Ask any mom and she’ll gush about the joy of motherhood. It’s true; watching a creation you love more than the air you breathe is wonderful, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t left breathless in the journey. It’s like the wind can be sucked from your sails, leaving you out of air, and also drunk dry of joy. It’s a most peculiar thing. Something you adore so much, something you’d give your life for, it is the very thing that saps your energy, makes you feel like an utter failure, and it ends up making the gift of motherhood exhausting rather than the joy-filled experience it is meant to be. Is this something we can take back?
I can recall a summer afternoon with my daughters setting up a small, inflatable pool on our patio. Every summer I went through the same frustrating experience of blowing up a plastic kiddie pool that would be discarded in a few, short months. I would wipe sweat from my brow while dragging the dead weight of folded vinyl across a land-mine-laden yard of fire ant mounds, all the while my children asking was it ready yet.
This particular year I had gotten a model that had built in sprinklers to splash on the preschool-appropriate slide compartment, and all it took to make the water park fun begin after inflation was the connecting of a simple water hose. After my hard work, I attached our hose, and we all watched in anticipation for the sprays to cascade. Yet to our dismay they barely sputtered more than a dollar store water gun, and the result looked nothing like the picture on the box. After ensuring the water was turned up all the way, I succumbed to the actuality that a weak water wall we would have.
The girls had fun regardless, and after a couple of hours, I began corralling them to come inside for supper. As I went to turn off the water I saw something I had not before. It seems the hose was kinked up alongside a paver stone, and after I freed it of its entanglement, the water leapt with purpose high into the air.
I’ve come to learn that we can be a lot like that hose, especially as moms. The joy is there, God-given, but the flow gets pinched off unaware. Or more often than not it gets crowded out. It gets the oxygen sucked out of it from all the competition. The things that compete for our joy. The things we think will bring us joy. The things we think we must do to usher in joy.
Like an overcrowded garden we plant too much in our lives, and we can’t grow. We can’t thrive in that flow of joy that doesn’t need our help making it happen. It just is.
We over-schedule our days. I can think of so many times I tried to pack too much into a day with my children. I planned fun, and in my over-planning, I sucked the joy right out of it.
We think we must do certain things to be a good mom, to be a fun mom, to ensure our children have the best life possible. Maybe we work overtime outside of the home, or perhaps we work night and day for a small business to give them a better financial future and provision. Yet all they want is our time. Not name-brands, not the top toys. We just think we must provide these things to make them happy.
We want well-balanced children. So we enroll them in classes, clubs, and all sorts of extracurriculars. I’ve been there. Rushing to dance class, soccer games, and gymnastics. Buying presents for birthday parties, planning birthday parties. Gotta find the best venue, best cake baker, and best party favors. Everything is always about being the best. Picture perfect, if you will. But how can life ever measure up to the unrealistic expectations we set? It won’t.
We volunteer. Volunteer our children, our home, and our time. We over-schedule the entire family, we over-commit our time, the time that we don’t have, and we make ourselves bitter and short-tempered. We do it all for our children, but are we really doing it for ourselves? So we feel like we’re doing a good job?
We get these false ideas of who we must be. We must bake like Betty Crocker, carry ourselves like Kate Middleton, and be a Godly influence just like Lysa TerKeurst. But even Lysa would tell us that’s silly. You see, we get in this unintentional comparison game wishing we were more like the next lady, the lady who gets it so much better than we do. So we try harder to be a better wife, better mom, and better friend.
We plan Bible Study night, play dates, and Facebook parties for our latest MLM. We create more fun for our children. We plan days of fun! As if fun needs our help to happen. We go to the park, playground, and paint parties. We rush, rush, rush. We hurry to fit in more fun, and we grow angry with our rushed schedule which we ourselves created.
In all honesty, these things are wonderful. Who doesn’t want a trip to the Pumpkin Patch this fall, creative, homemade and matching Halloween costumes for the whole family, and the perfect autumn craft that utilizes handprints and finger paint? There just may come a time where you realize you’re not having as much fun as you thought. You come up with all these well-meaning plans, make the multiple shopping trips to provide the needed supplies, carve a notch in an already overloaded day, and when it’s all over and done with you’re sighing a pent-up breath of relief, pining for children’s bedtime and a glass of wine. That’s not life! What good is fun that ends up not being fun? Fun that you’re relieved when it’s over?
And then comes the guilt.
Why did I yell so much?
Why can’t I be more patient?
Why am I always so angry?!
I wish I could be a better mother.
I can tell you this. There’s no joy in regret, there’s no rewind button, and a guilt trip is a tough place to climb out of and return home from.
I believe the joy of motherhood is like a hose straight from Heaven. We don’t mean to, but in our striving to create joy we actually kink off the flow that’s already there. We create hurried, harried schedules, we overextend and exhaust ourselves, and then we beat ourselves up about it. Motherhood is a blessing anyway, but imagine what it could be if we let it be.
This morning the lyrics of a United Pursuit song spoke to my heart. I already knew I was writing this post. The words to the song hammered it home.
You’re full of life now
And full of passion
That’s how He made you
Just let it happen
Perhaps we can find our joy by just being still. Perhaps the key to taking back motherhood is to stop trying so hard and just enjoy the ride. Just let it happen. Just soak in the beauty of what’s already there. Being a parent is hard enough as it is without believing the lie that we must do it a certain way. We don’t have to dress the part, act the part, or whatever else.
Carryout is cool, taking a timeout for a quiet night home is pristine. We don’t need ideas from Pinterest or to emulate Karen down the street. We just need to be. We just need to let the joy of motherhood happen. We need to move the mess that’s kinking our hose and take back the joy we’ve been missing. It’s there. We’ve just been too distracted and busy to see it.