Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Be Gentle on Moms. We're New Here.

I have been a stay stay at home mom for about two and a half months now (HUGE answer to prayer.  Thank God for a husband that works hard so that I can stay home.)  This was what I wanted from the moment I found out that I was pregnant.  It has always been my heart's desire to be home with my babies when we had them.  So I was obviously ridiculously happy and excited.

It's been the hardest two and a half months, well,  pretty much ever.

Honestly, I feel guilty just admitting that.  But let me break it down, because for the uninitiated I know that statement sounds really selfish.  And I suppose that maybe it is, but just a little.  Even my husband doesn't understand what I mean when I say that it's the hardest thing I've ever done.  I suppose complaining about being tired and overwhelmed isn't helpful, but in the moment I always find it difficult to put a cohesive statement together about why, exactly, it is that what I have always said I wanted is also something that drives me to tears.

So here we go.  Let me try to explain.

A mom is no one and everyone-  A mom is no one.  She is no longer the artist, the singer, the corporate lawyer.  She is not the hardest working woman in her office, or the most successful and celebrated anything to anyone anymore.  Whatever it was that a stay at home mom used to find her identity in, however she defined herself (outside of the Lord obviously) is gone.  Which is ok at first.  Imperceptible even.  The honeymoon phase of baby snuggles and the idea of "open days" only lasts so long.  Eventually in it's place the stay at home mom will probably find some grief.  To the outsider this part may not make a whole lot of sense, and I totally get that, because I didn't understand until I experienced it either, but stay with me here.  The mom often grieves or mourns over what feels like the loss or death of her self.

It's the little things, and they aren't always tangible or quantifiable, but it feels so easy to fade away into this mommy-haze.  Instead of thinking largely of her own and her husbands needs pre-baby, a mom might find an hour in a day to address her needs.  The most basic ones, usually.  It's a pretty intense death to self to go from girls-nights and coffee dates to simply feeling like you've gotten a break by showering alone, with no small child screaming on the other side of the curtain.

Some days you find yourself feeling like "woman" you no longer exists.  You are now "mom."  You change diapers, feed everyone, except yourself often, clean, do laundry, entertain, and occasionally you put on some makeup, and meet at the park with some other friends.  Mostly so you can all run after your children communally,  good luck holding an adult conversation.  You are no one, but you are also everyone.  You are a doctor, a sleep specialist, a food supply, a cook, a maid, a play-ground-referee, a chauffeur, a nutritionist, a comforter, a counselor, a disciplinarian, and anything else your child and spouse need on a daily basis.  You are everything to everyone, and sometimes that is an overwhelming reality.

A mom deals with incredible guilt all the time- This one isn't exclusive to stay at home moms.  I felt a ridiculous amount of guilt while I was working too.  The reality doesn't change, just the source of the guilt.  When you're working, the guilt lies in not being there for your child.  Not tucking them in at night, not kissing their knees when they scrape them at the park.  The guilt of waving goodbye to your distraught child as your drop them off at daycare, your friends house, your parents house, wherever.  You feel guilty for missing things.

When you are a stay at home mom, the guilt stays, but the source of it changes.  You feel guilty that your husband feels more pressure to provide.  You feel guilty that the house isn't clean, and the dishes aren't done.  You feel guilty that some days, you want to be anywhere but home, and you feel guilty that you find you sometimes want to run from the house and just be alone.  You feel guilty for feeling any kind of desire to take care of your own basic needs and mental and emotional health.  You feel guilty because you (unnecessarily) believe that you should be able to turn off your own needs so that you can devote yourself to the needs of your family, but quickly find that to be an impossible task.

A mom is isolated-  I'm starting to see why large family units used to live together, or at least really close to each other.  Being a stay at home mom can be lonely.  Obviously I love love LOVE my daughter, and I am incredibly blessed, but sometimes you can go an entire day without any adult conversation, interaction, or company.  It can make you feel a little crazy.

We live in a society that doesn't value child-rearing-  We live in a society that places a higher value on careers, money, and possessions than on having and raising babies.  People don't understand why you would want to leave your job, making less money on a whole because of it so that you aren't able to buy as many things or go on as many trips, and they're not afraid to tell you and look at you like you're nuts.  Have more than 2 or 3 kids?  I bet you've heard someone "jokingly" ask you if you've ever heard of birth control.  That or they say "You know how you got this way, right?" when they find out you're pregnant again.  How disheartening.

Moms are judged.  All the time-  Moms are judged, by just about everyone.  Your kid throws a fit in the grocery store, you get head shakes and mean stares.  Your baby cries in church, you feel the silent pressure to leave the room.  Your baby is hungry while you're out and about, running errands that need to be run, or, God forbid, you are just OUT for the sake of going out so you sit down to nurse your baby and the dirty looks assail you constantly.

You're doing the best you can as a mom, and everywhere you look, someone is judging you.  Possibly the worst of it is when you feel like you are being judged by other moms, your family, or even your spouse.  It's easy to feel discouraged when nothing you do is good enough.  When your accomplishments and work is so intangible that it is so easily and often overlooked, while your "faults" (or maybe just those chores or errands you didn't get done in the day) are so glaringly obvious.

But here's the thing.

Here's the really important thing.

This is what I try to tell myself when I feel like no one notices how much of myself I pour out daily-  being a mom is hard, really really hard, because being a mom is being archetype of Christ to your family.

Every day I am dying to myself for the good of my family.  It hurts.  It really does.  But it's stretching me, changing me, making my heart capable of deeper love, deeper emotion, deeper strength.  I'm certainly not always graceful in my state of perpetual death-to-self (ok, most of the time I am not graceful in death), but it gives me such a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ.  That He died in every way for me.  Because I finally understand (though to such a smaller degree) the level of sacrifice laid down on my behalf.

Being a mom is a noble calling.  It is an awesome responsibility.  It is a 24/7 job in which you are never off duty, and that's a big adjustment to make.  I'll argue that being a mom, at least in your baby's early years, requires a level of adjustment that most mere mortals simply cannot understand.  Sometimes that even includes dads.  Of course dads feel the changes.  They have to work harder, it's more pressure, more responsibility.  They can't always chase their dreams the way they'd hoped to as an idealistic 18 year old man.  However, on a daily basis, their routine stays much more the same than a mom's.

Sometimes I'm jealous of my husband's alone time as he drives to and from work.

I'm pretty sure that's a hard thing to understand if you're not staying home 24/7.

I'm pretty guilty of complaining lately.  How tired I am, how overwhelming it can be to stay home, how frustrating my daughter can be.  I know it doesn't make sense to complain, because this is what I have wanted.  But I suppose that what I'm really doing is mourning.  And dealing with my guilt.  And feeling isolated, and judged.  Sometimes I'm flat out feeling under-valued and misunderstood.

It's just really hard to put those things into a short fragmented sentence as I'm correcting my child for the umpteenth time after my husband gets home at night.

So here's one more thing that I'm going to put out there-

What a mom really needs is understanding, patience, and support.

Here's why.  A mom is a new creation, a newborn just as much as her baby.  Everything is new, scary, and unknown.  Thrown into the world without much preparation or support, and with the weight of the world on her tired and sleep deprived shoulders.  A mom is a child struggling to take her first steps, often with no one to hold her hand and steady her as she trips and wobbles.  A mom deserves grace.

I love this quote.  Maybe you've heard it, but it puts it so much more eloquently than I can, and this is how I will leave you.  I hope this post made sense.  I hope it feels hopeful.  I hope that if you're reading this, feeling the same things, that you feel now like you're not alone.  Because you're not.  You're just new.  Like me.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also

 born. She never existed before. The woman

 existed, but the mother, never. A mother is 

something absolutely new.