I’ve heard it said that after five years of being married, you are no longer considered a newly wed. If the same applies to motherhood, then I suppose I’m not a “new” mom anymore. As I look back on the last five years, I recognize that the season of new motherhood was one of the most difficult seasons of my life. It was fraught with disillusionment. Life was messy and the more I tried to clean it up and control it, the messier it got.
Waking up to the Reality of Motherhood
I’ll never forget the day I woke up to the reality of motherhood. I was two weeks postpartum, shivering and dripping from a shower cut short by my newborn’s cries. As I hurried to his room, time seemed to stop for a moment as the honeymoon phase came to a screeching halt.
This is my life now.
A life of not knowing when I could shower, or spend regular quiet times with God, or go out by myself for more than an hour.
Not the Fairy Tale Life I Expected
I thought I would feel fulfilled and happy as a mom, but what I really wanted most of the time was just to get away from it all: the noise, the mess, the responsibility. I still feel this way sometimes. I missed the independence and the feeling of control I felt over my life.
In the days of my naiveté, I thought I would be able to stay involved in all my previous activities, bringing baby along. I knew I would need to stop to nurse “every once in a while,” but otherwise I thought he would come along with me, eating and sleeping as needed, wherever I needed to go. It didn’t quite pan out that way for me.
I soon realized the physical and emotional cost of trying to cart my son everywhere, and I developed a fear of missing out. On top of that, I underestimated my ability to handle sleep deprivation. Not to mention that I found nursing considerably less natural and easy than I expected, especially in public. The onslaught of overwhelming feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, incompetence, and even depression that I experienced caught me off guard. The constancy of my child’s needs quickly overtook and overwhelmed me. I felt deficient and incompetent at nearly every turn.
On top of the inadequacy I felt in meeting my newborn’s needs, it felt difficult, if not impossible at times to care for myself. In a scramble to hold onto anything I could of life before baby, I tried to force old habits and activities in the chaos of my new life. But it sounded something akin to a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, clashing with the constant needs of a little one. On the mornings baby awoke and interrupted a quiet time with God, my attitude reflected more anger than love. When baby got sick and kept me home from an event, I felt resentful with him for blocking opportunities. When baby ate my scrapbook paper, or pulled all the yarn out of a half-finished crocheted beanie hat, I fumed. Sometimes, I exploded.
After two years of this push and pull, I finally surrendered to the reality of my life as a mother. I turned towards my son and determined to give him the attention he needed, letting the rest fall away. I began to rebuild my life around my responsibilities to my son.
It felt frightening, like a death even, to let go of the life I had so tightly grasped. But the truest part of me felt hopeful, even happy, because I knew it was what I needed to do. It was the best decision I ever made.
It took some boredom and a lot of creativity and sacrifice. I stepped away from all my prior church and outside commitments. I gave up quiet times for a while, knowing that I would better honor God for it. And I decided to put away the decorating projects and other hobbies that required concentration and uninterrupted time. I determined to put my son first and explore activities we could do together. The work was long and winding with many hiccups and dead-ends. But before long, I found life, more abundantly than I ever expected. I discovered new ways to care for my soul while also caring well for my son.
More and more I’m learning to surrender to the mess, face the reality of what it is, and let go of the image of what I think it should be. As I loosen my grip, I am learning how to find my soul in the mess of motherhood. I’m beginning to understand how to live my life well as a mother. Life is still messy, but surrendering what I think it should be is the first step. Always, we begin again.
Finding Your Soul in the Mess of Motherhood
I created this blog to help moms find solutions that will empower them to meet their needs as they navigate the often unfamiliar and arduous territory of motherhood. Motherhood is a huge life transition that’s not always easy to navigate. But that doesn’t mean we are bad moms, it just means there’s a little more to learn, a little more to surrender, and a little more work to do. It is possible to care for your soul while also caring well for your family. I created this blog as a resource for you to find ways to care for your soul in three areas:
You can still connect with God above the noise and mess of motherhood, but it’s probably going to look different. There are a million ways to connect with God in our daily lives. Below are a few ideas I have discovered.
- Reading the Psalms in the cracks of my day
- Practicing reflection and learning the prayer of examen
- When I’d rather watch Netflix than spend time with God
The high expectations we have for ourselves as moms only adds to the mess of motherhood. Instead, we can step back, look at how we are made, and learn to apply it to our lives. As we grow in grace, compassion, and kindness towards ourselves, we can re-imagine motherhood according to our unique design, strengths and even shortcomings. Our sanity and our kids will thank us.
What we learn about ourselves directly informs how we need to live out our lives. It determines the hobbies and activities we pursue and how we arrange our homes and set up our daily routine. It’s a delicate thing to integrate our individual pursuits with our family life, especially in a season with young children. But it is possible. There are ways to engage the activities we love into this new season.
Now I want to hear from you:
In what stage of the motherhood journey are you? Which area do you struggle with most: connecting with God, knowing yourself, or living creatively?
Please comment below.
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