This post is primarily written to stay-at-home-moms (SAHM). Not that "work from home" or "work outside of the home moms" won't relate at all, but I just don't have as much perspective in those areas (side note: aren't all of these terms kind of silly, putting moms into categories and boxes? we all work!). But I haven't held a paid position for almost three years now, and I want to share some encouragement God has given me on the days when it feels like being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) isn't "enough".
While I haven't had a chance to read a copy of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring our delight in God's design (source of above quote), I have had a chance to listen to 2 excellent summary sessions Courtney gave at Midtown Baptist Church. I thought this quote really captured the heart of the matter when it comes to that discontent, 'blah' feeling we sometimes have in our mundane lives. Because when my house continually falls apart into a mess despite constant cleaning, when my kids exhibit the same heart issues day in and day out, and when I make it to lunch without having a chance to shower (let alone wash my face or comb my hair) I wonder, "What is the point of all this?! Is this VALID work to be doing or should I be doing something better with my time?" Eventually, these feelings can lead to discontentment as I question whether or not I'm doing 'enough' for God and my family. The answer is simple: we can't do enough - we must rest our hope in the gospel. But it can seem complicated, because real physical and purpose-driven factors also impact our feelings. Below, I lay out some of the things I've wrestled through as God's challenged me to seek Him in my current role as a SAHM.
'Staying at home' won't be enough, so I shouldn't feel surprised when I'm found wanting more.
God designed our hearts to be truly fulfilled only in a relationship with Him. We are designed to worship Him with our whole heart, and only when we live for his glory and enjoy Him can we truly experience peace and contentment. This truth has been helpful to me, because in the moments when I feel like wiping bottoms, finding pacifiers, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is not enough, I don't have to fear there is something wrong with me. I shouldn't be satisfied in those things alone (even though I do actually enjoy the role of motherhood day in and day out). Instead I should let that discontent feeling remind me to find my worth in Jesus. I can only build my self-worth and identity in gospel truth - anything else will fall short of meeting my needs and desires.
'Staying at home' is not an excuse to let my gifts, talents, and intelligence waste away.
I used to think that having kids meant I got to stop working. WOAH, was that wrong! I use my gifts, talents, and intelligence more as a mom and homemaker than I ever have in any other paid position I've had. If you view your job as a SAHM as being limited to entertaining your kids, picking up food off the floor, and meeting basic needs, you might be missing out on what God has available for you. Each one of my unique gifts, passions, and abilities can be used and played out in the context of my home. Sometimes I view myself as a mini CEO during the day, managing lots of systems, people, and important operations. I try to challenge myself to use my time better and be more efficient. There are depths of things un-explored that I can tap into to help and serve my husband and children. This is not a wimpy role. Many people can pick up a messy floor and keep the children entertained, but it takes a focused, self-disciplined, industrious, and godly woman to do train up children in the Lord, leaving a legacy that will hopefully last for eternity.
'Staying at home' gives me options for serving, working hard, and contributing to the world that I didn't have before.
Some might wonder how they can change the world from inside their four walls, and I'll admit wondered this too for a long time. I thought, "How am I supposed to evangelize and impact people if I only leave the house for appointments and grocery shopping?" This is somewhat closed-minded. I've seen multitudes of ways that I can engage in service for the kingdom from my own home, inside the confines of my current responsibilities. I love to write, and have a passion for sharing what I'm learning with others, so I decided to invest time into this blog. I love relating to other women and want to invest in the next generation, so I got into a low-key discipling relationship. I want to study the bible and learn more about God, so I attend a weekly study where I can serve too. I want to help others in the church, so I make meals and try to serve others with my time and flexibility where I can. I enjoy business, so I regularly discuss my husband's work with him, and help him solve problems, giving ideas about overcoming obstacles. I'm barely tapping the surface of the opportunities available to me if I choose to take them. Sure, I'm limited by naps and meals, but overall I do have incredible flexibility to use as God directs. Not to mention, I'm hopefully raising boys that will become men who have a tremendous impact on the world for God's glory. What a privilege!
'Staying at home' challenges me to put my hope in Jesus, and believe God's promises to sustain me.
I believe one of the biggest things that drives discontentment among SAHM's, is the lack of recognition and clear rewards. When you are in a paid position, goals and objectives seem to be more clearly laid out. When you achieve them, you get rewarded, people recognize your hard work, and you feel like you have accomplished something. There is nothing wrong with those things, and they are important components of enjoying your work. However, the SAHM rarely knows when her objectives have been met and the rewards of her labor may take decades to show themselves. Not only that, but only the Lord is watching all of the little things you do well. Your spouse and children are not constantly doting on what a good job you are doing, "Honey, you cleaned the dishes for the 4th time today, wow, thanks!" This is admittedly VERY difficult. A woman in this role has to be completely convinced that the Lord sees her work and that she is working unto him alone. She has to believe God's promises and find her identity completely in Jesus to be able to sustain this type thankless, sanctifying service. This in itself doesn't make her a saint, but it does offer a beautiful context for the Lord to shape her into the image of Christ.
Questions for discontentment
In moments of discontentment, I've noticed one big problem: I'm letting my feelings and thoughts revolve around ME and my view of justice rather than basing my feelings on the truth that everything exists for God's glory. My life is to serve Him, not the other way around. But in addition to that, there are just practical and physical things that can contribute to a feeling of 'blah' over time. It's important that we don't disconnect the physical from the spiritual, because often when we aren't being good stewards of our bodies, minds and hearts, this can skew our view of God's purpose for our lives.
Here are some questions for further examination:
1. Are you having regular times with God? Are you meditating on his promises, enjoying relationship with him, and reading God's word?
2. Are you taking time to rest? Not just to check your Facebook or spending time in the shower, but REALLY resting?
3. Are you taking care of yourself physically? Are you eating in a way that fuels your body correctly and exercising enough to have energy for your tasks?
4. Are you making your hygiene a priority? Are you taking a shower, doing your hair, putting on whatever level of makeup you enjoy, and wearing clothes that appropriate for the public?
5. Are you engaged in community with other Christian women? Are you having regular conversations with other adults and taking time to foster your relationships?
6. Are you trying to make your kids happy? Are you spending the majority of your day feeling pressure to entertain little ones and trying to fulfill their desires?
7. Are you primarily identifying yourself as a mom? Are you actively remembering that you are first a child of God in Christ, then a wife, and then a mom? Are you making motherhood an idol?
8. Are you looking for ways to serve and help your husband during the day? Are you seeing your time at home as a valuable commitment to him as well as your children?
9. Are you using your gifts, talents, and passions? Are you spending time cultivating and creatively using those gifts (baking, crafting, gardening, writing, teaching, writing, reading, etc.) along with your other roles and responsibilities?
10. Are you putting too much emphasis on your to-do list? Are you feeling defeated daily by the ongoing tasks instead of keeping them in the right perspective?
11. Are you comparing yourself to other moms? Are you feeling down about what God has called you to specifically? Are you convinced that he has something unique for you, or do you aspire to be someone else?
12. Are you being poured into by an older, godly woman? Are you getting practical help in the areas that discourage you?
13. Are you pouring into other women? Are you teaching and encouraging other women in the body where you have gifts and strengths?
14. Are you having quality time with your husband? Are you making it a priority to go on dates and have a healthy marriage?
15. Are you deepening your knowledge of the bible? Are you studying scripture in a way that brings you joy and wisdom? Are you challenging yourself mentally?
Once again, this isn't meant to prescribe what you should do, nor is it meant to convince anyone that they should be a SAHM. My intent isn't to enter the mommy wars, but to encourage women who have already chosen to be primarily at home with children, that you don't have to settle for discontentment. I have not arrived, I don't have it all together, and I wish I lived more in light of the truths I shared. This is a journey that is constantly changing and I'm thankful for God's continual mercy on my life. Being a SAHM mom, more than many other things, has caused me to really root my identity deep in Jesus, and for that, I'm thankful. And if you get nothing else from this, I hope that next time you (or I) are in a moment of discontentment, it's a red flag that we must run to the cross to rightly understand who we are and how we can live out our purpose.
Also - the winner of The Gospel-Centered Mom giveaway is Rachel Pereira! Congrats Rachel! I've sent you a FB message to claim your prizes.
If you didn't win, I would still highly encourage ordering a copy of this study for yourself - especially if you are still feeling really confused about the gospel, and how it applies to motherhood.