If you’re looking for my Faith & Family LIVE-inspired small successes for this week, you’ve come to the right place. I’m just taking a different format today and pondering what I really need to be doing to be a successful mom and wife at this stage of my life.
“What is God whispering to you?” I saw that question in a devotional the other morning and at first I couldn’t think of one single hushed word I’ve heard from God lately. It’s difficult for me to hear God over the humdrum of daily life, over the crying of an infant, the giggles of a toddler, or the aria of a singing thespian preschooler. But as I was reminded during my most recent meeting with my spiritual director, he’s always here, urging me to pay attention to what he has to say.
Since God often speaks in a whisper, I know it’s necessary to quiet myself, to occasionally seek solitude, and to get away from distractions in order to hear his voice. But that’s easier said than done when you’re the mom of a newborn, toddler, and preschooler (or a mom period), and you have a husband who works crazy hours. I’ve been trying to sneak in just 15 minutes of daily contemplative prayer, but I’m also trying to hear God’s whispers amidst the cacophony of my mothering life. And I realize he has been talking. Plenty. I’ve just been too dense or reluctant listen.
I once asked a close friend of mine who really seems to be able to discern the difference between what God is calling her to do and her own self-interests how she can tell when it’s God doing the talking. “Oftentimes, I know it’s God when I’m resistant to what’s being said,” she told me.
Based on her wisdom, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the “whispers” I’ve been hearing. Like the other night when my body ached with exhaustion and I found myself wondering how I could go on like this and I heard a voice telling me I wouldn’t be able to unless I resigned myself to sleep whenever I possibly could – even if that meant I got behind on housework or I couldn’t exercise, or I had to pop an extra educational DVD in, or give up blogging at least for a little while.
Then the other day I was nursing while clambering away at the keyboard and something (God?) made me wonder why I was so busy writing about my life instead of just living it. Just because I can type while nursing doesn’t mean I should. There’s a time and place for multitasking, but perhaps right now I ought to be devoting more time to singularly soaking up the sweetness of having a nursing infant close to me and then use the rare moment of quasi-solitude to say a prayer of thanksgiving for this quiet moment with my third baby.
Recently, my husband encouraged me to concentrate on “just” being a mom for now. “You don’t have to be anything else,” he said. “You being a wife and a mom are enough for us.”
I believe God was speaking to me once again, this time through my husband, telling me that for now enough is enough.
Why, then, do I keep turning a deaf ear to my husband and to God?
Because I am productive to a fault. Because I’ve always been a busy worker bee type who finds great satisfaction in doing, producing, working, and counting my successes when perhaps I should be counting my blessings. Yet as a mom, I have these three little bosses who insist that I work less (and sleep more). They’re not concerned at all with my doing – they only want my being, my presence – and a joyful, well-rested presence whenever possible – in their lives.
Tuesday night was another rough one and when morning came, I started crying, wondering how I was going to face another day. I knew it didn’t matter how tired I felt: My kids needed me to be “on.” A nap was unlikely. Then there were all my plans for the day. I wanted to work on a sample chapter that I promised a publisher months ago. I intended to write a few blog posts this week. I wanted to market an essay I’d written that was timely and needed to be sold sooner rather than later. I wanted to bake some goods for a volunteer effort I signed up to help with. I wanted to scrub the bathroom floors, organize the girls’ closets, squeeze in a quick workout, plant some flowers in our small plot of land, and work on Mary Elizabeth’s baby book. These were going to be my “small successes” for the day.
Yet, now as I reflect on my absurd to-do list (Earth to Kate: You have a 5-week-old baby!), I realize most of it doesn’t need to be done right now. Or even in the next few months.
What’s more, my friend’s wisdom keeps coming back to me: Maybe I keep resisting because I am afraid of what God is calling me to do. I’m afraid he is calling me to be “just” a mom. I’m afraid that if I listen to him and take a break from writing, editors will forget about me and find someone else to do the job. I’m afraid if I don’t exercise I’ll lose control of my weight (another issue altogether). I’m afraid if I don’t continue teaching my preschooler her phonics, she’ll never learn to read (ridiculous, I know). My pride tells me I have to keep forging ahead. I can’t ignore deadlines, dust bunnies, an overflowing email inbox, fitness regimens, my little corner of Cyberspace, or homeschool plans.
Meanwhile, God is telling me that if I don’t start resting in bed and in him, then I’m going to fall apart.
So I’m going to stop being so stubborn and start listening to God and others who are concerned about me. I’m going to recognize that my baby isn’t even 6 weeks old yet and that I have a lifetime to accomplish, to clean, to write, to read novels, to train for a 5K. I’m going to remember what my spiritual director told me when I wondered aloud how other moms seem to do it all, that everyone and everyone else’s circumstances are different.
“We don’t know their temperaments or their children’s temperaments. We don’t know if their spouses work more flexible hours and can take the night shift more than your husband is able to do so,” she said. “And we don’t know if they’re really doing it all or how they’re feeling.”
Last night my husband asked how I was doing. I said it’s been tough because I feel like I don’t have a life.
“But this is your life,” he gently reminded me.
He’s right: This is my life and even with all the sleepless nights, I wouldn’t want another life. I don’t even think it’s all the mothering tasks that are wearing me out. It’s trying to be more than a mom, to achieve successes outside the realm of caring for my children and my husband. It’s trying to nurse and type a great tome at the same time. Or attempting to bake a new recipe with a baby in a sling and two mini chefs on hand to help instead of just sticking with an old standby.
God wants me to be a mom and wife, not a Food Network-worthy chef or a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (though, if I want, I can certainly pursue these things all in good time. There’s a season for everything, right?). My husband wants the same. If that’s enough for them – the people I love the most – then why isn’t it enough for me?
It has to be. Right now I have to focus on getting through the day. This is the only success I’m counting this week: That I’ve recognized my priorities right now are sleeping and taking care of my family. That it’s about time I listen to God – whether he’s speaking in whispers or not – when he tells me enough is enough.
*My spiritual director encouraged me to take a week off from blogging (and to cut back on some other things, too). I’m going to follow her advice. Thus, I’ll be ignoring this little corner of Cyberspace until next Thursday (although I’ve already scheduled several rerun posts to appear). Until then…