I dreamed my whole life of becoming a mom, so why was the reality so hard?
As a little girl, I loved on my doll babies and swept out the housekeeping center. Practicing feeding my “family” with mud pies made from the sandy soil and pine needles of eastern North Carolina was my summer pastime. As I grew, helping in the church nursery was my favorite activity, and I made all my extra money with babysitting. Eventually, education became my chosen profession. Becoming an elementary school teacher simply fed my love for small children…and then I had one of my very own.
Anson Gray Carroll, my roly poly infant, was born on February 20, 1994 after almost a year of trying without success to have a baby. Just as we were considering fertility treatments, a simple test confirmed the joy of conception. Anson was longed for, and deeply loved. I remember looking into his beautiful baby face that first day of being a mom and thinking, “Everything has changed. All my priorities have fallen into place. I’ll never feel needy for anything again.”
But, that wasn’t true, because none of the satisfying aspects of being “mom” quenched the struggle in my soul. Suddenly, a list-making-girl couldn’t complete a task as simple as a shower. My schedule-loving-soul resented my husband’s ability to set his own work agenda while mine was set by a person who couldn’t even feed himself. I was no longer called “teacher”, a job description that defined much of my identity. What was my purpose now? The world around me didn’t seem to think “mom” was a worthy title. I remember visiting my mother-in-law’s school for lunch one day with Anson, only to have the principal shake his head and mutter, “What a waste,” as I walked by. While I longed to feel the overwhelming feelings of peace and nurture, I increasingly felt like I was losing myself and what I perceived as purpose.
So I fought. I wrestled. I resented.
I chaffed against motherhood, until one day, when God used the title of a secular book from the mouth of an unbelieving friend to set me free from the struggle.
As we stood in the preschool line to pick up Anson, then 3, and her twin boys, my friend started telling me about a revolutionary book she had just finished. The title of the book was Surrendering to Motherhood. I remember that conversation and the title of the book as crystal clearly as if it was spoken yesterday. It was 17 years ago, but that one phrase – Surrendering to Motherhood – changed my perspective in a moment and has changed my mothering ever since. It sounds strange, I know, and you may wonder how that translated into my everyday life. Here are three lessons I learned as I waved the white flag:
- Take a deep breath and relax your grip. My control freak tendencies took a choke hold grip on me when Anson was born. So much became beyond my power that I tilted toward anxiously grasping for control and micromanaging the joy out of life. When I started relaxing into the crazy ride, letting the schedule flex, and intentionally enjoying the rising and falling pace of my own child, the benefits of surrender began to be evident.
- Stretch open your hands. Clenching my hands, trying to control everything, God’s showered blessings fell to the ground uncaught. As I began to release the idea of perfection and my controlling ways, my hands were open wide to receive God’s blessings for the day – like a slow walk around the block admiring every bug on the sidewalk along the way. It also allowed me to receive grace for my imperfections and take joy in the mom journey created uniquely for my children and me.
- Fling your arms wide. Celebrate the mom God created when He created you! As Jill Churchill says, “There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” Here’s what I want to urgently whisper to you today. You are perfectly made – really. God has uniquely created you to be the “just right mom” for your children. Being your truest self is not only a gift to you, it’s your greatest gift to your children. As they see you follow God in pure contentment with how you’re made, they will then be free to pursue their truest, God-created self as they grow.
Things subtly but powerfully shifted for our whole family when God changed my mind, and I surrendered to motherhood. You try it now. Raise the white flag. Breathe. Unclench your hands, and open them to God’s blessings. Celebrate your unique “mommy-ness.”
*To find out more about Amy and to follow her personal blog, visit her at amycaroll.org. Also, let us know your thoughts about today’s post in the comment section below, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter using #missionalmotherhood. We love to hear from you!
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