I’ve only been a mom for nine years. I know this isn’t a long time and I have a whole lot to learn, believe me. But over those nine years I have learned a lot about myself, my own junk and limitations and what is helpful & life-giving in my journey as a mother. So whether you’re a new mom, a veteran, have one child or ten, I hope you find this to be helpful and encouraging to you as well. These are things I have to remember to make a priority. I’m in this with you.
I am a list-maker and tend to do better when someone offers me practical, realistic guidance that’s both meaningful and doable. So I hope that’s what you find this to be.
Community: You Were Made For It
First, I have found that I need others. Period. We were made to be in community with others. I know this doesn’t come easy for some people. But it is well-worth it to go out of our comfort zones and join in a community of other women. Your “community” can include your church, which is essential and life-giving. But in this post I’m referring to community other mothers, whether that’s a mom’s group such as MOPS, a bible study that meets regularly or some other similar group in your area. Many of these groups offer various days and times to meet, which can accommodate both the stay-at-home mom and the working mom. As a SAHM I prefer to attend the morning groups. When I was working full-time the evening groups were a better fit. Friendship with others in your same season of life, someone to say “me too”, encouragement, wisdom from others who have “been there” and much, much more can be found in community with other moms.
Seek Wisdom: Find a Mentor
I can’t stress this enough. I came to a point in my parenting and marriage where I realized I needed the listening ear of a wise and godly woman. I needed someone to share all the nitty, gritty junk with who I knew I could trust and in return would not offer judgment, but rather speak truth, admonish me when needed and speak life-giving words that only prove to better me as a wife and mother. To be honest, I flat-out asked someone to mentor me. I knew I needed it that much, so I sought this out, even though it made me feel vulnerable and inadequate to ask for help in this way. In return I got exactly what I needed. God is faithful to provide for us in that way. The “training” of a younger woman is based in truth and we see that in Titus 2. Not sure where to start in finding a mentor? Start within your church. Ask a woman you trust if she would consider it or if she knows someone who might be a good fit for you. Not in a church? Then I would start by asking a trusted friend that is involved in a church if she can help to connect you. If you’re involved in a mom’s group or bible study, you could start there too.
Make Your Marriage a Priority: Have Fun With Your Spouse
Marriage is hard. It’s even harder when you’re in the middle of raising little kids. There are so many books and resources about this and we all know it to be true. But for this post I’m going to keep it simple. Have fun with your spouse. Without your kids. You’re allowed and there’s way too much seriousness and stress in our day-to-day lives. It was you and your spouse before your kids were born, and it’ll be you and your spouse once they are grown and leave home. Invest in your marriage, have date nights, do fun things and let go of expectations of each other. I’m speaking to myself here and I know this can be easier said than done. But I believe if we make it a priority, the whole family will reap it’s benefits. Invest the time in getting a sitter (or whatever childcare works for your family) or plan a stay-at-home date night. Remember, “mother” isn’t our only title.
You’re Allowed to Say “No”: Embrace It
Hey, guess what?! You are free to say “no” to anything that doesn’t support the values and vision of your family! That includes saying no to some or all of the 2,352 after-school activities, saying no to your laundry for a day (or five) so you can do something better and more life-giving, saying no to traveling all over creation over the holidays so you can stay home and develop your own family traditions, saying no when asked to volunteer for something that you know isn’t best for your family and saying no to the pressures that we put upon ourselves as mothers. Learning when to say no (without the guilt) was a very freeing thing for me. I share a little about it here.
Kiss Expectations Good-Bye: Give Yourself a Break
Expectations of ourselves (and others) can be debilitating. They can set us up for disappointment quicker than my youngest can eat a chocolate chip cookie. Honest to goodness, when are we going to learn. I don’t know about you, but when I start the day, or week or even year with a load of (sometimes unrealistic) expectations I wind up feeling frustrated at myself when I don’t meet them. Here’s a realistic example of this… on any given day I can “expect” myself to: get house in order (laundry done, things put away, dishes done, etc.), meal plan and successfully execute a somewhat healthy dinner for my family, respond to text messages and emails before day’s end, run my list of errands, spend quality time with my husband and kids, read to them and make sure homework is completed (without anyone getting frustrated), be wherever I’m expected to be that day, run people to where they’re expected to be, do some form of physical activity, whether it’s the gym, a run or something, and honestly I could go on. And when I just re-read my list of just one day of expectations I can hardly believe that I would ever even TRY to get those things done. Sigh. No wonder we are so tired and worn out. How can we learn to let go of what’s good and seek what’s best? For me, personally, I hear the Lord telling me to seek Him first and let Him order my days. And my struggle with that is two-fold: obedience and control. When I do what I think is best for my day or hurry around checking off my to-do list, I can sometimes end the day feeling empty and disappointed, even if my list got completed. Again, am I seeking what’s best?
Live With Purpose & Intention: Embrace Your Gifts and Passions
In case you’ve forgotten, you are allowed to still enjoy your gifts, passions and interests! Now I know time (or finances, or childcare) may limit this in some ways, but that doesn’t mean they are to be forgotten or unused. Whether it’s your education, career or a job that you enjoy and is life-giving. A hobby or passion (hiking, knitting, painting, blogging, crafting, traveling)… or the gift of hospitality, organizing, planning and service to others. These are all worthy things and they are good gifts from a good God. While they sometimes may need to take a back-seat (for a brief season), I don’t believe they are ever to be forgotten and disregarded. Living with purpose and intention includes embracing and enjoying our gifts and passions.
Remember who you are, whose you are and that you are loved. A child of God, accepted, called, redeemed, forgiven, free and beloved. You’re never alone in motherhood, so don’t let the Enemy tell you you are. You’re not. Let others come alongside you. Come alongside another mom. Let go of the idea that we have to live a hustle and bustle kind of life. We don’t. Seek what’s best. And know this is different for each family, which frees us up from comparison and keeping up with everybody else. And allow your self to have some fun without guilt.