Our mom is crazy, but we love her...when's Daddy coming home?
We'll get to the round pegs and square holes in a minute. When it comes to being a stay-at-home mother, sometimes we feel as if we simply aren't cut out for that role. Our personalities don't mesh with the daily requirements of being a SAHM - the potential isolation, constant and primary care of our children, removal from a fulfilling career outside of the home - and we question whether or not we're a good fit for staying at home with our kids. I love being a SAHM and know that it's my God-blessed duty to serve my family, and Him, in this way, but I want to offer encouragement to anyone who feels that their personality type isn't perfectly suited to SAHM-hood. Trust me, you can be a super fantabulous star in this life role that's all about heart even if you feel like it's simply not a good fit. Besides, us ladies are all much too exciting and cool to simply be a circle peg!
My desire is to keep this post pretty concise (you know, my usual novel but not an encyclopedia), so I'll save the story of how I came to be a SAHM and the practical, child-based challenges that I face daily in order to focus on encouraging those of you who are praying over becoming a stay-at-home mother or who are doing it and heartily discouraged over the emotional challenges that it presents.
I've gone through various emotional struggles since becoming a SAHM, and I think that Blogger would probably crashola if I went into detail about all of it! I can see subsequent posts on this topic in the future. Personality-wise, I'm definitely an extrovert, not so much in the sense that I want to be around people constantly (I need down-time with just my family and do feel exhausted by being out and about too much) but I become energized by interaction with others outside of the home. Isolation was a big part of my life when I first became a SAHM. In fact, I was always alone during the day - part of which was caused by self-alienation - until this spring when it was warmer and I could get outside with the girls, and I finally (praise Jesus!) lived in a place where parks were five minutes away and people actually came out of their houses. People...civilization...hooray!
Getting out to the parks and libraries, chatting with other moms (yes, I'm that lady with the two kids who accosted you at Kohl's because I was conversation-deprived, sorry!), rejuvenates me. It keeps me connected to other people, to the world outside of my head. Recently I've realized that many of my struggles are caused by being extremely energetic emotionally and mentally. I'm a big over-thinker, over-feeler. It'd be great if I had a job writing greeting cards for Hallmark, but being alone with my kids, having no one to share every single feeling with as it develops and trying to maintain equilibrium in my life can be a challenge.
Godly mothering is the purpose of my day, and being a child of God is the greater umbrella under which it falls. I've been trapped by too many idols in the past, and it's something that I struggle with daily to re-evaluate. All of my mental and emotional energy has led me into putting too much emphasis on blogging, emailing, having the opportunities to do these things at the expense of balance. Even if my children are asleep (at night, Rose hasn't napped since she turned two years old...pleasant, huh?) I've felt myself fall out of balance and not even benefit spiritually or emotionally from these activities that I really enjoy. It's all about equilibrium. I must maintain my focus on God and keep myself from putting too much focus on one area of life - blogging cannot be the major task of my day nor can answering emails. Reading that excellent page-turner isn't why I'm here nor is uploading those adorable photos of the kids. I'm a mother, and I'm here to parent my children and serve my Jesus through my efforts.
My very wise friend Melissa once talked about how God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. Motherhood is the embodiment of this practical wisdom! Balance isn't something that we're born with, it's something that we attain through prayer and godly focus. Since I'm a very emotional and mentally energetic person who is prone to experiencing isolation, needs a creative outlet for my, um, enthusiasm (that sounds better than "endearing craziness", right?) and needs to stay in the moment instead of inside of my head (stinkin' over-active thinking!), it's critical that I'm always aware of being balanced. Here's what keeps this stay-at-home mama sane:
- Working out: Not only do I love me some skinny jeans now, but my heart is so much more fulfilled and my prayer life has been totally refreshed! I won't quote "Legally Blonde" when Elle talks about endorphins and exercise in the courtroom, but it's true! Working-out, especially in the fresh air during these warm months, always makes me feel better no matter what's going on in my life. I listen to Christian rock on my iTouch and allow God to permeate me with His goodness and peace. It's just like being in the shower - but in motion: I have the best thoughts and the most dynamic revelations.
- Eating with purpose: I've been told before that calorie-counting is crazy, but it's the counting part that keeps me grounded. I'm very liable to blow the roof off this here health spa and completely eat myself into oblivion, all unconsciously. Being very cognizant of what I put in my mouth helps me attain a state of awareness regarding everything that I do. I've noticed that I have more patience, feel more balanced and am able to accomplish more on my to-do list ever since I made the decision to be healthier in my eating habits.
- Putting yourself out there: There was a time that I had post-partum depression, after each of my children (anxiety-focused depression, not sad depression), and it prevented me from getting out of the house and meeting new people. I yearned for the zest and excitement that came from simply chatting with a person "in-person". Even though there are times that I simply feel too blah to talk with someone else, I drag us to the big sandbox at a local park and strike up conversations with other mothers. The Dunkin Donuts people probably cringe when they see me coming through the drive-thru. They know that I'll have something long-winded to say as they try to hand me my order. The feeling of being fearless, of accomplishing something that your earthly body and sinful mind don't want you to do - which, for me personally, has a lot to do with social interaction - is just so completely fulfilling.
- Keeping your mind busy: I'm a very avid reader, and it helps to keep me out of my head by providing plotlines and characters to turn over and over in my brain instead of leaving me unfocused mental energy that leads to worrying about or thinking over the wrong types of things (that's a big catalyst for me creating idols). There are several times during the day that the girls and I will "wind down" and do some reading. I love how women and daughters used to embark upon "improving reading" back in Regency England. I liken ours to that - I certainly can improve my mood after ten or fifteen minutes of a novel. Being a stay-at-home mom is extremely unpredictable and dynamic, but there are times during the day when I feel myself slipping, becoming unhinged and losing my good focus and energy, so I'll pick up a book, Rose picks up hers (she loves going into my closet and getting "Persuasion" out...poor gal already ruined "Pride and Prejudice", but that dog-eared and missing-many-pages copy is just sparklin' with being loved :o), Alice will nurse to sleep, and we'll read.
- Be confident in your limitations: No need to be ashamed that you can't keep yourself sane and maintain the happiness of your children while you're out at a playgroup with thirty others kids and moms. If it makes ya nuts, it makes ya nuts! No apologies necessary! Being confident in your limitations may sound strange, but it's important for us to know our limits and be okay with those boundaries. It's hard for me to take Alice certain places and into particular situations because she's a constant nurser, wants me all the time, wants to be held all the time, etc. I don't even embark upon something that I know will throw a curve into that (fastballs only, please) because it's too draining. Rose used to be very shy and I remember putting us into experiences that caused her anxiety, so the whole time was spent with her clinging to me, me trying to socialize, me trying to get her to socialize, and then mama getting totally worn out and vowing never leave home again. She's pretty sociable now, but there are still activities that we don't engage in because they're not a fit for my kids in their present state. That's okay! There's this image of a perfectly-coiffed mom at a playgroup with all of her kids, and she's chatting with other mothers while they all play on slides and hold hands while Kum-ba-yah'ing it all up. I ain't her. That's okay. (But I do have really good hair)
I hope that some of you guys can relate to my struggles to acclimate my natural personality with the role of being a SAHM. I've known many women who don't take up this wonderful role, because they believe or have been told that it's "not for them". Poo, it really can be for anyone. Don't ever let the person who you are stop you from heeding God's call that He's placed upon your heart. It's important to identify what impedes you as a mom and then prayerfully and purposefully design ways to fulfill those needs and structure your time in the home in order to attain a balance for yourself. The most important thing to remember is that boldly stepping out in God's providence and grace (His power, help and forgiveness) is the critical component to succeeding in anything that you do. Motherhood included.
Be blessed today, fellow mamas and mamas-to-be!
"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13)