The Struggle is Real.
People always tell you to take care of yourself. Sleep when baby sleeps. Make sure you eat. Take time for yourself.
And then there are many, I think especially in Christian circles, who argue that there is no such thing as “Mom time,” and that it’s our job as women to pour ourselves out for our husbands and children. I’ve heard it from friends and I’ve heard it from clergy. Empty yourself for others. Serve them. Lay yourself down for them. Much of it is Biblical, so the pressure is high.
The struggle is real. What are we to do? Am I a bad mom if I go out by myself on Saturday afternoon? Am I neglecting my family by not tucking them in one night a week so I can go do something I want to do? The wondering can wreak havoc on your self confidence. For years I have lived with the tension of emptying out myself for my husband and kids vs. making sure I have time for me.
Truth be told, the emptying out voice won. And what a price we all paid.
A Bad Mommy Moment
“Leave me alone!,” I screamed as I walked out of the kitchen and slammed the back door.
I walked into the back yard, my anger fueled further by the mess all around: toys that should have been put away, trash that should have been thrown out, dishes that should have been brought back inside. Everything around me was a mess. Inside and outside, it all seemed to be falling apart.
It wasn’t to the ditch-him-and them-and-run-away point, but it was a mess. How did I get here? 44 years old, living in a small town on the opposite side of the country from everything and everyone I knew, yearning so badly to get back home. How did this happen?
The answer is easy, really – from a simply physical standpoint I got here by telling my husband I would go wherever he wanted. As long as we are together as a family, I said, it doesn’t matter where we are. We had talked about moving for a while and when he saw an opportunity he wanted to take, we took it. Then we packed up the kids and moved to Oregon.
It was a 3 year commitment. Somehow I figured that after 3 years we would move back to the East Coast. So when we turned the corner on the fourth year, I was ready to go back. Really ready to go back.
The nature of my husband’s work involves phone calls at all hours of the day and night, surprise trips out of town, and all sorts of stress. If he is someplace where the phone can ring, he is on call. Even the kids have taken to saying “uh-oh” every time his cell phone rings.
Because of that, I don’t ever promise that I will be anywhere. And the kids know that while Daddy ‘should’ be home for dinner, that doesn’t mean he will be. He has missed birthdays and holidays and we have changed vacations to accommodate him. I don’t plan anything for me, because I can’t. If he gets a call, he has to go. And that is how we got here.
And after four years of that, everyone gets weary, and everyone gets grumpy. And then I end up slamming the door and going to the backyard sobbing my eyes out and telling the kids to leave me alone.
Not my proudest Mommy moment.
Perhaps I should have paid a little more attention and worked a little harder at scheduling time for me – but I’m stubborn (and proud?) and I had all the excuses and justifications in the world.
- I could have found a babysitter – but for 7 kids? Good luck with that.
- I could have insisted that my husband be in charge for an hour so I could at least go sip a cup of tea or coffee – but he’s as exhausted as the rest and he needed those naps.
- I could have gotten up early and gone for a walk before the kids got up -but I don’t like walking alone in the dark.
- I could have joined a gym that had child care – but some of my kids are too old for it and too young to be unsupervised and plus – it’s expensive.
So many things I could have done but didn’t.
And then came….
An Amazing and Energizing Weekend
I spent the late spring and all of summer just living, just making it through the days. Then in the fall I got wind of a guy in town who was organizing some people to paint an older couple’s house. As the story went, some teens walked past the house and commented something like, “It’s such a dump it should be torn down” or maybe they said it should be burned to the ground. I don’t remember. But it sparked a fire in a local railroad worker and pretty soon he had a day cleared to go paint this couple’s house.
Back in the days before I was a wife and a mom I did a lot of work with Habitat for Humanity and I always loved it. I told my kids what had happened and what was going on, and that I didn’t know what else was going on that day, but we were going to help paint that house. And we had so much fun. By the end of the day 5 of my 7 kids had taken part in beautifying an older couple’s house and making the world a better place. My heart was full.
And on Sunday, the very next day, I had been invited to preach and lead worship in our church. It was the first time since we moved out to Oregon that I had gotten to do that, and it was so wonderful. I miss leading worship. I miss preaching. I miss telling people of God’s deep and profound love for them.
Doing both things in one weekend was so energizing! I got to lend a hand and do something for my community and I got to lead worship and preach. It was such a wonderful morning and such a wonderful weekend and my heart was so incredibly full by the end of it.
My Eyes Were Opened
Ahh, yes, those people who said I should take time for me were right. The people who advocate so strongly for moms having ‘mom time’ are right. My mother in law, who says she always insisted on having time to herself to read her books just for an hour, was right.
In many ways, that is why Steering the Ark was created. I how easily my identity as a human being, as a person who had interests and passions before I got married and before I had kids, how easily that part of me can be hidden away in a closet somewhere. And I am sure I am not alone.
Yes, as wives and moms we pour ourselves out for our husbands and our children. We do a lot. And it is good and worthy and we should do it. But even Jesus went off by himself. If He, the Lord of all creation, craved and took time alone, then it is no wonder that we need to do it to.
I beg you, for the sake of your husband, for the sake of your children, for the sake of YOU, find a way to do something that fills your heart this week. I know you love your family, but please, don’t forget about you.