Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Struggle for Significance: When Being a Mom doesn't feel like enough in God's kingdom work


An epic week long camping trip with these four
With every passing year since having our first child, my roles outside of the home have narrowed.  Over a period of six years having one child transitioned to four children, changing diapers and laying down for naps changed to grading papers and administering tests, and my available time to serve has dwindled away.  Not too many years ago I sang in the choir, did an occasional solo, taught a Bible Study, taught a Sunday School class, served on the Preschool Committee, and attended services held with a Hispanic Church that meets in our church's facilities.  I used my nursing degree to get certified in limited ultrasound and used that training to serve as a medical volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center.  I went on both short and long term mission trips to utilize my masters degree from seminary and ability to speak Spanish to share the Gospel and serve in training and ministering to various needs wherever we went. It was fulfilling, adventuresome, and such a joy to use my gifts and abilities for growing God's kingdom!

Today if I filled out a resume of what I do, what would I currently be able to write down?  I make food.  Lots of food.  Got a social: Tonya's bringing the dessert.  Got a breakfast:  Where's the cinnamon rolls?  Come over to our pad, there will be a big dinner waiting for you.  My other ministry?  I'm a wife, and a mom of 4 or more, depending on who God sends our way.  Yeah, I homeschool too.  How did I allow my ministry to be reduced to this? Maybe it's the fact that at the end of a homeschool day with four children, two of which have educational special needs, I'm so exhausted all I can do is show up at church with an expectant heart to suck in all the encouragement from the Word and worship I can.  I simply can't pour into others after pouring into my kids all week.  When opportunities come throughout the week, I rarely can make it unless it is little kid friendly.  Because of Kris' job, I have to be with my kids most evenings too.

If you feel motherhood has you in a "rut" where your ministry is reduced to being the cook, teacher, and caregiver, you are not alone.  Society has placed us at the bottom of the important type of people list.  They think we should be in the workforce.  They think we should come out of our houses and do something significant for a change.  We obviously took the easy, lazy way out of deciding to stay home when we are able bodied workers.  What a luxury!

When I was as sick as a dog these four took a snow day and built this along our driveway
I googled "Stay at Home Mom" and right under the top search engines was a subtitle "Stay at Home Mom Depression".   So why are stay at home moms depressed?  It might have something to do with the messages we get.
Here are two excerpts from Dr.Phil.com's website concerning being a stay-at-home mom:

Making the decision to stay home with your kids or join the workforce can be a difficult process.  There is no right answer.  Dr. Phil encourages each woman to make the choice that brings her closest to fulfilling her hopes and dreams.
In support of mothers who choose to work, Dr. Phil says that many women hope to be a parent and pursue a career and they often become depressed when they are stuck solely in a parenting capacity.  "If the child is mothered by a parent who is feeling frustrated, and depressed and empty, that is not a good thing," he says.

THESE are the lies we are fed.  THESE are the messages we hear in our culture.  THESE are ways for the enemy to tear down our calling, little by little, until we decide we have no value at all for God's kingdom.  "Fulfilling her hopes and dreams..."?  Seriously?  So it's all about us?  And then Dr. Phil implies staying at home often leads to depression and feeling empty?  Oh yeah, it's because she's doing nothing important, right?  Hogwash.

Several months ago I posted about struggling with the decision to quit homeschooling.  This would have freed me up to "do more for God".  At the end of the post I concluded that by leaving the calling I had to teach my children in our home I was going to be missing out on a blessing.  That's because I was in fact doing exactly what God wanted me to do, even though it didn't come easily or naturally.

Home life: planting and growing
Mama, if you struggle with being a stay at home mom, I understand.  I'm there too.  This season isn't forever.  We aren't going to be doing this 20 years from now.  They will be grown up and gone.  The ministries you are giving up or passing up in order to focus more on your children will still be there when they are bigger and taking care of themselves.  When our oldest is 12 (in just 2 years!) we will start letting him care for his younger siblings for short periods of time.  I can't even comprehend what it will look like, when I'll be able to get out by myself again to serve in small ways outside the home again.  2 years!  It will be here before I know it.   But right now, they require all my time and energy.  They are the most difficult job I've ever and will ever have.  Raising them is the hardest thing I'll ever do, and the responsibility to raise them right is huge.  Half-doing the job, depleting myself of time and energy to focus on other ministries would be detrimental to my children.  However, ministering along-side them is something that will help grow them.  Those kind of ministries are selective when having a 4,6,8, and almost 10 year old in tow, but they do exist!  Orphan hosting, having college students to our home, preparing food to serve, going on certain types of visits to encourage others (the nursing home, for example) are wonderful opportunities for my kids to learn to serve.  There is another ministry we are venturing to begin as a family which I can't wait to share about in the future. We have even taken our children with us on missions trips!  So right now, that is the capacity in which I serve.

Don't see yourself as insignificant just because you don't draw a paycheck or teach in your church.  Don't beat yourself up every time you hear about new opportunities and realize it conflicts with nap time or class time.  Don't let the enemy whisper "You need to do more".   Satan and others lay guilt on us, but the Holy Spirit convicts.  Please remember if you are convicted you need to serve in a certain area and know it will not take you away from your primary calling, obey His leading and don't let anyone or anything sway you from the doors He is opening for you to walk into.  Many moms can wing teaching at church or serving in other areas and shouldn't make excuses if God is truly drawing them to serve.  I'm simply saying we shouldn't all feel pressured that we HAVE to.  There is a difference, and we don't need moms in our churches who serve simply because they feel it's their duty to do so.  It not only strains them of energy and time with their children at home, but it also prevents the person God wants from serving in that role the most effectively.

What if I had sent them to preschool and missed out on doing this with them?
I seriously doubt when we are old and grey, looking back at our child-rearing years, we will regret not taking on work outside our home or areas of service that depleted our ability to nurture and parent our children.  What we will regret is losing the precious time God gave us to invest in them like no one else could.  Our children are our mission, our gift from God, and we shouldn't let anyone or anything belittle that.   I am not judging you moms who work outside the home and have no choice but to provide for your family in order to pay the grocery and electric bill.  There may come a time in our lives when I'll have to go back to nursing to help out our family if Kris' income drops significantly.
 But if God has provided adequate income to care for your family's needs (note I didn't say wants)***, lift up your head and find joy in where you are.  No one else can replace what you are teaching and modeling to your children.  Enjoy the moments, the memories, the milestones, and don't let this world get you down.  You are doing ENOUGH.  And that is a pleasing sight to Your Heavenly Father.

***This article has a lot of truth in it when it comes to the cost of staying at home vs. joining the workforce for a second income: http://www.everythingtosomeone.com/2016/02/22/the-true-cost-of-a-second-income/