I know. I know my husband works hard every day to make this life we have possible, that these children are the best blessing imaginable, and that being their mom is a pure gift from God. But do you ever feel that becoming a mom is reminiscent of those awkward teenage years spent crying over nothing and being embarrassed of your parents? When I was thirteen, I didn’t want to be an irritable, over-dramatic, eye-rolling little brat. But I still was.
Similarly, in my transition to motherhood, I haven’t wanted to resent my husband for a million reasons that seem to slip through my fingers when I try to hold them up. But I still have. There is a nature (those glorious hormones) to these transitional seasons of our lives that cannot be ignored and a reality to this vocation of motherhood that just hurts. It hurts because it requires so much of your self. If we are being honest, I have to say that I haven’t exactly been joyful about losing sleep, personal space, or skinny jeans and in that sense of loss as a new mom, when my tired eyes were darting wildly around the room, they inevitably landed on my husband who seemed to be untouched by this transition to parenthood (except that he somehow got a little better looking and more tan)—a transition that I felt had swallowed me whole. On very many days of my life as a new mom, without knowing what else to do in my new space, it was all too easy to choose to resent.
So, I now want to share with you what I’ve learned in my struggle with resentment. But, in order to do that, I’ve got to give you a few examples of reasons I could find to resent my spouse, because I’m sure you can’t think of any on your own (wink, wink).
- He leaves the house everyday to commune with other adults.
In the newness of my life as a mom, I could easily go several days without really ever leaving the house. When I brought home number two, a big outing for us became the McDonald’s drive through. And even now, rarely will you find me anywhere in public that does not involve a play place.
- He listens to music of his choice in his French-fry-free truck.
I know there are those of you who don’t let their children eat in the car. One quick question: how? In my mini-van, the French fries fly and the wheels on the bus just keep going ’round.
- He uses the bathroom alone.
What does that even mean?
- He eats hot meals in peace.
You might as well just put it on ice because you know you’re going to have to leave the table for fifty different things before you can sit down to eat.
- He doesn’t wake up in the night when he imagines there is a child crying.
My husband will tell you that he actually started sleeping more soundly once we had children. Selective hearing, much?
I need to say first that as a new mom, you do have to carve out some alone time. You must have support. But, even in the best of circumstances, motherhood is just hard work, no matter how you slice it. When I imagined it, I saw myself prancing around in a vintage apron while my happy kids picked flowers for me from a garden. The reality of what it was came as a shock. My husband and I made a decision together to be open to life. We decided together that I would stay home with the kids while he worked. Still when he left the house every morning to hold up his end of the deal, all I could feel was the entire weight of these decisions we had made on my shoulders. I could only see the million tiny little ways I was being forced to die to my selfishness as he breezed casually out the door.
That’s when I began to resent, because that’s what we do as human beings. We look around and assume that we know what other people’s lives are like, be they spouses, family members, Facebook friends, or perfect strangers on the street. We assume we know what their crosses are. Then we look at our own lives in comparison and end up stomping around in a tantrum exactly like one of those toddlers we love so much, screaming in indignant outrage, this isn’t fair! We choose to resent when we feel that something we are supposed to have is being taken away from us, something we think we need in order to be happy. It’s only natural to grab and hoard those things. For me, they were comfort, luxury, and ease. In my transition to motherhood, the sudden riddance of self I was being forced into was a painful road to walk and the resentment I chose as a walking companion didn’t make the journey any smoother. But, I came to see that the road was really Jesus leading me beyond the things I thought would make me happy and straight to the things that actually would.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”(Matthew 16:24 NIV)
In my battle to hold on to my self as a young mom, I forgot what the gospel is essentially telling me: you don’t get happy by getting more for yourself, you get happy by giving yourself away.
I had a Lent two years ago that bowled me over. It was like I had discovered a cool, clear stream of water and I drank and was satisfied. I wasn’t in any kind of profound place of openness in my prayer life. It was more like God threw me a bone He just knew I needed. My dog (half beagle, half chihuahua, of course) dragged a little book off of the shelf to where I sat to have my coffee each morning. It was full of quotes by St. Therese, the Little Flower, and in it I found this:
“For the burden of the Lord is sweet and light, and when we accept it, we begin to taste its sweetness immediately.”
-St. Therese of Lisieux
That one, simple line opened up a new world to me. It felt right to look at my life and say, “this is burdensome.” It’s not easy to do what you are doing as a mom. It’s not all encapsulated in the filtered and edited photos we see on Facebook of smiling faces and clean hair. That is part of it, for sure, but it’s also marked with lots of tears and worry and sacrifice and work. And it’s okay to say that. The deep truth I found in the quote was that within this burden was hidden a sweetness that could only be tasted in acceptance.
In life, there will always be a burden to bear. I had to realize that there wasn’t anything particularly tough about mine, that I wasn’t being cruelly or unusually punished by laundry and spit-up; that even though it felt like everything (my space, my time, my energy) was being taken away from me as a new mom, in reality, I was being given everything—a whole new life; one that was beautiful and good. And it lay just on the other side of that cross Jesus was asking me to pick up. To me, that’s what vocation is and once I accepted that, the burden truly did become sweet and light.
I came to find that if you expect life to be easy, you get really mad when it’s not. When you accept the fact that it’s hard, it all becomes sweeter. Personal space and carefree livin’ aren’t really main staples in my life right now and that’s okay. When I just accept what it is at this moment, I suddenly see the beauty and grace scattered throughout it everywhere. This grace is being held up for me constantly in the little hands of these precious children at my feet, the ones whose mom God created me to be. It’s incredible, really, and if I choose to resent the fact that I have to pick up all the blocks yet again, I miss it completely. And this is what else is so great about the whole acceptance thing. When one of those blessed nights rolls around, the ones where the stars align and the kids get into bed at seven-thirty and their eyelids fall like bricks and the house is silent and I can binge-watch something pointless on Netflix in peace, I am the happiest woman who has ever lived. Life is so much sweeter when you realize it’s all a gift, not a given; when you stop trying to get more for yourself and just accept the fact that you are meant to be giving yourself away.
And as for that husband of mine: he carries this burden in an entirely different way. He gets himself out of bed every morning and that man is on time. I don’t think I could do that if my life depended on it. He works long, hard hours so that we can do really cool things like eat. He feels the weight in ways that I don’t. All of us living vocation are on the same road—the road headed to Christ, Christ who says, “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).” It’s a life that is full and rich and steady and good. It’s the life I was created for. But, I can only grab hold of it by letting go of myself.
Do you struggle with the temptation to resent those around you for the hardships of your day? What do you think the Lord wants to speak into those temptations? Where might He want to lead you as you continue to pour yourself out for your family? I encourage you to ask for the gift of acceptance and to pray with the words of the Little Flower:
“For the burden of the Lord is sweet and light, and when we accept it, we begin to taste its sweetness immediately. “
It is a deep, transformative truth brought to you by Christ, St. Therese, and a chihuahua/beagle named Richard.
Copyright 2015 Kelly Pease
Photo: Angry Argument Battle Boxing-238529 (2014) via Pexels.com