The painful honest shameful truth is that I was disappointed in motherhood from the moment I saw that second little pink line. When I expected a rush of pure joy and excitement, what I got was a sloppy mix of fear and unworthiness, speckled with elation. I didn’t feel the way I expected to, or felt I should. Many of even the sweetest moments of parenting have been mixed with something sour and strange.
I felt disappointed when I didn’t have the clarity of mind to soak in my first moments with each new baby. I felt disappointed that I cared about things that don’t matter – like what someone else thinks about my parenting or the way pregnancy and breastfeeding would effect my body.
I felt disappointed in myself for not cherishing my swelling belly, and instead worrying about how I would look after giving birth. I was disappointed in myself for stepping on the scale too often. I hated that I cared…but I did.
Warring thoughts collided: the blessing and the cost, the privilege and the sacrifice.
Even as I type, I fend off the thought that my words appear selfish, ugly, harsh to your eyes. I write in faith that you might need to know you’re not the only one.
There have been moments when I felt I should be relishing in ecstatic bliss over my children, and instead I felt empty, lonely, lost. There were postpartum days when I felt crazy and feared I would never feel like myself again. There were days when I looked upon a child I birthed, and they felt like a stranger. There are days I feel like it’s barely worth it to try to have fun together, because we’re so likely to end in tears.
I’ve felt disappointed each time the idyllic scene I pictured when I planned an activity for my children was lost to a scene of whines and wet pants and bloody knees.
I felt disappointed the first time it didn’t come naturally to throw my arms around my child – the first time I had to choose to be affectionate towards them because some distaste for their behavior had crept into my spirit. And I think the heaviness that can rest on our shoulders as mamas so often comes because we thought it was supposed to look some other way. We thought we would burst with fondness for them every minute. We thought we would remember every minute what a gift our children are. We thought we would stop caring about trivial things when they stood against the immense value of raising up the next generation. We thought we would never yell, or even feel inclined to. We thought we would have more patience and grace. We thought we would look different, feel different, be different as a mother.
The weight of it can ravage our souls.
No space exists for these feelings when mamas fight for years just to get one of those second pink lines. No space exists for these thoughts when we know so profoundly that children are a gift, a heritage, a treasure. And so, rather than give these thoughts and feelings any space, they silently breed shame, and wreak havoc on our sense of self-worth. They discreetly curse us and tell us we’re unworthy of the children we’re given, convince us we’re the worst mom.
We need to hold fast to gratitude. But not as a bandaid…
And friend, there’s no denying, I brought a lifetime of expectations into this motherhood thing, and face a million little heartbreaks over the ways I don’t live up, or the ways my life doesn’t look like I thought it should. A million moments of envy of the mom who seems to be doing it better. We need to never lose sight of the blessing, but in order to thrive as mamas, I think we also need to validate the pain and disillusionment of this journey looking so exceedingly different than we thought it should.
Only as I recognize, grieve, and release my expectations… Only as I make peace with my actual life… am I beginning to taste freedom and experience the fullness of joy in the reality of my days as a mom.
I know some of you have faced the deepest pain and tragedy on your parenting journey. If you have lost a child, faced infertility, or have a child with special needs and face the ongoing grief of missed milestones and experiences, I see you… our Father God sees you. My heart breaks with yours, and I know God’s does too. I know that your fractured hopes and expectations and dreams are a present reality in each day of your life this side of heaven. There are real pains that leave real holes.
But there are these other pains that just come, just blow in with the wind, idealistic expectations simply a result of not knowing better.
I think many of us just thought this road would be easier, that we would be stronger.
Though I’m sure everything looks reasonably close to perfect from the outside, in my motherhood journey, I have often flip-flopped between bliss and angst. One moment, I feel the abundance of blessing and joy. The next moment I feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped and beaten down.
My real-life mama story is often a journey of failure and weakness, and strength in Christ alone. My real-life default is to drown in worry and fear, and I am in continuous battle of surrender, entrusting my children to God’s care, over and over.
In my real story, I am often disappointed, and I have to lay my expectations down each and every day, so God can show me the the gift I was missing.
My real days are full of gathering up grace for each moment, because I’m desperate for it. And when I let go and see the world through my children’s eyes of wonder, real life moments of magic and euphoria surprise me.
My real story is one of discovering some of the ugliest corners of my soul, and letting God’s light shine on them. In my real story, I sometimes want to run away, and it is pure sacrifice to enter in.
And in my real story, when the world says I’m trapped because I can’t pee by myself, I say I’ve never been more free. In my real story, I’m discovering things about myself that make me feel I was absolutely made for this. In my real actual life, my dreams and goals and ambitions don’t disappear, but grow and morph and bend with each season of my family.
In real life, joy comes in dying to myself, abundance comes in sacrifice, peace comes in surrender, fun comes only when I set aside the relentless pressure to live up to my expectations and the ones I perceive from the world.
In my real story, motherhood has driven me into deeper intimacy with my Father God than I ever could have imagined. Truthfully, the extraordinary privilege of raising my children pales in comparison to the deep intimacy with my King, the sweetness of dependence, trust, surrender that motherhood has required of me. The greatest joy has come when I can get over myself and my expectations, and I embrace my imperfect children as their imperfect mama on our imperfect journey together.
And I realize it’s ultimately the same journey for every one of us…whether we have children or not, whether we run a company or a country or a classroom or a home or some tangled mix…it’s the same journey of God winning our hearts. It’s the same call to lay our life down to find it.
So mamas, what if we’re not doing it all wrong, and this broken and sloppy road is exactly what God intended for motherhood? What if He knew in His ultimate sovereignty that the only way we could stop trying to BE the Savior, and start pointing our children to their Savior in Jesus is if we were sickeningly aware of our weakness? What if this is what God meant when He said to Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”(2 Corinthians 12: 9)? What if our lostness is where we are found? What if our shattered dreams are what drive us to be the mothers that God intended? And what if we release our children to be the miracles God made them to be as we let go and let them be unique and different with desires and dreams and traits way outside of our comfort zones?
I’m not saying that God delights in making our journey difficult. He is near to our hearts, and leads us tenderly (Isaiah 40: 11). But I believe that our expectations – the ones that say that motherhood is supposed to be easy, pretty and fun in all the moments – these expectations steal our joy, and rob us of God’s joy and grace in the difficult but immensely beautiful days with young children.
I believe God has a bedraggled and beautiful adventure for you today, sweet friend. Rather than holding onto the story we thought we were supposed to be living, let’s consider being led on a journey of surprise, adventure, and deep intimacy with our King.
More on releasing our children from our unrealistic expectations next week…