Hope for the Weary Mama

IMG_4258.jpg

Dear Mama,

You are allowed to be tired. You are allowed to feel broken and inadequate. You are allowed to be imperfect. Your kids can wear mismatched socks. Your toddler can have some jelly on their cheek at the store that you missed from breakfast. You can dress your babies in clothes you can afford instead of the cutest curated outfit. Your living room can have a worn sofa and coffee table from Craigslist that don’t match. You can look like a hot mess. You can go a week without washing your hair. You can live in a cramped and cluttered space that you can NEVER figure out how to organize despite trying.  It’s ok. You and your kids can afford for you to let go of these areas.

You can have a “mom bod”, you can wear sweat pants all day. Your socks can have crumbs stuck to them because you ran out of energy to sweep yet again. Your kids can miss a few days of baths and wear the same clothes from the day before. You can feed your family the same meal for a week.  You can lose your temper when you meant to be patient.  You can let the laundry turn into a mountain. You can cut back on activities you sign your kids up for. This list of things we have freedom to be imperfect on is miles long.

But, there are a few things that you and I (weary though we may be) cannot afford to do. These are things that are part of our calling as a mother, the things that make the big difference in our children. Here goes my stumbling attempt to articulate this- may these serve as reminders for you and me. 

We cannot afford to try “harder” to fix our brokenness  by mustering up something inside of us and relying on a few self-help books and blogs. Though we can learn a few tips there, they do not hold the power we truly need. We MUST cry out to Jesus in our brokenness and desperation- He hears and promises to draw near to the brokenhearted. We must lean on him, lean into him in our weariness and weakness; not push him away until we “figure it out”.  

This mom thing is an eternal work with lots of menial looking tasks that eventually add up into a big work in both our kids and us! I’m starting to realize that if we surrender as we serve in the mundane and precious (instead of doing it kicking and screaming), it will transform and sanctify us in a way that few other things can.  

Maybe that weakness you’re more aware of now than ever before is a way to bring you back to trust, to prayer, to surrender to our Father. Maybe God actually planned for us to desperately need him while raising children. And instead of coming up “short” meaning something has gone terribly wrong, it is actually just where we should be.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul writes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” Paul actually BOASTED about his weakness. It’s been awhile since I’ve witnessed that in a mommy group! What if we saw our weaknesses that are staring us down in motherhood as an opportunity for Christ to shine through us, to prove His power, to sustain us instead of an opportunity to condemn, shame and fix ourselves?

I know so many amazing women who are “competent” but when deep in the throes of motherhood, they find themselves overwhelmed, feeling like a failure in so many ways, and OFTEN feel like they are failing their kids. Good news! We can take our awareness of our need and allow it to propel us towards Christ, drawing near and leaning into him. 

There is a condition here, though- while Jesus sustains us, He doesn’t promise to give us strength to flawlessly executive a Pinterest status perfectly decorated home and well dressed kids. He doesn’t promise to enable us to be “super mom”. There are many things that have become entangled in our expectations of ourselves that we can thankfully let go. Often, these unrealistic expectations are the ones that are truly pushing us over the edge.

I’d like to submit to you that SO much of the pressure we are drowning in as moms is often coming from things we CAN afford to let go of. So much of this pressure we feel is vanity. So much of the measuring stick we’re coming up short against is a “chasing after the wind” as Ecclesiastes says. The Pinterest minimalist house, the perfectly dressed kiddos, the wooden toys, the hot bodies other moms have, the perfect meals and desserts. Often, by the time we achieve it, the measuring stick changes, new styles are in, kitchens become dated, clothes wear out and we’re back trying to catch up.

But there is a smaller list that we cannot afford to fail at. This is the where I believe Jesus is truly pleased to pour out His strength and grace on us in our weakness.  This is where we can’t afford to half try. This is the area that deserves our best. We cannot afford to ignore our kids because of “more important things”. We cannot afford to go through our days constantly distracted by our phone and everyone else’s needs while neglecting the little ones right in front of us. They feel it, it impacts them and they will be mirroring our behavior back at us before long. We cannot afford to discipline inconsistently and only when it’s convenient, ignoring the issues when we are tired. We cannot afford to lose our temper on our kids and not ask for forgiveness, demonstrating our own need for a Savior and turning it into a lesson about grace. We cannot afford to not intentionally disciple our kids, teaching them our faith and the goodness of God. We cannot afford to not pour out love on our kids and make them a priority. This is the beautiful responsibility and gift of motherhood. This is the point. [Disclaimer: Of course we will be imperfect in our attempts here because we are humans plagued by sin,  but these are the areas that deserve the best of us. ]

Next time when you’re feeling yourself weighed down- ask yourself what is at the root of the pressure you’re feeling. Is it vanity or is it love? Are you worrying about what others will think? Are you worried you won’t be perceived as competent? Do you worry your kids will feel “deprived” because you haven’t given them the “best” of everything?

Although it might look incredibly similar on the outside, there is a difference between trying to feed your kids healthy because it’s best for them and attempting to pull off perfectly executed meals to measure up to other moms. Healthy can be quick or it can be cooked in a crock pot. It doesn’t have to consume you. Are you bothered because your body is marred from pregnancy and delivery and you’re worried that people will judge you? Or are you concerned because your body is no longer strong and you want to be healthy in order to live a full life with your family?  These are two different things. While many concerns can masquerade under the banner of love at first glance, upon further examination you may be surprised to  find quite a few rooted in vanity. For example- do I not want to order pizza when I have friends over because I want to serve them and love on them by feeding them a healthy meal I know they don’t always get? Or do I want to skip the pizza because I want to show them how capable I am and how impressive of a cook I am? 

 I’m only four years into this journey of motherhood, and have plenty to learn!! But over the past year, this question has become a part of my normal as I recognize I’m a woman of limited energy and ability. As I realize how deep of a root pride has had in my own life. As I’ve felt close to breaking under the stress of it all, under the unmet expectations I have for myself in motherhood and the feeling that I’m failing, I have had to practice discerning what needs to stay and what needs to go. I’ve been surprised at how revealing it’s been to ask myself- “is this vanity?” If it is, I try to move in a healthier direction and ask the Lord to purify my heart and to help me let go of unhealthy desires (like wanting my kids to always be dressed in the cutest clothes) and then I choose to practice letting them wear the clothes that we have and practicing being grateful that we have clothes- which is enough. As I’ve practiced this…it’s liberating. Each time I practice “enough” it feels like a burden has been lifted.

Weary Mama Challenge: This week, start asking the Lord to reveal your true motivations. Ask Him to show you burdens you’ve put on yourself that he never asked to carry and is just waiting to lift off you. I’d love to hear how He’s lifting your burdens! Instagram @thebeholdenlife #beholdenlife

steph_signature.png