“Honey, I hope you’ll be able to be a whole person yourself—not lean on me for your total identity. I want you to always be able to have a life of your own.” My husband Woody said this to me years ago as he reflected on a particular patient who seemed unable to function independently years after her husband died. Woody meant well. He really did. Nevertheless . . .
“I want you always to be able to have a life of your own.” The words exploded in my brain, and I’ve never forgotten them. This conversation occurred during the living-at-the-end-of-a-dead-end-street-with-three-children-five-and-under-and-my-husband-never-home era of my life. Woody was just getting a new medical practice off the ground, and was working day and night. I could not even imagine having a “life of my own.” Just when would that occur? Perhaps between the hours of 3am and 5 am, when often—but not always—all three kids were asleep and Woody was often—but not always—home to stay with them? Not the greatest time to go for a run, take a class, or meet a friend for coffee.
All those long-ago feelings came back to me a few weeks ago when a young Texas mom asked me, “Do you think a woman begins to resent her husband and children if her whole life is devoted to them and she has nothing in her life just for her?” A really good question! I’m still thinking about it, in fact.
There’s no easy answer. And there’s no answer any of us moms can give for someone else. We’re all wired differently, and our life circumstances and family lifestyles vary greatly. But here are a few reflections from my mama-heart:
- To be a good mother, you must first be a person yourself. A whole person. We repeat this often at Mom to Mom. Being whole, healthy women of God means we must be nurtured physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually in order to nurture others. It’s a little like breast-feeding, come to think of it.
- Motherhood is an extremely sacrificial role. We give up a lot for our kids—and our husband, as well. But it requires balance. Someone said it long ago: If we constantly bend over backwards for our families, we tend to lose our balance.
- Each of us finds ways to maintain our balance, and those ways differ from person to person. For me, it meant that no matter how hard it was to make it happen, I managed to attend a Bible Study (with childcare at our church), go for a 30-minute run now and then (when I could get an after-school babysitter), and attend a Book Club once a month (Woody had one night off a week and I read the books during nap time or in the occasional evening when I could keep my eyes open).
- Keeping our balance as moms requires hard, clear thinking about priorities. I wanted to live without huge regrets. In my case, this meant that I chose not to return to my career (teaching) because the demands of the position would have negatively impacted my family. This was a very personal decision, and I realize that many moms do not have choices about working outside the home. But where it was a choice for me, I wanted to make a choice I would not later regret.
- There are many seasons in a mom’s life. Though I walked away from one career opportunity, I was able to say a joyful “yes” later on to another—more teaching in my church, and eventually to the great adventure of beginning Mom to Mom. It’s important to remember that though your days may feel like “forever” right now, there will be other days ahead, including potentially much more freedom in your choices.
It’s a wild ride being a mom, isn’t it? A wild, wonderful ride! And a precarious balancing act. Keeping my balance kept me on my knees. As with everything else, attitude is everything and prayer is the main event.
How do you keep your balance? Please share your thoughts—we’d love to hear from you.