When Momma Can’t Make Up Her Mind
It seems fitting to me that Mother’s Day would land itself right in the middle of Mental Health Month. This is, in fact, the collision of my two worlds: motherhood and mental health.
When we first found out we were pregnant, there were a variety of factors to consider in the process of deciding what life would look like after she arrived. While most factors were pragmatic - finances, childcare, schedules, etc. - I also wanted to take into account the care of my own heart and mind. I knew that I would most likely flourish in being able to continue my work with the Grace Alliance, a place that had historically resulted in healthy thoughts and emotions and growth for me. And when my thoughts and emotions are sound, it means other areas of my life are flourishing as well: my physical body, my relationships, my faith and my parenting.
I also know that a setting that causes me to flourish may cause another momma to flounder.
Since entering into this new world of Motherhood, I see with fresh wonder and celebration the uniqueness with which God created each of us - with our distinctive opinions, experiences, backgrounds and passions; all just honestly trying to figure out who decided creating baby clothes with buttons was ever a good idea. Am I right?!
Yet, truthfully, I found all the differences completely overwhelming at the start. This was mainly because I was obsessed with making the “right” decision.
I mean, how can you make the “right” choice about a high chair when one mom raves about the same high chair another mom returned after three days?
And how do you choose the “right" feeding method when one mom says baby-led weaning is a God-send while another momma tells you purees are the way to go?
And how do you make the “right” arrangement for childcare when a fellow working mom cries every time she has to leave her baby at daycare while a stay-at-home mom confesses she feels isolated and exhausted from spending day after day with three small children?
So, when my husband and I determined that I would return to working full-time after my maternity leave was up, I wrestled with whether this was the “right” decision. I wrestled with the guilt of feeling ready to go back to work. I wrestled with the sadness of the milestones I might miss while I was away. I wrestled with the fear of not being able to dictate her exact daily routines. And I even wrestled with the joy I experienced as I returned to a job that I loved.
It was in the midst of the hundreds of new decisions we were making for our growing family that I developed a sort of filter for the choices that come my way now. Because, unfortunately, I could not seem to find the exact answer to my high chair dilemma anywhere in the Bible. This is not to say that God doesn’t care about these decisions, but rather that if our focus remains on glorifying God, we can experience freedom and peace in decision-making with more time spent reflecting on the bigger decisions and less time worrying our way through the smaller decisions. As my mother likes to remind me, "God gave you a brain for a reason…use it!”
So, beyond the ultimate goal of glorifying God, my decision filter comes in the form of three questions:
Does this make me a better mom / wife / friend / woman?
Does this fall in line with my current priorities?
Does this help me delight in the Lord?
#1 - Does this make me a better mom / wife / friend / woman?
When I was still battling with the realities of returning to my job after having our daughter, my mom told me to ask myself this question: “What will make you a better mom?" It felt impossible to know this answer before our baby was even born, but I had a feeling that the answer was yes. I had always admired my friends who would spend nights and weekends babysitting, who loved to grab hold of the closest baby around and not let go and who seemed born to be mommas. I am just not one of them. I knew I would love our daughter unconditionally. I also knew that I would not thrive in an environment that was 100% kid-focused all day long (praise you, SAHMs!). And as I like to remind my husband, “Happy wife, happy life!” Or, for all the mommas…”If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!”
#2 - Does this fall in line with my current priorities?
Every momma encounters different complications and obstacles along the way. My first hurdle came in the form of feeding my newborn child. I will spare you the details, but after a month-long battle of round-the-clock feedings that could only be administered by yours truly, my husband looked at me one night as tears rolled down my face and told me that it was time to stop. He knew that I was not enjoying our new baby in the ways that I wanted to because I was starting to associate this tiny, hungry bundle with emotions like pain and frustration and exhaustion. And he was right. When I finally let go - through even more tears - I experienced our baby girl in a whole new way. I finally had the opportunity to build a relationship with her that brought joy and peace and freedom. That was my priority: delight in the gift of my daughter. And in that moment, it meant letting go.
Which leads well into the last question I ask myself...
#3 - Does this help me delight in the Lord?
God has transformed my faith significantly since becoming a mother. If I’m being honest, I think that most of my life I was drawn to Christianity because I saw it as a manual for life: follow all the rules, get the best result possible. And I had always been pretty good at following the rules. But the problem is, that’s not at all what God had in mind. In fact, Jesus came and broke all the rules. He invited himself to dinner with the man who was stealing everyone’s money (Luke 19:1-10). He struck up a conversation with the woman known for her promiscuous behavior (John 4:1-26). He forgave the people who prosecuted Him for a crime He didn’t commit (Luke 23:32-43). So why was I so surprised that my rule-chasing was leaving me so empty and discontent and, frankly, self-righteous (Matt. 23:27-28)?
But as God has used motherhood to awaken a new wonder in me as I delight in our daughter, He has also awakened the ability to delight in Him. Every morning, when I greet our daughter in her crib, she smiles up at me. In that moment, I’m not thinking about the right high chair or feeding method or childcare option. I am simply delighting in her delighting in me. And because of this daily experience, I am learning to come to the Father with a similar delight because I realize now how much my delight results in His delight. And the more delight I experience in Him, the more I see how all of my desires are fulfilled in Him.
"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” - Psalm 37:4
And honestly, that’s the Gospel I want you to experience. I want you to know that God delights in you (Genesis 1:27-31). I want you to know that His joy is so much greater than the fake and fleeting joys this world promises you, Momma. I want you to know that He loves you so much that He sent His own perfect Son to cover over all of our mistakes, our failures and our wrongs of the past, present and future so that we would have the opportunity to know Him and to delight in Him forever.
Now, half a year’s journey into Motherhood, that crushing worry that flooded my mind and my heart with every decision has slowly transformed into a staggering peace. To rest in the delight of our daughter, in the delight of our Father and in the delight of all of the women God has placed in my path, each with their own nap schedules and feeding methods and screen time rules. All loving and caring for their littles with their own respective personalities, environments, cultures, financial situations and priorities. All thoughtfully and securely held and guided by a benevolent Father who ultimately works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
So on this Mother’s Day in the middle of Mental Health Month, what decisions are you facing? What will make you a better mom / wife / friend / woman? What falls in line with your present priorities? What helps you delight in the Lord?