John and I keep asking how we’ll ever have another child because Grant has been such a sweet, content baby and what next baby could compete with that? Grant has been a joy to parent and has naturally taken to a schedule (good thing, since John and I are pretty scheduled people!)… And yet, parenting certainly has its share of hard moments.
It’s both a joy and a steep learning curve.
Whenever two options present themselves – whether it be weekend plans or pizza versus salad for dinner – John and I frequently say to each other, “It’s not either/or but both/and.” This saying is something I often repeat to my coaching clients, but John and I jokingly apply it to everyday occurrences. However, the truth is that there are often creative ways to live out the tension of two good, yet seemingly contradictory, options. Right now, we’re both ready for what’s ahead and yet also at peace. Let me explain…
The cliche is accurate – my first two months as a mama have been both the hardest thing I’ve ever done and by far the most joyful. While it can be easy in the difficult moments to long for what’s next – when Grant can feed himself or can better communicate what’s wrong – always looking ahead takes the peace and joy out of the present. We’ve had several friends tell us that each stage has its own challenges and its own crazy joy-filled moments, and they have encouraged us to appreciate the season that we’re in and the journey along the way — what Be Embraced is all about.
While thinking about what lies ahead excites us, we are also at peace in the present, soaking up each of Grant’s smiles, coos, and cries. This paradox hit me when I read Ephesians 6:15:
“Stand firm… with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
It’s the “both/and” option of being ready to run full-force into what God calls us to next, while also being rooted in His peace in the present.
Being at peace in the present and ready for what’s ahead is also true for our work and life. When we found out I was pregnant, John and I had several conversations about what God was calling me to, and I remember being frustrated – which is still sometimes the case – that I felt called to all three roles as a mom, an entrepreneur, and a doctoral student. Wouldn’t it be easier to have one clear “identity”? Though I feel empowered to say “both/and” to all of these roles, this litany can also be exhausting… and it is most exhausting when I forget that these roles are not my identity. They are certainly a part of who I am, but I am identified by God’s perfect love for me.
As I mentioned in a recent post, our theme for 2016 is “Perfect Love” – not our perfect love for one another, for Grant, for our community and family but God’s perfect love that covers all. I can only be at peace as a mama because of this love.
In the movement toward women (rightfully) believing they don’t have to choose the either/or option of being a mom or doing other things with your days, there is a pressure to do it all. And there is an expectation that you can.
During a phone call with a good friend recently, we both realized that we faced the same pressures, despite hers being in the context of a new job and mine in the realm of motherhood. We both felt that we were supposed to have it all figured out. Because she had done a similar job previously and because I’m a woman, the new job and being a mom are supposed to come naturally for us, right?
In believing this false expectation, I began setting my identity in my “success” as a parent. I started to make Grant’s adherence to a schedule a measure of my success and began to seek others’ assurance for the self-confidence that I was “doing it right.”
Thankfully, I have a husband who reflects God’s perfect love for me despite any performance measures, and he lovingly revealed to me how I was slipping back into past perfectionist patterns. As I discussed this with my friend, I expressed frustration that I thought I had already released this idol (or in non-Christian language, the need for control and for perfection) in other areas of my life only to see it pop up again in motherhood. Yet even in speaking this, I realized that I was still making it about me and my self-righteousness instead of about God’s perfect love and His righteousness.
If you’ve been around me any length of time, you’ll know I love the author Brene Brown. In a recent podcast interview, she commented that going after it again on Day 2 after a failed Day 1 is not about discipline, like our culture praises, but about forgiveness. When you forgive yourself for failing the day before, you can get back to work on Day 2.
I took this wisdom and applied it in a spiritual context for myself: Because of Christ’s forgiveness, I can give myself grace after failures. Though I am naturally a very disciplined person, I desire for grace to fuel my drive, not will-power. After making that realization, I have felt so much freer, lighter, and at peace – even on days that don’t go “as planned.”
Ironically, we have a son who thrives on a schedule and is a good sleeper, so I’m very thankful to learn in a context that naturally fits who I am – confirmation that I don’t necessarily need to change who I am, I just need to see myself in light of God’s love and grace.