For the life of me, I cannot find my notes from the service, nor the exact verse. I want to say it came from Proverbs possibly, but essentially, the verse said that our children are not ours. They belong to the Lord and raising them is our greatest stewardship (I swear it had the word "stewardship" in it, but all Google searches have been fruitless). When our pastor shared this, I felt a sense of relief come over me. There it was in the scripture. It didn't say my greatest job is to be everything to everyone at all times. It said my number one job was caring for this little one. In a sense I felt as if God was giving me permission to be a mom, to dedicate myself to this little girl and to focus my time, love, and energy towards raising her up to be a good human being (one thing this world needs a little more of). I also felt permission to let go of the resentment and bitterness I'd been (and sometimes continue) to harbor towards my husband. I didn't have to envy my husband's freedom. I was now liberated too.

That doesn't mean I should ignore all other responsibilities of course. I took it instead to mean that family comes first; everything else must fit around it. It means that I don't have to feel guilty for wanting to snuggle up next to my daughter and read to her while the dishes sit untouched. I don't have to fret about what I should be doing when I finally get her down for a nap. I can use that time to write, enjoy a cup of coffee, or nap, or do yoga-because taking care of myself is an important part of being a good mom. In many ways, dedicating myself more fully to being a mom has liberated me to do less and do better. In so many ways, this experience and this message have made me into something my feminist self has always feared-a mom who has been changed by baby, who has a little less time to herself, who wants to be a good homemaker. Just because we can do it all, doesn't mean we have to do it all at once, or at all. Instead, I'm following my heart and my instincts and letting go and letting God sort of out the details while I carry out this most important job.



2 comments:

  1. You're a great Mom! It's all about finding the balance that works best for you and your family! Juniper will love you and look up to you for doing the best you can!

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  2. You are definitely not alone with feeling overwhelmed/not good enough to the "expected" standards! Your also not alone for choosing family time over dishes. We are expected to do so much! But let's be honest, we have the right to enjoy life and enjoy raising our kids rather than just running around like zombie robots! Keep up the good work, your doing a great job! Don't be so hard on yourself!

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