The less sung heroes of stay at home moms

I’ve been a stay at home mom around the internet long enough to understand that stay at home moms rank up there somewhere with angels, Mother Theresa, and a free lifetime supply of coffee. Us living saints deal with the day in day out of raising children, poopy diapers (or rooms during nap time), temper tantrums, never ending dishes and laundry and vacuuming and feeding, getting kids here and there and everywhere, trying to make sure they don’t grow up to be sociopaths and serial killers, learning enough stuff to be ready for kindergarten, and hoping they eat a well enough balanced diet throughout at least a week all while making sure each living creature survives from waking up to bed time. It’s certainly no job description to sneeze at.

But you know who else makes this happen? The people who rarely, if ever, receive any accolades? The unsung hero of the stay at home mom?

Working dads.

Yeah, I said it. The men behind the scenes, going to work day in and day out, selflessly providing for their families. They sacrifice time with their kids, maybe seeing them for 3 hours on a weekday, so that us moms can stay home with them.

My two year old has a cough and cold and was up three different times last night and my six month old was up once to eat. Four times I was up with them, diagnosing, refilling water, doling out Tylenol, rubbing backs and checking foreheads, snuggling and feeding, doing whatever I could to help them fall back to sleep.

You know who else was woken up?

My husband.

You know who got up at 5:30 and went to work anyway?

My husband.

You know who packed up garbage bags and rolled the garbage can out to the curb before going to work?

My husband.

You know who got to sleep in until 7:30 today?

Me.

You know who gets to wear lazy sweatpants all day?

Me.

Real heroic I am.

The longer I am married and have children, the more respect grows up for my husband, who works every day so I can be home. My husband who helps with laundry and dishes and baths and dogs and chickens and vacuuming and building and fixing without me really having to ask or to nag. I don’t have to recount every detail of a rough day to justify him bringing home something for supper. He doesn’t complain when he gets home at 4:30 after a hard day and I haven’t planned supper and am sitting in a chair with a sleeping infant. He simply thinks up a simple supper and prepares it. Or he plays with our daughter while our son sleeps until I can make some.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating the hard road of stay at home momhood, we need to do a better job of celebrating our husbands who provide what we need to be able to stay home.

My husband is an amazing individual who works hard and loves much. He loves being a dad and playing with the kids. He enjoys stepping in and giving me a break. He supports everything I do that allows me out of the house occasionally to recharge my own batteries doing something that doesn’t necessarily involve the title of ‘mom’.

He is my less sung hero. He is the warrior of our family. He is who I want my son to be and my daughter to marry.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.      Ephesians 5:33

 

How our village changes

We’ve all heard the phrase, right?

It takes a village.

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to pursue a dream. It takes a village to weather a difficult life experience. It takes a village to simply stay alive on this rough journey called life.

It takes a village.

What about when that village changes? What about when a villager suddenly disappears? Or slowly but inexorably fades away?

It’s only natural that as our lives change, so will our villages evolve. The people with whom we once so deeply connected in college fade away as our faith deepens and theirs doesn’t. Those who we got to know before we became parents are harder to connect with because the schedule of a parent differs from the schedule of a non-parent. We realize how much our priorities shift after having children and non-parents’ priorities don’t.

I am slowly coming to terms with the loss of one of my own villagers. It has been a very painful experience, as I slowly realized the drift, as communication faltered, as messages went unreturned. I’ve spent, in all reality, far too much time trying to analyze, to figure it out, to determine what I did wrong to push this villager away.

I believe therein lies the problem. I have believed that it was my fault. That something I did, the person I am, pushed my villager away. I think the truth lies somewhere else. That we are intrinsically very different. That how I communicate is at odds with how this villager receives communication. That our priorities regarding faith are different. That one of us is a parent and the other isn’t. That we both went through life altering circumstances in the same year. That neither of us were really able to be the support the other one needed as much as was needed because we were both coming to terms with a new life reality.

Has that ever happened to you? What villagers have you lost? How did they move out of your village?

I am an expert at losing villagers. I have precisely zero villagers left from high school, two from college, and now zero from post-college/pre-momhood. I am slowly building up a village of other moms, each of whom I am immensely grateful that they choose to share life with me. That we understand the rocky times, the rough times, the smooth times that parenthood brings.

The thing is, about villages changing, is that it’s a normal part of life. A village is constantly changing, constantly growing, evolving, adapting, shrinking based on how we grow, evolve, and adapt to our changing life circumstances. As painful as each villager loss is, that pain should pale in comparison to our constant village leader, Jesus Christ.

He is one villager who has not and never will leave any village into which he is invited. Perhaps we lose villagers because we depend too much on our human villagers and not enough on our savior villager. I am definitely guilty of that. People tell me what a strong Christian I am, what a woman of God I am, while I look at me and see the mornings I fail to read my Bible, the times I fail to pray before or after turning to people, the times I think or say careless or hurtful things. I know it’s all part of being human and that God knows our hearts, even better than we do, but it’s hard to feel like I don’t measure up to what other people see of me.

How about you? Do you feel like your villagers or even visitors to your village have an inaccurate perception of you, whether for better or worse?

As much as I try to live an authentic life, people still only see snapshots. They only see the little bits I let out, that I broadcast via any communication channel. People don’t know I am struggling unless I share it. People don’t know I’m happy unless I share it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t share everything. I don’t share things that I really probably should share. I keep the hard stuff in most of the time. Oh you do it, too?

Why do we do that?

Don’t we WANT authentic relationships? Don’t we clamor for them? Drag ourselves through the desert to find them?

The secret, though, is that it’s precisely the sharing of the hard stuff that deepens our relationship with our fellow villagers. It’s the stuff deep down. The stuff we don’t talk about parties. The stuff that haunts us when we’re alone with our thoughts. Maybe we need to intentionally decide to reach out and open up to our villagers. Maybe we write it in a safe space and then commit to NOT deleting it. Maybe we write up and actually SEND that email.

Authenticity and vulnerability are scary things, especially if you’re like me and somehow believe that you’re a person to merely be tolerated. If the loss of villagers has made you shy to share. If you believe that it’s precisely your vulnerability that caused the villagers to leave in the first place.

Friend, you are not someone to merely be tolerated. As one of my villagers pointed out to me, no human has the right to make you feel less than you are. You are a creation of the most high God. You are delighted in and loved by him.

Friend, you have been designed exactly as you are for this time, for this season, to achieve a purpose. Your gifts and talents are just what are needed in your circle of influence. You are not a mistake. You are not an accident. No matter what that kid in 5th grade said. No matter what that drunk college said. No matter what your boss told you. Or your father. Or your mother. Or any other human.

You have been created uniquely on purpose, with loving hands, for such a time as this. Your village has been built around you uniquely on purpose.

Oh the loss of villagers hurts, I am well aware. My heart hurts for each villager that has gone over the years. I remember all of them. But, friend, don’t let that pain stop you from continuing to grow your current village, to invest in them. Our villages are meant to change. That change is meant to grow us.

Carry on, brave friend, and life a life of authenticity.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. –Romans 5:1-5

 

 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. –Galatians 6:7-10

Coming up out of the water

My baby boy is six months old today.

Patrick 6 months old.jpg

For the first five months of his life, I felt like I was under water, but I didn’t realize it until my head finally broke above the surface. I remember it clearly – one day, I just felt like I could breathe again. I felt like I could something outside of the things that were completely necessary to sustain life around here – like dishes and laundry and diapers and feeding people.

I remember when I finally made the long overdue vet appointment for my dogs. I remember clearing off the table. I remember sorting toys. I remember the feeling of taking that first deep breath. I remember really wanting to dive back into my Bible and read. I remember really wanting to take my 30 30s seriously (more on that later). I remember finally feeling like I could be my sole motivator for that, like I didn’t NEED other people to help keep me accountable.

A lot has changed in the past few weeks as life returns to me. I have registered to Run the Year 2016 with my sister, brother-in-law, and dad. And I have actually done some running.

First mile dogs

I have started a youtube yoga program, 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene, and I’ve actually completed 3 days of it. With kids! And dogs! In the morning! When everyone is awake!

I’m able to focus more on being WITH the kids instead of hiding behind my phone screen browsing the internet. I can think about things other than how to recharge my dead internal battery. I feel like I am me again.

fingernails.jpg

How often in life does this happen? How often do we find ourselves overwhelmed at new changes in jobs or life circumstances or by the mundane drivel of everyday living? How often do we find ourselves shutting down at every moment possible because it seems to be the only way to survive?

Friends, you are not alone.

Life is hard. It is repetitive. It can get boring. It can get overly complicated and overwhelming. Hurt, sorrow, pain, and loss can threaten to steal away all our joy. Our souls can get heavy with the burden of living. Maybe you’ve lost a friend, a family member, a child and you feel so shattered that you’re afraid you’ll never find the pieces to put yourself back together. Maybe you’re burdened by loneliness because your friends live far away and you haven’t been able to make new ones yet, so you feel a little lost. Maybe you’ve pictured your life one way, and for whatever reason, it hasn’t turned out that way. Maybe you expected to be further or closer, to be established in a career by now and you find yourself drifting along, trying to find your next move.

Friends, you are not alone.

We have a friend in Jesus who never leaves us, who always walks beside us.

Footprints

Or drags us, sometimes. Or carries us. Friends, we serve a God who knows us, who cares about us, who has been tempted in every way and yet was without sin. He gets it and, as my husband said last night, he will take care of us if we just let him. God will provide if we will simply let him. If we can let go of our own agenda and rest in him, God will provide rest we’ve never dreamed of. He will bless us in ways we couldn’t think to ask for.

So the big question, then, is what does that look like? Sure, that sounds great, but I’ve heard crap like that all my life, but no one has ever EXPLAINED what that means or how to DO it.

So what is resting in God? It is taking time to be still, to be quiet, to pray – without distraction. Without the TV. Without your phone. It’s sharing all the stuff you think about, but never say to anyone. It’s letting out the ridiculous feelings or the frustrations of life and the ways people around you annoy you. Yes, saying them out loud in an empty room.

Sometimes, resting in God is being around other people who are followers of Christ who can remind you of simple truths. People who gently point you in the direction of Christ when you forget to look that way. Friends who can tell you that the little people in your house are blessed to be in a Christian home. Friends who struggle in their lives and are authentic enough to share those struggles.

It’s YOU being authentic to others and letting them do what they please with it. Maybe you find that someone who you thought was a good friend really isn’t when the going gets tough for you and you have questions and doubts. Maybe it’s stepping back and realizing they are dealing with their own complicated problems and so they can’t be there emotionally for you right now, in this moment. Maybe they never can. Maybe they are too sensitive, their skin is too thin, they are too easily offended and you don’t have the energy to deal with that kind of relationship.

Friends, whatever you are going through that makes you feel like you’re underwater will not last forever. Your head will break the surface. You will breathe again. God will provide for you. He will refresh you. He will restore you. Don’t let yourself forget that. The effort and the journey of growth are more important than rigid adherence to a prescribed discipline. Everyone’s journey toward Christ is different and as long as we are moving, that is the important part, so do what you need to do. Find Christ followers around you. Find people in your same stage of life. Make your village. Rest in Christ. Keep your eyes looking up because one day, you find that you need to look down to see the top of the water.