Enough {Truly Embracing Motherhood}

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I attended a wedding this weekend. It was beautiful. The ceremony was short but so very sweet, colors were superb, and the coordination discreet but obviously working like a well-oiled machine. I love weddings.

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The Bride glowed in the way all brides should: the gleam of health and happiness, the beauty of a woman in love. She and her sweet bridesmaids around her shone with the vitality, excitement, and beauty that is common to all of us in that time of life. As I watched with a smile I found within myself that quiet little tinge of something I didn’t think I liked.

It wasn’t jealousy – no, nothing nearly that ugly. But it was a nagging, consistent, chiding voice that continued to question me right through the days following the celebration: Are you still enough? 

When All You Are Is Not Enough

I’ve given birth to three beautiful children and am halfway through my pregnancy with our fourth. This week my husband and I will have been married 9 years, yet, through the chaos and exhaustion of our everyday life right now, it might as well be 25.

We are happy. We are in love. Our children are precious and we adore them {most of the time..}. We have a perfect life and I have no regrets; I told myself this again and again as the voice continued to press, But I didn’t say are you happy. I asked if you were still enough? 

I lived the ultimate life for someone in my position. I got married when I was young and beautiful to my handsome Prince Charming; there is nothing but warmth in my heart as I look back at how we began this life together.

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We’ve settled into a routine for sure, but our lives are still exciting and adventurous {at least as long as we’re in bed by 9pm}; we are content, happy, joyful, albeit usually overtired, parents of young children. I will have 4 babies of my own before I turn 31, an accomplishment I never set out to achieve, but am still quite proud of. And yet… Is it enough?

Having babies can change a lot of things about your body that you didn’t expect. My size isn’t the same as it was 9 years ago {not even my shoe size… I still don’t understand how that works}.

But more importantly, my lifestyle isn’t the same. My days consist of being woken between 3-4am by a cranky, poorly sleep-trained baby. I doze on and off for another hour or so until our nearly 4 year old comes crashing in to announce the arrival of the day.

We rush through breakfast, feedings, dressing, teeth brushings, and other miscellaneous activities {not the least of which is wiping my fair share of baby bums}, and then our day has begun.

As a homeschool mom, it is my privilege to teach my children at home, but as many other homeschool moms would also say, we would be lying if we never admitted there are days sending half your offspring away for 6 hours would do wonders for your personal life.

By nap time the challenge is getting all the napping participants asleep at the same time, for at least 60 consecutive minutes: just enough time to clean up from lunch, prepare for dinner and- if you’re lucky, sit for a moment or two without a child climbing on you.

Then we’re on to dinner, bath time and bed, followed by another nightly cleanup, which most likely includes taking care of one or two of the loads of laundry that found their way onto my bed throughout the day.

‘Falling in to bed’ was most definitely a phrase that was invented by a mom or for a mom, and yet, at least for these early years, I find my days flying by without having invested any time in me: my goals, my passions, my hobbies – these things tend to take a backseat.

Even as I type this I am faced with indulging myself here or rescuing the fussy baby in the crib.

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Am I Enough?

Embracing motherhood. It’s a transition I’ve been resisting for years; not quite sure if I want to emulate something that may or may not classify me as outdated, irrelevant; an afterthought. 

We moms are very good at telling ourselves and each other not to stress over the meaningless things in life: dinner does not have to be a perfectly balanced display of culinary talent and whole food nutrition every night.

Your mothering skills are not wrapped up in the state of your child’s mismatched socks. Your floors do not always have to be clean; your windows can go without being washed.

Take a load off, mom, and stop putting all this pressure on yourself. You are a good mom: you are enough.

Yet, when the voice began harassing me it was not my skill as a mother that was in question. Not even my contribution to my marriage or my value as a wife. It was me, stripped-down, laid bare, with nothing to hide behind me; the me that felt validated and valuable as a bride on my wedding day, not because of what I had done but because of who I was: I was a bride.

Me. Am I, now in the throes of chaotic, rough-around-the-edges motherhood, enough?

My body isn’t the only thing that’s changed; my personality has been altered as well. I used to be most at home among my friends as the life of the party. I had dreams, aspirations, ambitions, and goals and I actively drove myself toward them.

I had spunk in my step – I was energetic and exciting. One might have even called me charming. Now? I do my best to be nice in public while working nonstop as a full-time zookeeper who’s animals have all gotten out of their cages.

I still laugh but not as much. I still enjoy life, but not the way I used to as I enjoy it in different ways. I enjoy things I never thought I would like silence and sleep.

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I still take pride in my appearance when I’m out of the house, but let’s be honest, there’s not as much to work with these days as there used to be, plus, I’m not out of the house very often. I have come to see how, by my own definition, I have started to fall apart.

It is easy to look at someone like me, smack-dab in the middle of their early years of motherhood, and reassure them that it’s only a season. “You’ll get it back”, “This won’t last forever”, “In just a few years your life will be back to normal”.

Their intentions are the best, I’m sure – but what they don’t realize is every reassurance that this won’t last forever just underscores my own insecurity in who I am today. I don’t need to know that I’ll be enough in 10 years when my kids are all in high school.

I need to know that I’m enough now.

Embracing motherhood. It’s a painful process, much like the labor that initiated our journey as moms. Embracing a state of existence, a phase of life, that many of us associate with negative connotations, either because of our past experiences or the picture that is painted by our society in contrast.

We celebrate other transitions in life: when you’re an awkward adolescent that finally blossoms into maturity, society celebrates your young beauty and potential. When you take the leap and graduate from a girlfriend to a wife, society celebrates the romance of your journey.

But when you transition from being a woman to a mother, most celebrate the baby, obviously a blessing and worth celebrating, but often times the mother is overlooked. What then?

Do we somehow revert to being our previous selves before the baby? Or do we find a new identity? Most opt for the latter, which usually results in uncertainty and insecurity, as this is a new phase that is, for the most part, uncelebrated, unglamorous, and extremely difficult.

Most moms feel unnoticed and alone. This simply should not be.

I don’t want to have to wonder if my granny underwear and early bedtime are keeping me from being enough. I want to fully embrace the stage of life I am in, albeit perhaps not the most glamorous one, without feeling like the old iPhone every time I’m around sweet girls in their prime.

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Our culture is very good at exulting the glories of woman, as long as it’s done on their terms. You can be a full-time stay at home or working mom that exemplifies the beauties of motherhood as long as you’ve lost all your baby weight and your house looks like a Pinterest pin.

Even if we don’t agree with it, we often find ourselves endorsing this view by highlighting our fellow mom’s victories in the non-mom areas. We shower our praise on the mom who manages to make time for herself to workout three times a week, the mom who has decided to continue her education, the mom who is enduring the workplace while also raising her babies.

Please don’t misunderstand: these are all admirable accomplishments that any mom should be proud of. But the absence of such accomplishments should not keep an ordinary mom from enough-ness.

In Ephesians 1, God gives us a detailed list of how he sees his children. It is my prayer that one day I will not only have the strength to choose to believe these are true, but fully envelop them into my belief system.

There is no education requirement, no place to list your resume or your jean size. The only requirement for this list to apply is, simply put, being alive:

I am blessed.
I am chosen.
I am loved.
I am adopted.
I am redeemed.
I am forgiven.

I am enough.

Embracing motherhood. The evolution of girl to woman was painful but exciting with the promise of new, wonderful experiences and the fulfillment of a lifetime of hopes and dreams.

Unfortunately, whether by our own doing or the natural decay of society, motherhood has become the opposite. We dream of holding our babies in our arms, but dread the inevitable spiral from our former state and feel the pressure to strive to continue the facade.

Why do we feel such a deep need to prove we haven’t changed, when in fact, those changes have been a necessary and beautiful requirement to bringing new life into the world?

Raising children should never be considered a less than ideal occupation. It should be the dream job; held in the highest esteem for those who find themselves rising to the very high bar of parenthood. 

As I look over the past ten years, I can see the evolution of myself transforming from a girl in a woman’s body to a wife, to a mother, to a woman. These experiences have not detracted from my womanhood, they have created it.

Becoming a mother has not detracted from my womanhood, it has created it.

Without the long nights, the endless days, the struggling to keep my head above water moments; reconciling the sharp realization that I am no longer one of those young pretty girls – I would not be the woman I am today.

I believe there is a special place in God’s heart for young mothers. Not only because they raise the future, but because he understands it is a unique calling. Leaving the life of a singleminded woman behind, free to pursue her dreams and ambitions, to instead turn her full attention for the rest of her life on the dreams and ambitions of her children.

Whether it is soothing the baby who refuses to rest, or comforting a child’s broken heart as they slowly become accustomed to the harsh realities of this world, mothers exhibit selfless love at all times.

By putting their lives on hold in the early years, they prove just to what extent their love is willing to go to. Again, don’t misunderstand, any mom who finds the time and ability to pursue additional things while raising children has earned my praise and admiration.

But I think it should be said again, that those of us who find ourselves sinking into what feels like a bottomless abyss of exhaustion and survival mode, need to know we have not missed the mark. We have not ‘let ourselves go’.

We have just chosen to emphasize yet another aspect of Woman. There is no house too messy, no meal too unhealthy, no mom too unkempt if it is done in love.

You, perhaps the glowing bride of years ago, are a beautiful example of womanhood. You  shine with the glory of your chosen path, and your children – no matter how many or how rowdy – are living proof of your love and devotion.

You are womanhood. You are motherhood. You are enough.

Now go embrace your journey!

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3 thoughts on “Enough {Truly Embracing Motherhood}

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