Being a stay-at-home mom is a strange experience for me. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing myself. Sometimes I feel peaceful. I’ve had times where I literally felt like I was suffocating. Sometimes I feel in my element. Other times I feel like part of my ‘self’ is in a cocoon, changing over this season.
Part of what makes this phase of life work for me is recognizing that is in fact a season. A WANTED season. I chose this season; I choose this season. The season will blend into a new season in time. A season with different joys and challenges. The key to enjoying any season is to focus on the season and all that is good in it, NOT to continuously spend energy longing for the next season.
Also, this season helps me embrace the reality of imperfection and the growth that can come from it. Interrupted plans, messes and chaos, discipline struggles, and other challenges can feel like nothing but aggravating pebbles in my shoe. However, as I’ve been learning this with my anxiety issues lately- a certain level of acceptance can help me deal more effectively with reality. You know that phrase ‘it is what it is’? I hate that phrase. It’s normally said with discontent or defeat. But acceptance doesn’t HAVE to be about giving up. I can learn to accept the challenges of life while asking ‘now how do I respond to let this form me for the better?’ Same with the challenging parts of being a stay-at-home mom. Yup, I’m a bit ill fitted for this role. Maybe we all are ill fitted for parenthood in some way. But the question is, how do I let the challenges of motherhood shape me (and those around me) for the better?
Another thing that helps me during this phase of life is to make time to come up for air- to do things that make me feel simply human. Things that stretch my mind. Things that make me laugh. Things that get me outdoors- this is when my mind and heart really calms. Or sometimes just things like getting an uninterrupted shower… this can feel like a truly divine experience after a particularly draining day. Self care looks different for different people, but the need is real. We shouldn’t delay putting our own oxygen masks on. Self care doesn’t mean we make life perfect for ourselves and screw over everyone else. But it does mean that I recognize that if I’m not reasonably healthy then I’m not really gonna end up being the mom, wife, and friend I need and want to be. If Jesus ran away from the crowds to refresh then you darn well better believe I’m allowed to.
One last that helps me in this time of life is knowing how important the work of raising kids is. This applies to all parents, stay-at-home or not (the whole post does, really). One of my biggest goals in life is to bring a little more Jesus to the world. A little more wholeness. A little more life. These things come through relationships, including our relationships with our kids and our family’s relationships with our church, with our community, and with our God. Raising a family and forming these wider relationships forces me to put a lot of my big thoughts and ideas into the messy context of life. My big theoretical ideas that can feel squelched or stunted by life are already going to work in a thousand little ways in the realities of that very life.
There are times I think we make too big of a deal about ‘finding ourselves’ or ‘losing ourselves’. We are individuals, to be sure. It is healthy to have a sense of who YOU are- what your values are, what you like, what your personality is. But I don’t think the self is the end all of fulfillment. There is a level of fluidity to who we are. We are communal beings. We are more when we are together than we could be as a bunch of disconnected individuals. The self is deeply connected to and affected by many other ‘selfs’ in this world. Motherhood inevitably changes me- my ‘self’ changes. My relationships change ME. Who I am is woven into my ties with others.
When all is said and done, my ‘self’ is lost and found and transformed in the context of my relationships.