As I write this, I’m sitting at the picnic table my husband built for me listening to nothing but the sounds of nature. There are no children splashing in the pool. No one has asked me for a snack, and I haven’t had to hunt for any lost shoes. I’ve been alone for nearly 5 hours. Solitude is something a mother of four rarely experiences.
But this type of quiet was about to be my lifestyle. I think about that sometimes. In six weeks, my youngest child will start kindergarten. Now that we homeschool, she’ll start kindergarten here – and I won’t be left crying in the elementary school hallway like I was with her older brother and sister. But, there was a time back before this homeschooling adventure began, when I was eagerly anticipating this coming fall. I was craving the quiet. I needed the rest. I was going to have time to do all the things I couldn’t do with four kids underfoot. The house would be cleaner. I’d get to read as much as I wanted to. The manuscripts that have lain dormant for several years would be picked back up.
As I think about the version of myself that was so desperately yearning for that solitude, I can’t help but think about the way my life has changed. Back then I was dealing with a baby, a slightly older baby, a preschooler, and a first grader. My whole life was wrapped up in caring for those kids. Those same kids still need me – but aren’t as dependent on me. I’ve left behind the strollers, the sippy cups, the diapers (thank God!), and the need to live around a napping schedule. We’re in a whole new phase of life. I’m in a whole new phase of life. My life has changed – but more importantly- I’ve changed.
I find myself not needing the rest and the quiet the way I did in my late twenties and early thirties. The phase of parenting that requires the car seats, the night-time feedings, and the need to sit next to the tub as your child bathes is challenging. It’s a gift that we don’t fully appreciate until it’s gone – but challenging and wearying nonetheless. During those years, I remember feeling overwhelmed and overtired. And instead of simply relishing the days when my children were small and the snuggles came more readily – I sought to impress, and perfect, and be the very thing I rage against in the premise of this blog.
I realize now that I don’t think it was merely having four kids in six years that made me so desperate for that alone time – so eager for that moment of release. No – it was the striving. The constant hustling, and ache to prove myself wore me out. I wasn’t just physically tired – my soul was tired. If my blog wasn’t the most popular….If my kids weren’t the smartest….If my house wasn’t the cleanest….If I didn’t do X amount of crafts and learning activities….If we didn’t go on enough outings……I was not enough. That was always the answer in my mind. I wasn’t enough, so I’d better do more and be more….everything to everyone.
I look back and wonder if those years would have been easier if I’d just let go of my desire to be approved – and realized my inherent worth and purpose. If I had recognized my extraordinary ordinary – and let it be enough – how could that have changed that very difficult phase of parenting?
I won’t know- but I want to make sure you can. You’re enough. Stop striving. Stop hustling for approval. A regular life is enough. How rich a blessing to get to raise good people. What incredible purpose a mother has. You are of great worth.
Parenting? It’s a tough gig. It gets easier. It gets harder. They need you less. They need you more. Your life and your circumstances will undergo constant change and there will be days when you find yourself needing rest. But my prayer for you is that like me, an occasional day of rest….an afternoon of rest…will be enough. I pray that your mind, body, and soul won’t get to the point of depletion where you find yourself longing for day after day of rest. You don’t have to live soul-tired. (Physically tired….well – that will come and go!) But your soul needn’t be so tired. The striving and seeking and perfecting – it’s just not worth it. It robs you. It drains you. It takes away from the joy of today and always has your eyes glued to the “what’s next?”
You’re enough. As is. And when we start living like we believe that – we find what we need to keep going – that rest from within.