For I am crucified with Christ. I myself no longer live but Christ lives within me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
Once upon a time, as an ambitious career-focused, feministic 24 year old, I wrote a bucket list. And one of the shocking items on that list- apart from quitting a job with righteous indignation-was to take time off to raise my children.
May be because my heart was in the right place, God answered that wish. As in he made all factors work towards that. I got kids and all my heart wanted was to be home with them, raising them, feeding them, cleaning up after them, reading, playing, praying, teaching, taking walks. Despite other voices in my head telling me I was crazy to lose my career and income and source of identity, I still yearned most of all to be home and just be mom. I thought I was going crazy. Then I met women who too had come to that turning point or were struggling with an irresistible pull towards the home. And I read of the often irreconcilable battle between career and family life and knew I was not alone in wanting to choose home over career. As if I needed external factors to push me out, my work atmosphere became toxic. God uses even our dumb choices to accomplish his purposes. I wanted out. And out I have been. Sort of.
Just because you want something does not mean it will be easy. And being a stay-home mom is hard in itself. Now add inner and outer pressure to measure up to what the world regards to as success. I have been busy trying to get busy and look important and feel important and justify my existence, seeming lack of ambition and income that I forgot just how blessed and lucky I am to be able to do this- be home with my kids, not have my calendar or timetable dictated by anyone except may be the school bus. I have let personal, peer, cultural and parental pressure crowd out the 'why' I am doing this.
Being cried for by my children started to feel like a drain on my energy and mood and I wanted to hide from them. Breastfeeding past or year felt like being sucked dry and pandering to an ungrateful toddler. Cleaning up crumbs on the carpet and chairs was like an endless cycle designed by the kids to torture me. Don't even get to laundry. That laundry basket will only be empty once they go to high school. Or not.
I was getting tired of being "just mommy" with no accolades, no cv-worthy ventures, no career traction, no moment to myself, no places to go, no important people to meet; just traces of baby vomit on my pjs (which I haven't changed yet it's 3pm), sagged boobies (I hear they are called slapped dough) and nails that badly need a spa day. I keep remembering importamt things I need to do - like edit photos and apply for a job and find out what's happening in Colombia. But in mummy-list-of-things to do, these fall at the very bottom and consequently get kicked out till, whenever.
The other day my son told me I don't work so I won't have money. I asked him to explain if the dinner he just ate cooked itself. After a moment of sanity, I told him his daddy and God pay me to take care of them, so yes, I will have money.
You see, after too many years getting home at 9pm, all I ever wanted was to have time to see the sun set and make dinner for my husband. I have been able to do that every single day - well, not the sunset part but I could if I wanted or wasn't so busy trying to get dinner going. I've supervised homework and taught memory verses and songs and lost my temper and gained it back and learnt time management and how to be a superhero and multi tasker and to be patient and kind and gentle.
This is by far the hardest job I have ever done. It stretches me beyond my capability and I lose it and in those moments I feel like the worst wife and mother in the world and like I just messed up.the kids for good. Then God reminds me his grace is sufficient for me, for when I am weak, then I am strong. His power is made perfect in my weakness.
Now to the hard part where someone asks me, "what do you do? "
In the past that would have been an easy question. Now, not so. I'm just a mom. But I'm more than a mom because I am becoming many things. And being just a mom isn't a career death sentence. Glory be to God that death in Christ also means a new life in him. My identity was my career. That kind of got stripped away and I was left with an identity crisis. Who am I now that I don't work for so and so? Had I lost myself because I was no longer quite the journalist or editor having been busy wiping noses, butts and mouths and tables? Does three, six or nine years of sleepless nights, sharing your body endlessly and having your schedule dictated by little people equal to losing yourself? Was I stuck here forever, last to opportunities and ambition and achievements?
Moms talk about how they lost themselves, how they woke up one day and couldn't remember who they were before le husband and les babies. They couldn't remember what dreams and aspirations they had or they had to give those up and now have nothing to look forward to except school graduations. I don't think it is so bad to lose yourself for the sake of something greater, especially for the sake of the cause of Christ. This the message of the gospel, that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it cannot reproduce. Scripture says, "For anyone who seeks to save his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it."
Life in Christ calls for self sacrifice, laying ourselves at the altar, living sacrifices that don't crawl away when the furnace gets hot and when they do they crawl back. This kind of sacrifice looks different in different people's lives. I don't know what God is calling you to lay down or let go of for the sake of the gospel. The bible does promise that in losing your life you will find it.
I have found myself standing on the promise in those words, that in losing my life, I will find a new one better than I could have imagined or planned for myself. May there be renewed purpose, vision, impact.
Let death to old dreams bring new life to new dreams. Let death to selfish ambition mean life to generously giving of myself for the sake of others.
Being a mom, and especially a stay at home mom, is back-breaking spurned upon work. People think you are wasting your life. They tell it to you all so often you start to believe it yourself. But nothing done for the sake of Christ goes to waste. Not a glass of water given, not a nose wiped or a spill mopped or job lost. Christ promises much more in this life and the life to come.
My encouragement has been to become missional about my being home with the kids. That way I know why I'm doing it-for the sake of Christ. It's discipleship. It's my mission field, my Jerusalem. It's training ground for my children and me. It's where I learn to be obedient in the small things. Its learning to trust God for my affirmation and provision. It's free time to study whatever tickles my fancy but more so to immerse myself in God's word. These are the wilderness years herding sheep before the throne. The years in the Midian desert with the father-in-laws sheep before the burning bush, the years between Tarsus and Antioch. Lord teach me to enjoy this season because in your scheme, nothing is wasted .