Spiritual Sundays: Be More Instead Of Do More

Photo submitted by Teralee Malouf

Editor’s Note:The Power of Moms is a website for mothers of all religions (and for mothers who are not necessarily religious). Each Sunday, we post a spiritual essay, and we would love to gather a wide variety of perspectives and ideas.Our goal is to be respectful of all beliefs while simultaneously offering opportunities to share meaningful, spiritual thoughts with one another.

My vision of myself as a mother before I became one was vastly different from my current reality. Before I got married, I graduated from college and had a thrilling job. I traveled frequently. Every weekend was a different adventure—hiking, road-tripping, competing in a race, and enjoying the companionship of many friends with similar interests. I had the time and means to do anything my heart desired. Why would things ever be different?

When I decided to marry my husband, I just knew that marriage would be all of the same adventures amplified. My husband shared my love of adventure, travel, culture, the outdoors, and athletic competition. Envisioning parenthood with him was easy—we would hike with our kids, travel with our kids, go camping with our kids—I just knew we could work together and make it all happen. I loved my job—I could keep working and he’d help with the parenting and home management while I worked, and I’d do the same while he worked. I would still train and do races—with my husband and kids cheering me on. It was quite a vision!

And then reality hit. My husband started medical school a few months after our first baby was born. He should have been accepted to the local university, enabling me to keep my fantastic job. Instead, we had to move to a different state for his education and I had to quit working—and the student loans began piling up. Medical school was more time consuming and difficult than either of us anticipated. I was responsible for ALL the parenting and home management and there was no time for me to work. There was also no time or money for travel, camping, or athletic competition. Our baby was a happy girl when she had her Mami to herself, but she didn’t do well with other people. Leaving her with a babysitter wasn’t an option and as much as I wanted to work, it just wasn’t possible.

Simply going for a run became a lot more challenging than it had been before. Instead of merely mustering up the self-motivation to get out the door, I suddenly had to coordinate my own motivation, a good night’s sleep, my baby’s feeding schedule, her nap time, and pumping right beforehand so I wasn’t engorged. That was certainly  different from what I had envisioned!

Things only got more complicated with our second and third babies (born 1 ½ and 3 years later). I never imagined it would be so complicated to coordinate the needs of these three sweet babies just to go for a run! How about a half-day outing? Or a camping trip? Or a trip to another country? I discovered that things became infinitely more complicated when I had to consider my little people’s nap times, feeding schedules, and temperaments.

At first it was a bit disheartening to hear other moms talk about their babies: “Oh, he just sits in the swing for hours,” or “She goes to sleep at 7 p.m. and sleeps all night,” or “I’m able to work from home just fine while my baby entertains herself….” I wondered why my babies weren’t like that. Being a very independent person myself, I was certain that I would have independent kids. Not so! I haven’t given birth to a good sleeper yet (in the first few months, I’m lucky to get them to sleep 6 hours out of 24). They don’t learn to self-entertain for a long time. All three of my kids want ME, and they want all of me all the time.

The combination of my husband being unavailable most of the time and my kids needing me all of the time has challenged me in many ways. While my husband focused on medical school, I had a burning desire to DO so many things, but often the only thing I was ABLE to do was hold down the fort and keep my babies happy. It felt so unambitious to only do that–my reality was a perpetual survival mode for the entire four years of medical school.

Why were things this way? I believe it’s partly because God wanted me to learn patience with myself and with circumstances beyond my control. I learned to just be thrilled about the little things I could do instead of fretting over what I couldn’t do.

Have I sometimes felt suppressed by my circumstances? Absolutely! It is not easy to desire to do so much but be able to do so little. Of course I am still eager to travel and compete in races and work outside the home—and I do these things when I am able, but my circumstances do not allow me to have everything all the time. I have learned patience in my particular situation.

Perhaps the lessons that teach us patience come in the form of a debilitating illness, a child with special needs, difficulty getting out of debt, a wayward child, infertility, or divorce. Most of us experiencing anything like this would inwardly wail, “I could DO more if only…” The subtle lesson that I have learned, though, is that God wants me to BE more, and that’s why He’s teaching me patience.

QUESTION: What particular circumstances have taught you patience?

CHALLENGE: When you are feeling suppressed or stifled by your circumstances, try to think less about what you should be DOING and more about what you are BECOMING.

 

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Comments

  1. Eva Barnett says

    It’s amazing how people in completely circumstances can be learning the same lessons of patience. My father is terminally ill and is now confined to a wheel chair, unable to speak easily or clearly and needs help with the most basic functions. He is only 51 years old. When I’ve felt limited by my stay-at-home-mommy situation and fragile financial circumstances, he has shared the same patient, incredible attitude you have: Focus on what you CAN do and become, not what you can’t. By focusing on what he CAN do he has accomplished family history and geneology while sitting at his computer and written biographies about both his parents. He has sent me encouraging emails. He’s become an inspiration to our family and friends. It’s amazing what we can become if we are patient with God’s plan for us.

  2. rgrc says

    Thank you, I have debilitating back pain and a 7 month old, I was lying down resting my back feeling like all the things I need to and want to do cannot be done, I needed this article right now.

  3. Lidya says

    This is going to help me thru my day. Thank you. I AM BECOMING what God wants me to be at this moment in my life as a SAHM of 4. Professional Home Manager :D

  4. Teralee Malouf says

    Thanks for your comments, ladies. I’m sure I will always struggle with that unquenchable desire to just DO SOMETHING. It’s an easier way to measure progress, for me anyway. It’s so hard to say, “I’ve accomplished so much because now I’m more kind, more delightful, and more patient than I used to be.” But I can do hard things! :>)

  5. triplehaz says

    I love how you said BE more instead of DO more. I have really thought a lot about this lately. I was listening to a podcast yesterday and learned a valuable lesson. Our “to do” list can be put into 3 categories: Essential things, Necessary things, and Nice to do things. And while the nice to do things are necessary to bring variety & joy into our lives, they are often the things that bring us the most guilt. Either because we aren’t getting to them, or we are neglecting the essential/necessary things in order to get to those tasks. And we are not giving ourselves credit for the everyday things that we are doing for our families. They are essential to our family’s happiness & well being. I hope that I can remember that on those mundane days full of routine tasks; and BE happy in BEING that wife and mother to my family. Because without me, they can’t BE who they are!

  6. Laura says

    I am a homeschooling stay-at-home-mom. It is much like it was when I had babies and preschoolers. My time is not mine, I am constantly on-call for grading, testing, helping, motivating, etc. Always before me, it seems, is a calendar and an endless list of ‘to dos.’

    Just yesterday I made a small change of how I used 20 minutes of my day. When my 2nd and 7th graders were doing independent work, instead of resting, I went to my craft room and made something I’d been planning in my mind for days. I was relaxed and contented the rest of the day, more so, I believe, than I would have been with merely a few moments of ‘down time.’ I liked the feeling. Not so much a checking something off of a to do item, but a conclusion to an idea. Very satisfying.

  7. says

    Being a mom has taught me alot of patience AND compassion for other mothers. It’s insanity what we do alone! I am trying to advance a mom agenda so we work together better. It’s certainly not easy and I relate to your story very much. Except I only had one that was not a good sleeper. He’s 4 and I am finally thinking about another one :)

  8. suet bird says

    This article totally hit home with me. I have similar circumstances (physician husband) and gave up my own career to raise my kids, while I’ve my friends from business school launch and ramp up their careers. Has been difficult at times for me to think about what “could have been” and I am constantly trying to refocus my thoughts on what is and the beauty of what I have become. Thank you!

  9. suet bird says

    This article totally hit home with me. I have similar circumstances (physician husband) and gave up my own career to raise my kids, while I’ve watched my friends from business school launch and ramp up their careers. Has been difficult at times for me to think about what “could have been” and I am constantly trying to refocus my thoughts on what is and the beauty of what I have become. Thank you!

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