Category Archives: contentment

compassion contentment faith joy marriage

Living the Dream

Shortly after my oldest child was born, I sat on the couch with my husband, Andy, after a particularly rough day, and said, “I just need you to acknowledge that my life is harder than yours.” He graciously conceded that it probably was. But in the years since that conversation, I began to feel that my assertion was a bit self-absorbed. As I watched my husband struggle every day to go to a job that he hated — spending so much of his life doing work that he couldn’t talk to me about and didn’t enjoy, surrounded by people who couldn’t understand why he wasn’t just thankful to be working, and feeling conflicted at home between spending time with his family and pursuing his true passion of music — I saw a heavy, dark cloud grow larger and larger over him. I realized that though my life as a stay-at-home mom of then 2 children was sometimes legitimately hard, my husband’s daily life was just as challenging. My days were filled with constantly tending to the needs of little people who whined and made messes and poked and hit each other, and pooped and spit up and screamed and asked the same questions over and over, and didn’t want to be put down for long enough for me to cook the food they were demanding. But at least they were little people I loved and enjoyed. I had little time to write or dance or socialize with other adults. But at least I knew that, however mundane my day to day tasks were, they were for an important purpose. Andy carried the heavy burden of trying to stifle his feelings of despair in the interest of providing for his family. He carried the guilt of feeling pulled toward spending time on his music, and feeling that he really should be spending time with his family.

So when I was with other women and we would talk, as we often do, about how hard it is to stay at home with our children, and how jealous we are of our husbands who get to go to work all day and be with grown-ups and have real conversations, and do jobs that they enjoy, I admit that I felt the tiniest bit of pride and self-importance that I had figured it out. That I was the one who really understood my husband and the struggles of his life.

But now that my husband has been a full-time musician for over a year, the resentment has begun to creep back in. I resent his days spent creating. I resent the time he gets to spend with friends and bandmates in practice and meetings and concerts. I am jealous of all the time he gets to spend alone. And even though I am so happy and thankful that the dark cloud is gone, I do sometimes resent that he is able to spend his days doing what he always dreamed of doing.vivpedals

But when I let myself wallow in this self-pitying attitude, I forget something. I forget that I, too, am living my dream. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a mommy. I’ve wanted to have lots of babies, and play with them and cook for them and teach them to read and write, and… find someone else to teach them math. I have found myself getting annoyed that my husband still sometimes gets discouraged or anxious or worn out because, after all, isn’t this what he chose? But the truth is, we are both living the lives we chose. It’s just that both of our dreams are more difficult and daily than we ever thought they would be.

When I sit in front of a blank page to write, I remember how hard it can be to force creativity, and Andy is doing that every day. In order to support us, he is having to work in a lot of different areas, some of which take a lot of time away from the music part of being a full-time musician. And then there is the added stress of having a significantly lower income. In coveting the apparent cushiness of my husband’s day to day life, and magnifying my own struggles, I failed to make room for his humanity.

Before I get to real point, I want to tell you what this blog is not about. It is not about wives and mothers and women in general stifling our feelings of frustration and loneliness. It is not about greeting our husbands in heels, with plastered-on smiles and cold beers and perfectly clean houses and gourmet dinners on the table no matter how emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausting our days were. And it is not about putting all other aspects of our personalities and passions aside just because we are women and our “place” is in the home. I believe that the place of a woman is wherever God has placed her and her passion, and this could be several different places over a lifetime. This is not about not pouring out your heart to God, and your husband, in the interest of feigning contentment.

Now that we have that out of the way, here’s what I really want to say. Stop keeping score with your husband. The fact is, you are playing different games, so the score will never be even. You will each have different stages of your life with varying degrees of challenge. The point is to love each other, see each other, and allow each other to be human.

Maybe having children wasn’t your dream. Maybe it was a surprise and something you never saw yourself doing. Maybe you are a stay at home mom, and you have a passion to have a career. Maybe you are a working mom who longs to stay home with her kids. Still, it is a gift. And maybe you are not even married, or married and are struggling to begin your family. I’m not saying that we should just get over whatever situation we are in and be happy. We are called to both “cast all our cares on Christ” and “bear one another’s burdens.” What I am saying is that we must open our eyes and choose to see the ways we are privileged — see the ways in which God is already handing us our dreams — and respond in gratitude. We must open our eyes and choose to see the ways in which others may be struggling and respond with grace. Because what we all really need is to be allowed to be human and broken sometimes. So let’s not let our perception of the “easy” lives of others, especially our husbands and those closest to us, stop us from making room for their humanity.

 

contentment Motherhood

Holding Messy Hands

photo My birthday was this month, and I received many sweet messages on my Facebook timeline wishing me a happy birthday. A lot of  people, knowing I’m a mother of three young children, said they hoped I could get some rest on my birthday. I appreciate this sentiment, and am always coveting rest and am thankful for those who provide it for me. But there was one message that stuck out. A woman I’ve known since I was 6 years old, and who has been an encouragement to me in Bible studies, words of wisdom, and sympathetic notes during the years, wrote something that really made me think. She wrote, “Happy birthday, Megan! I hope your day is full of beautiful music from your hubby, sticky hugs and slobbery kisses from your little people. And all sorts of other really good things.” Now, maybe she just meant, “enjoy your family today,” or something to that effect, but as I thought more about what she said, I found it to be another point in a lesson I feel God has been teaching me for a while. The lesson is this: while rest and recharging are good, helpful, and often needed (He even built it in to our week with a Sabbath), escape should not be the goal in our lives.

I often catch myself being preoccupied with getting a “break” from my life. I count the hours until nap and bedtime. Being a mother of young children can be tedious. You say the same things over and over, do the same things over and over. I sometimes feel like I’m busy all the time, yet to look at my house, it appears that I never get anything done. It is easy to get lost in the chaos and see my children as little creatures intent on keeping me from doing what I need to do (right now, for example, I’m fighting my eight-month-old for control of the keyboard). But in reality, my children are what I need to do. They are not obstacles distracting me from important things; they are the important things. Because the focus of our days becomes the focus of our lives, and the focus of my life is not supposed to be getting a moment to myself; it is not supposed to be making it to naptime so I can have a snack and not share it with anyone, or so I can jump in the shower. And my focus is certainly not supposed to be getting a second to check Facebook for the twentieth time. The focus of my life is supposed to be Christ — obeying Him, and loving Him through loving my little ones. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and right now two of my little neighbors are sleeping in the rooms across the hall, and one is scooting around on my bedroom floor. I know the command to love others goes far beyond our own little families, but it certainly starts with the people I’ve been blessed to spend my days with.

I’m not trying to deny the difficulty of parenthood. Tantrums and disobedience and pee on the floor are hard. I want to get away and escape from these things. But I find that if I’m fully present in the life and tasks I’ve been given, I can find peace and even joy in the midst of the chaos. If I remember to put the two year old on the potty at regular intervals, she doesn’t have as many accidents; if I don’t bring my phone to the table at lunch, I’m more able to patiently engage with the kids, whether it’s reminding the three year old to keep taking bites, or answering his creative questions.

And I’m not trying to deny the importance of resting and taking breaks, either. I think often the reason I have a hard time being present and joyful in my everyday tasks is because I don’t allow myself built in times of rest. If I know that I’ll soon be able to have time to read or write or spend time with my husband alone, I will be more able to focus my attention on what is in front of me in the moment. God knows we need rest. He knows we need regular times of Sabbath. I think the reason we are often frustrated is because we are not intentional about observing the rest that He has built in to our lives. And I don’t think our Sabbath always has to be Sunday, because as any mother of very young children knows, Sunday can be the most exhausting day of the week.

But the point is that this time of my life is about caring for and training my children, not trying to get away from them. Because I cannot escape only the unpleasant parts of my life. If I’m constantly focused on getting away from the tedium and the dishes and the laundry and the whining, I’m not going to recognize the blessings either. I will only see Vivian’s sticky hands coming toward my clean pants, and will miss the sweet, voluntary affection of my daughter. I will only hear Marshall’s whiney voice pleading with me to hold him while I’m trying to make breakfast, and won’t savor these short years when I’m still able to pick him up and squeeze him for just a couple minutes. And though sometimes it feels frustrating to sit in the messy living room and read the same books over and over, while trying to keep the kids from pestering each other, I know that someday soon we won’t have hours for reading stories. There will be schoolwork to do and activities to get to. So I will try to savor and celebrate these long hours before naptime when all the kids have to do is read and play. In my twenty-eighth year, instead of being focused on celebrating myself and trying to get a break, I’ll try to celebrate the blessings of “sticky hugs and slobbery kisses.”