We live on the fringes of a small town. While there is a field and a barn in the not-too-far distance behind our house, we are still within the city confines. And we have neighbors that are literally next door and not miles down a gravel path.
We also have a 70+ pound mutt named Ruger - a mix between a black lab and a dust mop, according to our veterinarian. This morning as I crawled up to the counter to read my Bible and sip on my too hot green tea (when will I learn how powerful my microwave is?!), I looked out onto the deck and there was our big, dusty dog.
And he looked completely forlorn.
For the past few nights, he's been going wild with the barking. He barks at the neighbors who take their daily walks, runs or bicycle rides. He barks at the cats he can't get to. He barks just to bark.
And when he gets into that phase, we have to put the bark collar back on him. It's always a struggle, because he knows what we're up to. He just does. But because we want our neighbors to continue to like us, we have to keep our dog at a respectable level of quiet - and sometimes that
means we have to discourage him from barking.
For the past few days (and maybe longer) I've been thinking about life changes. I spent a decade doing various jobs within an office setting. Dressing up. Wearing make-up and heels on a daily basis. And now? Well, I'm currently barefoot, wearing stretchy pants and an old t-shirt, if that tells you anything. My life has definitely changed. And I have changed in it.
I feel incredibly blessed to not only be home with my son, but simply for the fact that I have my son. We love him so much and can't imagine what we did or what we were thinking before we had him. He's so precious and smiley and adorable. I can't stop kissing him. I am addicted. Many of my close friends are also giving up a career outside the home to devote themselves entirely to the management and care of their family. I don't think I need to tell anyone that it is a lot of work.
One of my girlfriends recently had her baby and she told me that she was, in a small sense, grieving the loss of her "other life". I think that's normal and I also think it's because when you are consumed with sustaining a tiny life outside of your body, you suddenly see all of your dreams and desires wash away. Not only did you gain weight in nine months and are expected to lose it in two weeks, but you can't do much of what you did before. For instance, I used to play the piano all the time. All the time. I've been doing that since I was about four years old. And now I don't even touch the keys once a week. That was my passion! My gift! But now it's all dusty and my fingers feel a bit foreign and lost when I do find the time and the motivation to sit down and play something. Ah, sacrifice. And for humor's sake, the last time I sat down to play and sing, with Little Man in his bouncy seat next to me... he cried. Like... a lot.
I think it's easy to think that once you reach motherhood that your life is pretty much shot for the next eighteen years. And in some ways, it is, I'm not going to lie. There are certain things that you simply can't do if you are sincere about mothering and parenting. I fully believe that you need to continually become the person God has designed you to be, but if that is at the cost of your family or your role as a parent, then I question it. There are many things that I can do and ways that my loves and passions and gifts are still valuable and even needed in these days... they just express themselves in different ways.
I don't think we should stop doing simply because we gave birth. I don't mean just keeping up on the laundry and grocery list and maintaining a floor clean enough to eat off of (who even does that?) I mean, you don't have to give up you. Who you are at your core, who God has designed you to be, with all of your uniqueities (yes, I just made that up) and charms and mad skills, that is still viable. Just because you had a baby doesn't mean you have to stop being a dreamer. Just because you had a baby doesn't mean you can't keep running marathons. Just because you had a baby doesn't mean you aren't still gifted in other areas other than lightening fast diaper changes and knowing your child's needs before they voice them.
Being a mother can sometimes feel like you're wearing a bark collar. That you are prevented from going outside of your yard, first off and secondly, that you can't really voice what you want to voice. You can't make happen what you want to make happen because there is this great big responsibility hanging over your head and resting in your arms. And they have needs and wants and it's your job to provide, 24/7. I can't just go off and practice the piano for hours, but that doesn't mean I can't still play.
Don't let being a mother choke out you. Some people define themselves by their children - their gifts, their talents, their uniqueities (there it is, again)... don't do that. You are you, created by God, to do a work, to be a blessing, to be like Christ. While it may not feel like it, you are separate from your babies. While raising children and loving a husband may be your primary focus right now, it doesn't mean that you don't have a bark anymore. It's altered, maybe, probably, but it is not gone.
By the grace of God you are who you are. Don't think that that's wasted, now that you have experienced the miracle of life. And don't be idle in your days, I know it is easy enough to do. But if you are feeling bad about what was, doing nothing is definitely not going to help. Do something. I saw a quote the other day that said, "Live what you love." Yes. That. Do that.
The constant demand and challenge to get up when you don't feel like it and be patient when you want to be selfish and to be creative and dreamy, to sing songs and tell stories and to embrace life, so that your child grows up to be infectious and enamored with the world that God has created, inside and out of himself... it's huge. You're not "just" a stay-at-home-mom. You stay home with your child and raise them, but there is no "just" about it. It's huge. It's the biggest thing you've ever done. It demands more of you than anything you've tried before. You love what you love for a reason, for a purpose.
There may be days when you have to set it aside to attend to more pressing needs... but don't lose heart, and if anything, check out the blessings around you and that little person who looks like you and looks like him. This may be a tough time and a seemingly long road of dying to self and sacrifice. But there is a purpose in it. Something weighty and good and bigger than you. And that's really what you want. That's what you dreamed about and hoped for. To do something that really matters. Well. Here it is. Every day.
Now, please excuse me. Someone wants mushed up sweet potatoes and corn.
"We are not to be idle, for that would show
that we do not trust in God,
who continually works, but in the devil,
who is the father of idleness."
~ Charles Spurgeon