“It took all the courage I had just to go to the grocery store, and I felt very small.”
If you’ve asked me how I’m doing since Leo was born, I’ve probably told you I have struggled to adjust to my new role as a stay-at-home mom. I’ve told you I miss my job and parenting a strong willed toddler is exhausting. I’ve told you the winter has been mild so the adjustment was easier than expected. What I probably said is this: “I am struggling to feel content as a stay-at-home mom.”
The discontent has been obvious since not long after we moved, but it’s amplified since Leo’s birth. And I can’t figure out how to make it go away. I’ve prayed, “God, please help me be content in this role. Change my heart so I can feel content.” Beyond that, I didn’t know how to make this happen. I felt like I just needed a better attitude or to be more grateful, to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get over it. I know and believe that the work I’m doing as a mom is my highest purpose, my greatest privilege, and my best shot at changing the world. I recognize what a gift and opportunity I have to disciple the hearts of these two boys.
Still, the discontent has not abated.
I walked into a breakout session at Hope Spoken not knowing what to expect, but Carina said that when her two oldest boys were little (one was adopted and one was biological, both within 20 weeks of each other), she felt a little bit lost. She said, “It took all the courage I had to go to the grocery store.” And I wanted to run up and give her a hug and whisper in her ear, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Because I have been feeling like a crazy person, but Carina made me feel less crazy.
After her talk and after Ellie Holcomb shared later that day, I had a bit of an epiphany: what I’ve been calling “discontent” has actually been a nasty cocktail of fear and worry.
I am afraid of not living up to my potential or having a notable career. I am afraid of wasting skills I’ve worked hard to develop. I am afraid of not having much influence. I am afraid of SIDS. I am afraid of not being a leader. I am afraid of being bored. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid that I’m not cut out for a big family.
I worry that each parenting decision is the wrong one. I worry that I’m too distracted. I worry that I don’t discipline Ian well and that Leo doesn’t get enough one-on-one time. I worry that the boys are don’t eat enough or eat too much. I worry about Ian’s speech development and social skills. I worry about my physical health and our finances. I worry that Ian will feel unloved because of my impatience with his whining and stubbornness. I worry about doing enough tummy time with Leo. I worry about the boys being too warm or too cold, depending on the day.
Even as I type those lists, I can feel the fiery anxiety rising in my chest, the sense of overwhelm clouding my mind, the tears choking up in the back of my throat. But you know what? Now that I’ve appropriately relabeled my discontent (or at least identified the underlying causes of it), I feel more free. It was an almost immediate shift.
I kept wondering how many times I needed to pray for a changed heart before I’d feel content. I wondered, “What verses in Scripture will tell me how to enjoy being a mom?” I wasn’t getting very far with that. But fear? Worry? Anxiety? God and I have walked this path before. I know what to pray, I know what verses will encourage me. I finally know how to move forward.
I shared this with my friend Melissa, and she said that as far as she can understand it, all emotions are either based in fear or love. And I remember that Jesus said that “perfect love drives out fear.”
I can love myself more in this role. I can give myself grace for every worry-inducing mistake until they don’t induce worry any more. I can speak truth to myself over and over again, until the lies taste awful on my tongue. I can ask for help without feeling like a burden.
And even more importantly, I can work to replace each of my fears and worries with more of God’s love. I can remember that God sees me, and that’s enough. I can remember that God knows me, and that’s enough. I can remember that God delights in me, whether I am working full-time or a stay-at-home mom or neither. And that is more than enough.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)