On Monday night I made a pie. It was beautiful. It was plump and golden and flaky - but it lied.
Nobody who saw the pie would have any idea what happened. What I went through to make it. How it turned our evening completely upside down and resulted in crying, yelling, delayed bedtimes, sibling fights, and parental meltdowns. That pie was laughing at me. It was saying, “You thought you could make a pie! You are a mother of four boys ages five and under. You are meant to do nothing but parent around the clock and you have the nerve to make a pie - just for fun! Who do you think you are?”
I stared at that pie and I didn’t know the answer. I used to be someone who liked making pies. Was I an idiot for doing something frivolous when this intense stage of life requires 100% of my attention?
Moms face a challenge that we don’t often talk about because we don’t really know how to solve it. We are called to sacrifice everything - our bodies, our minds, our time - for our families, but we are still the same people we were before we had kids. We still have likes and dislikes that have nothing to do with cloth diaper patterns. We have talents that don’t include scraping silly putty out of carpet. So what happens to the women we were before we were moms - the women we still are deep down?
One of my dearest friends told me that within the first week of her baby’s birth she was already longing to go back to work. Not because she didn’t love her new role as a stay-at-home mom, but because she lost something and it was painful. It was a loss of freedom, personal space, alone time, and an overall sense of identity.
Each of us carries in our hearts the woman we were before we were “Mommy.” Some were athletes. Some were artists. Some were musicians. Motherhood has a way of putting all of those things on hold, often making us feel like we’ve been put on hold as well.
When I had my first baby my life revolved around him. Just being “Mommy” was enough. But as time went on the pre-mom “me” wanted to come out. It was that me that wanted to sew a decorative couch pillow just for fun or go get a fancy coffee drink and read a book for entertainment. But if I thought about it long enough there was always something else I felt I should be doing. After all, everything I did should be for the baby…right?
But God had a plan for my heart. He started to show me that I could glorify Him by being “me" and “Mommy” at the same time.
There are many ways we can reflect out Creator apart from our mom duties. We are readers. We are creators. We are lovers of nature. We are friends and daughters and neighbors. Our kids need to see that. How can we teach them to be those things without modeling it? I began to see that while being a mom meant I would sacrifice everything for my family, sometimes - just once in awhile - the family could sacrifice for me. Not ultimately for me, but because that’s what’s best for the family.
Our kids need to see our personalities shine through all the mom-ness. We're not robots programmed to cook and clean. We shouldn't feel guilty for momentarily laying aside the housework just to do something we enjoy.
I was talking to a group of friends about this one time and we really started opening up. One friend giggled and said, “Sometimes in the morning I already can’t wait for the kids to go to bed so I can sew.” Then she quickly added, “Is that bad?”
No, moms. It’s not bad. It’s who God made you to be. And that part of you, the part that loves to scrapbook or play soft ball or pour over nerdy science magazines, is good for your kids. It helps them know you. They will benefit from seeing your gifts and abilities and they will try to be like you. When I pull out my painting supplies to unleash my creative energy on an old piece of furniture my kids run to get their art supplies, too. Their eyes light up when they see Mommy doing something other than housework. They love it. And sometimes those are the days the laundry piles up because I decided to do something fun for myself, knowing my home might be messier, but it would be richer.
Think about how this mentality effects your husband. Are you able to momentarily remove the “Mommy” badge to see with fresh eyes the woman he chose to marry? Our husbands want more than a haggard house keeper. Making time to do things that express your personality is a blessing to him, too.
When I was a teenager I cleaned house for a mother of eight. Her workload was overwhelming. One day I watched her pry herself away from her nursing twins, step over mounds of toys, and shuffle past a huge pile of dishes in the kitchen. She worked quietly for a few minutes and came out of the kitchen with a victorious smile. “Homemade chocolate syrup,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for awhile." At the time I thought, “Chocolate syrup, are you kidding? Who has time for chocolate syrup?? Look at this place!” But now I get it. I totally get it.
The chores will always be there. Finding outlets here and there to express yourself has to happen in the midst of it.
So the big question is: Where do we draw the line? God has called us moms to a life of ultimate self-sacrifice. We will be called to give up our own comforts and freedoms more often than not. And that’s okay. We willingly signed up for that. But there will be times the kids go to bed without their regular bedtime story because you want time to watch a movie with your husband. Sometimes they’ll have chicken nuggets with no vegetables because you need a babysitter for the evening so you can go out. And that’s okay, too. There is no perfect balance. But there is grace from the God who made you the woman you are and equipped you with specific gifts, abilities, and interests that can bless your family in ways that no one else can - because you are you.
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