Saturday, March 10, 2012

Motherhood Hindsight

As I've shared in the past, being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) was never a lifelong dream of mine. I always wanted to have children, but I didn't think the domestic life was for me. I disliked babysitting and definitely didn't like housework (what kid does?) I wanted to finish college and go on to be a lawyer, or own and manage an art gallery (strange dream, I know) or become a published author. Thank goodness God had a better plan for me. People can change, and God changed me that's for sure. He gave me a "mother heart," and I will be forever indebted to the Lord for guiding me towards this life I was meant to live.

Growing up spending most of my days in daycare, I didn't learn domestic skills, nor did I have any desire to do so. So, as you can imagine, making the transition to life without kids to being a SAHM was tumultuous for me. And I can say, after nearly 10 years at it, I've learned  a lot and still have a lot to learn. In fact, I am constantly reading books by other women who have been at this for even longer than I have. I realize that most women come into the job of motherhood knowing what it has taken me 10 years to learn, but if anything here can be of use to anyone, then I will have felt satisfied.

First, let's just get the obvious out of the way. Motherhood is harder than it looks. Nuff' said.

Another rather sobering revelation I've had since becoming a mother has been that no matter what you say prior to having kids that your kids will never do or what you will never do (i.e. "my kids will never behave like that in public...", "my kids will never have disastrous rooms", "my kids will never leave the house with messy hair", "I will never be 15 minutes late for my appointments", "I will never yell at my kids") it will happen! It's almost like God's way of teaching you humility and compassion. I never roll my eyes at the child throwing a fit in the grocery store anymore because I am just thankful that it isn't one of my kids! Instead I try to reach out to the poor mom and tell her she's doing a great job and to hang in there.

I've also been blessed with the realization that no matter how much we want to take credit for our kids' behavior, we can't. At the end of the day, they make their own decisions and they are who they are. While in many cases you can take credit for helping or hindering their progress, your children are in charge of who they become as adults. Not only that, but God is really in charge much more than we as parents are (and thank goodness too!)

This realization came to me when one of my children wasn't performing well in school, while another one was excelling. We used the same parenting, the same diligence, the same dedication towards both children, but still, there was a disparity between the two. I stopped taking my child's failures so personally. At the same time, I learned I couldn't boast, or take any credit for my other child's success in school. It's like that with all other aspects of their performance as well. You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary guilt and on the other side of the coin, an excess of pride regarding your parenting. Celebrate the success and give credit where it belongs, to God and to them.

As a new mom I struggled with finding a purpose. I had dropped out of college. I spent all my days and nights tending to a fussy baby who nursed constantly. I remember watching some type of Birthing story show on TLC everyday and crying my eyes out at the end of every episode. I had postpartum depression. My body had changed, and I felt unattractive. I wasn't adjusting well to my new life. We had a small apartment that only took minutes a day to clean, and aside from holding my newborn all day, there wasn't much for me to do. I had no adult interaction, no intellectual stimulation and I felt unimportant and insignificant. 

At one point, while talking to a friend about my feelings I asked her "is it bad that I don't feel like motherhood is enough for me? I mean, is it bad to think that I don't want to just be a mom?" She felt the same way as I did. I prayed many nights to know my purpose and to feel satisfaction and completion from being "just a mom." Thankfully, the Lord heard my prayers and gave me the assurance that I so desperately needed. 

Being a mom is a divine calling. It's the greatest job, the highest calling, the most important thing I will do on this earth. And I'm not just saying that. I believe it with every fiber of my being. I have received a very sure witness that motherhood is divine and as close to godliness as any other role.  Even if the tasks seem mundane, the job thankless and the work never-ending, it is God's work. You are His hands. If you don't already feel this in your heart, pray for the same assurance and peace and it will come. I promise you that.

This one goes back to my revelation about pre-parenthood assumptions. Before I was a SAHM, I thought that all they did was watch tv, talk on the phone, and prepare the occasional meal. Boy was I wrong, and again served a slice of humble pie. Being a SAHM is a full-time job. Not only is it full-time, it's over-time, it's all-the-time. There are no time cards to punch and clock-out. If your child needs you at 3am, you need to be ready. You're on call 24 hours a day.

Let me also say, motherhood is rewarding. It's not all hard work, cleaning up throw-up, changing dirty diapers, scrubbing toilets and doing dishes. There are moments of bliss. There are moments of joy. If you are looking for the good, you will most surely find it. You will find it in cuddles with your children, in the simple accomplishments of a toddler, in the smell of a newborn. Bliss is all around you as a stay-at-home mom, but blink, and you might miss it.

Along those same lines, being a SAHM is fun. I get to do several things I'd never dreamed of doing or enjoying for that matter, that I have come to thoroughly love, like decorating, photography and cooking. Finding ways to use my talents and develop new ones is one of the funnest parts of homemaking. 

You don't have to lose your identity or hobbies as a SAHM. I am also a personal trainer. I work 1-2 nights per week after the kids are in bed and I love it. I also make sure I get time to workout, have girl's outings, visit with friends, etc. Not only do you NOT have to lose your identity, if you don't continue to do things you love and things that challenge you, you will get depressed. Period. Learning this was one of the ways I dealt with the depression I mentioned earlier that I experienced while trying to adjust to life as a SAHM. 

Last and most importantly, I have learned the need to rely upon the Lord in this holy calling. I cannot do it alone. You cannot do it alone. Our efforts will always fall short. I do all that I can and then I trust in the Lord to make up the difference. And He will. These precious children of mine first belonged to our loving Father in Heaven. He knows them better than Tim and I. He knows what they need. The more we as parents involve Heavenly Father in our decision making and parenting, the easier it is and the more successful we become. I am so grateful to a merciful and loving Heavenly Father and a Savior who showed us who we need to become in order to raise happy, successful children and help them and ourselves eventually attain our Heavenly Bliss in the life to come. 

If you liked this post, please share with your friends and family or someone you feel would benefit from reading it! Also, I would love to hear from you, what have you learned while embarking on your motherhood journey? 


The Shumways said...

Wonderful Post!!! As a mother of 4 littles ones, I totally agree with your lessons learned. I loved the part about never judging another Mom because it will end up happening to you. Things are much different now then I always pictured them being in my head, and I have come to love and accept that. It's okay if a friend pops by and my house is a mess. I have been focusing on what matters most- them! Anyway, thank you for sharing such beautiful advice!

House Family said...

Beautifully written and very touching!! Thanks for sharing!!!

Anonymous said...

Even in my late 50s I am still learning abour Motherhood. I've always wanted to b e a Mom. Now. Grandmother, I warch my own children being touched by parenthood and I am struck by the love of Christ they have learnesd through good & bad times. Yes, He said it wouldn't be easy, but said it would be worth it. I can testify of this awesome responsibility. The one thing i learned when I was having a down day was that the children I was blessed having while upon this earth, were first My Heavenly Father's children and he has a plan for each of them. We are here to use His knowledge, so we can direct them back to Him. So, Mothers & Fathers, please pray always for guiidance and Our Heavenly Father is there for us. No, we won't always do the perfect thing, but have the atonement to ask for forgiveness and continue to do our very best with the knowledge we have been blessed with at the time of being a Mom & Dad. And for one thing never give up on your children. They want to be good parents too. Being a Mom to me is the most awesome job ever, besides being a teacher to other parent's children. To feel children's unconditional love and forgiveness is the true love of Christ. That's what I have learned being a Mom..

Kristina Buhler White said...

Great Post!!  Relaying on the Lord is something that takes daily practice. It is something I need constant reminding.  Thanks

Paddypetersons said...

Love this Jenae! You are so honest and I love it! I think that is a huge aspect in terms of people feeling inadequate, as faced with these new HUGE changes a lot of women can turn it into a kind of 'performance art', feeling compelled for it to be, feel and appear exactly right! (When in fact it just feels crazy and you wonder if you will ever feel like you again!) So your honesty will surely help new moms to feel 'I am not alone!' I also think it helps if 'seasoned moms' tell you the nature of the task changes in many ways, look at your situation, you have now discovered all these new talents, are a trainer and have gotten an excellent balance between being an awesome mom and fulfilling Jenae! This doesn't happen overnight and is a direct result, I feel, of being in the situation of feeling such  a diverse range of emotions as a new mom. You try and seek out ways to find excellence, hence self development and growth as a mother. Then all of a sudden your babies are grown up, or well on their way and now I am one of those annoying people that says 'oh enjoy having them at home as it goes to quick!' But it does; downside, I could have done this better, why didn't I do more crafts blah blah blah! I find myself ridiculously lamenting after toddler toys and realizing that phase is over! Upside, they can get into the car by themselves, you don't have to carry around massive bags filled with tons of 'stuff' and you get glimpses at their awesome character and witness their discoveries of the world and their sense of what it is! (all of this coupled with hormones lol!) I love your honesty, thank you for having the courage to display it! While everyone's experience is different the common thread that binds us is that it is a new and most definately overwhelming experience! You are an awesome mom and individual! So happy to know you and have you in my life! Love you lots! 


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