Recently, I was reminded of a memory from my first pregnancy. Perhaps you can relate. I was sitting in our dark, tiny, basement apartment that was our little newlywed nest, on the first birthday I had had since being married, and feeling very alone. My husband was working full time and going to school full time and didn’t have enough leave to take the day off to celebrate. I was lonely and missing my family, nervous, excited, and intimidated by the new life growing in my belly, and wondering what the future held for me.
I had decided to quit college since it was costing us money for me to go and I wasn’t planning on working after the baby came. I missed the excitement of learning and pressing forward toward all those goals, and wondered if all I had done up to that point to develop my talents had mattered to anyone but me. I wondered if those things should matter at all. I did a little crying and then made a decision. I told myself I needed to grow up now, I was going to be a mother soon. I decided to cut myself off from my dance and music dreams. I thought that maybe, someday when the kids didn’t need me as much, I’d let myself work toward those things again, but that I needed to forget myself and my interests and focus on being a mom. I did feel blessed to be having a baby and I threw myself into learning everything I could about childbirth, health, baby care and parenting. But there was part of me that was hurting, the part I locked away and tried to ignore that once brought me so much joy. I had taken on a false belief that my creative gifts (which weren’t very domestic), interests, and the things that made me uniquely who I was, no longer mattered. I was hurting myself, but I thought it was what God wanted me to do.
Funny thing is, I never had asked him. I knew that he wanted to send us this baby and that I was called to be a mother. But I hadn’t asked him if He wanted me to finish college, if my gifts were important to him, if I should continue to dance or play my music or perform or study, or if any of that could fit in with motherhood and my life mission. I also hadn’t asked myself what I wanted. I assumed I knew what the right thing to do would be, and I was determined that I was going to do things right with my kids. I feared failure as a mother, my most important calling, more than anything, and I hoped that if I sacrificed all I could for my family then I would be assured of success and my kids would all turn out right. (it took me a while to realize that kids come with minds of their own, regardless of how perfectly you parent them!) I figured that if I did everything right, I would surely be happy.
It took me more than a decade to actually ask God what He thought. The answer I got was much different than I had supposed. He wanted me to use those gifts as a mother, and wondered what had taken me so long. He gave them to me to bring me joy, to bless my family, others, and myself throughout my life. Not only had I refused the gifts and the intended happiness he wanted to give me, I had often been angry with the giver for not taking away the deep desire to use them. He had planted those gifts in my heart along with the desire to develop them, and I had been trying to bury them and asking him to take that part of me away. I learned that He Loves that part of me and he wants me to love it, too! He wants me to love and nurture ALL of me! What a revelation that was!
I have had to do some forgiving of myself now that I know better. For buying into false beliefs, for giving up on my dreams, for blaming God, for being depressed before and for the things my family has been through as I have fought discouragement and discontent. Part of me wishes I could go back and tell my newlywed self some things and save me and our family some grief. But I am grateful for the experiences I have had, even if they have been hard on myself and my family, because they have forced me to really find out what’s true and what’s false. I’ve learned that I can be a totally present and committed stay at home mother and not leave my gifts and interests behind, in fact I need them and every part of myself to be whole and fully present. I need to BRING IT – ALL of it to be the best Mom I can be. I’ve learned that my joy brings my kids joy. I’ve learned to value the things that make me smile. Most of all, I’ve learned that God loves me and cares about what I care about. He GETS me and what I need and if I will just listen to him, and not assume I know everything, and believe his love more than the ‘shoulds’ I pick up from everywhere, my life can be even better than any of the dreams I used to have. It’s a crazy, beautiful dream life he has in store for me, even better than I planned. There’s a world of possibility in every day, and so much growth and joy available for every person, especially mothers, if we will claim it.
Empowering Action: If you feel there might be false assumptions in your life, challenge them – ask God what he wants for you and really listen.