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.