A couple days ago, I heard a young mother talking to another young mother.
Mom A works full-time outside the home, in addition to prolific writing . She is the mother of three, one of them still an infant. She sounded very happy, energetic, and fulfilled, saying she has time for herself and the personal passions that feed her soul.
“How do you find such time and fulfillment?” queried Mom B.
Up perked my own ears.
Mom A shared she gets up at 4:00 a.m. to make sure she gets space for herself. She also finds pockets of time throughout the day to accomplish what she really desires.
She then went on to describe a recent conversation with another friend. The friend struggled to find time in her day for reading a book, cultivating a hobby, and all-around self care.
“I told her,” Mom A said, “If I can do it, you can do it.”
I know Mom A meant those words as empowerment and inspiration. That she wanted to encourage her friend to believe time for herself was possible.
And I also know self-care is absolutely critical – that God wants the love we pour into the people around us, both little and big, to also flow (not trickle) to our own needs.
What made me cringe was the assumption that just because one person can and does accomplish what she or he does, then others can.
Then others should.
I can’t count the number of times this thinking’s driven me to near suffocation. It’s become even more harrowing the last two months since I left my job as a pastor to stay home full-time with our daughter. Shouldn’t that mean I have even more time to be the *best mom ever*? I see what others (particularly women similar to myself) are doing and being and I push myself into a hole with two questions:
1.) “How are they doing all that?”
2.) “What’s wrong with me?!”
I dwell in my little den of despair, automatically assuming I am somehow “less-than.” I then open my laptop, which I conveniently brought into the hole with me, and decide to dig the hole a bit deeper with Pinterest and Facebook. I see the houses remodeled, gourmet recipes cooked, bodies toned, birthday balls hosted, books read (and written!), awards received, you fill-in-the-blank, and I start to wonder if I’m a total shmuck.
I become ungrateful, thinking what I am, have, and do is not enough.
I feel resentful, believing if only I didn’t have all *this* to do then I could do or be *that.*
I believe others are the template and touchstone for my own calling.
Guilt and shame hover, one on each shoulder, saying that if I maximized, was more efficient, and had stronger drive or discipline, then I could be that way too. Because surely, if they can do it, then I can. And should.
Welcome to my sin. From where and why do I think I am supposed to be that way or do that much? That just because someone else accomplished ten things today, my two were not enough?
I’m certainly not using God’s Spirit or Word as my touchstone while dwelling in the confines of that hole. If I were, I’d realize again and again how I am enough in God’s eyes and God’s graciousness is beyond understanding. That God never asked me to keep all the balls in the air, looking terrific while doing it. Maybe other people do. Hooray for them. They are God’s children too.
Instead, God’s given me my own little piece of earth to till and nurture, and I have just the tools and time I need for my plot. God lovingly and patiently never gives up on me and my need for daily growth,. I trust, however, that somehow, even now, I’m the mom, spouse, pastor, person my family needs. God’s Spirit makes who I am enough, even as that same Spirit continues to refine and redeem.
If only I could accept what God has already accepted. What God has even called “good.”[i] Such grace interrupts my prideful pillory and lets me breathe again. This truth lifts me out of the hole
Acting justly, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God….[ii] It’s enough. That will look different in each person’s life. It should. And by God’s grace, that’s the only “should” I’m claiming today.
i Genesis 1:31 NRSV
ii Micah 6:8 NRSV
Rev. Arianne Braithwaite Lehn is a mother, one half of a clergy couple, writer, and ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (USA). She blogs at www.ariannebraithwaitelehn.com.
[i] Genesis 1:31 NRSV
[ii] Micah 6:8 NRSV