When More Me Time Doesn’t Fix Things

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A couple of weeks ago, I was having a rough time. I generally get tired this time of year for a few weeks, though I always forget about my fall transitional tiredness until it happens. Being pregnant has added to the fatigue. Then we had two little bouts of sickness in our family, and it was rainy and dreary outside.

I started feeling resentful all the time. My word for this year is abundance. One huge facet of that for me is not feeling trapped–realizing I have options and can try new things.

But I was living trapped anyway. I had become so easily frustrated when things didn’t go my way–a nap, a meal, or a day plan. Generally I’ve been able to be flexible and remind myself that these things are seasons, but I started frequently becoming teary over how hard life is right now or how unfair things are. I had become frazzled and short of patience.

I started living in the “If only…” scenarios. I usually don’t let myself go there. But I indulged freely, and it wasn’t pretty. If only our child went down from 7pm-7am! What would I do with that time?! What if we could talk in the car and our child would just sit there quietly?! What if I wasn’t so tired and could get more done in a day? And why won’t these colds leave?! As I thought this way, I became more and more dissatisfied and resentful.

I saw someone on Instagram recommend Mom Enough, so I downloaded it (it’s free!). Almost immediately, I felt a sense of relief as my problem received a diagnosis. I realized I had lost my vision and perspective. I was living in the mindset of “I deserve more,” letting selfishness consume me.

I wasn’t seeing the importance of each day–of loving the people in my own home.

I grow most dissatisfied when I start to think that motherhood shouldn’t be so hard or take up so much time. I start to focus on the ways my child isn’t fitting into my life and wondering whether I’m a bad mother because I don’t have more control of things.

I start wondering whether I am raising an independent enough child or wondering whether I’ve failed because he doesn’t sleep well. Then my days become focused on just that, and I get so anxious and fearful and angry that I’m not doing it right.

I’m so glad our culture has moved to a point of recognizing that moms need alone time without feeling guilt. But this time, no amount of alone time in the world was going to fix what was wrong with me. I needed to regain my vision.

There are times to feel conviction about my selfish mindset and times to stop focusing on “me.” Parenthood is, by nature, one of the greatest sacrifices we make. It’s not easy, and there are times when my best-laid plans won’t make it easier.

In one of the essays in Mom Enough, Rachel Jankovic writes,

“Our culture is afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying.”

She goes on to point out that the Christian life is death to oneself, finding life in the Cross. I needed this reminder. I can lay down my life for my child, for my husband. I don’t have to be fighting for “me” and for “my time” constantly. I can sacrifice cheerfully.

We see this as pregnancy and birth leave our bodies never quite the same. For all the “better than before” claims, our bodies will age and change. Do we strive to preserve them like the fine china we only pull out once a year? Wouldn’t it be better to use it more often, even if it gets chipped and cracked? Do we want to carefully preserve our bodies with all our time and energy, or do we realize that living life means our bodies will decline?

This time, I didn’t need more alone time or more creative endeavors or more help. What I needed was a reminder that this work I’m doing right now is valuable and eternal and will involve sacrifice that drives me to depend on Jesus. The dependence and sacrifice do not mean I’m doing it wrong.

I needed this reminder:

“At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood.”

It is freeing to realize that I’m not doing anything wrong if motherhood is hard–if parenting is a sacrifice. After all, that’s what it is, and no pedicures or trips to Target can take away the fact that I have to die to myself daily and hourly as I give to my child. The only way I’m doing it wrong is when I start to grow bitter and resentful, thinking only of myself.

I love the way Rachel Jankovic’s essay ends:

“Give you life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.”

It’s amazing how easy it is for me to slip into “no one knows how hard I work.” Then I become easily frustrated and always wishing for more. Instead, I should spend my energy actually figuring out what we all need and finding creative ways to meet those needs. And sometimes, it is just going to be hard.

So I’m offering the odd evening when my son won’t go to sleep back to God. I’m offering the anger and resentment, knowing God can replace it with joy. I’m offering my daily moments, my desire to be doing something “great.”

This is a hard balance. Sometimes this is not the post I need to write (or read); sometimes I need to be focusing on the hot baths and moments of alone time. Sometimes I need to focus on self-care. But in the midst of guilt, there’s nothing worse than feeling guilty that you sacrifice too much.

“In God’s hands, your offerings will be broken, and broken, and broken again, until all have eaten and are satisfied. And even then, there will be leftovers.” (Rachel Jankovic)

I may not feel abundance–I may lack an abundance of patience and energy and strength. But God takes what little I give him and makes it more as I work for these people I love dearly.

*If you’re interested, you can download Mom Enough free here.

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