I was a member once, in a closed Facebook group for only women writers. I had just joined when a signed author posted about what a struggle she was having getting her manuscript done at the necessary clip while also parenting her children.
I felt a huge sigh of sympathy; and, having recently finished my own manuscript, I hopped right on the comment thread to put in my two cents.
I said, well, if you can get a babysitter, great. If you can’t, I get up in the middle of the night to write. Or I get up early in the morning. But by early I mean four.
The comments after me shook me to my core. I was surprised by how powerfully and immediately other women writers (whom I did not know) expressed their shock and concern that I was disrupting my sleep schedule in this way. One of them, who was in a medical profession, took the time to provide me with some research, showing that altering natural sleep schedules was profoundly harmful to one’s health.
So, okay. Let’s say that I do believe this research. (Which, I don’t know…I mean, I live in a yurt with minimal electricity and often go to bed with the sun so it’s hard to control for variables.) But say that I do believe this research. Why did nobody ever bring this to my attention when I was getting up in the night to feed my babies…FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS?
Getting up in the night…walking the floor basically growing gray hairs and wrinkles…staying up too late, getting up too early, having no personal time, potentially housebound and isolated…trying to meet the needs of the most demanding and least rational bosses you can imagine…?
And nobody told me motherhood was bad for my health!
Now before we go any further, listen when I say this. I LOVE BEING A MOTHER. I love it because of and in spite of the fact that it is the most taxing job I’ve ever had.
Motherhood is the most taxing job I’ve ever had.
It is. And for me that’s saying something, because I used to work as a stage manager running three Shakespeare plays in repertory. And before that I worked night shift as a nursing assistant in an Alzheimer’s unit. I have had some hard jobs. But, no. Mothering takes them all, in sheer mental and physical exertion, in the hours worked, and in the insanely high stakes.
But I mean, don’t get me wrong, writing books is hard, too.
I had a dance teacher say to me once, “You’ve got to find some deeper resources.” I think of her, when I parent, and also when I write, and especially when I have to find a way to accomplish both. I think of her faith that such a thing was possible, her belief that there were, in fact, deeper resources to draw from.
She was also saying to me (and I know this because I was in class with her every day), stop locking up your muscles, stop gritting your teeth, breathe more, smile more and trust that there is more power under there than you think there is. I was always too locked up as a dancer. I worked hard. But I worked out of my fear instead of my faith.
I didn’t make it.
I believe in a God of power. I mean, hello, POWER. But I think sometimes we get confused about which things are God’s job, and which things are ours.
For example: Setting the alarm for 4am and actually getting up? That’s not God’s job; that’s mine. But giving me a soul that sings in resonance with all Creation when set fully to the task I am given? That…is for sure God.
Leaping fully into conversation about things that scare me, like the no-longer-possible-to-ignore violence against black and brown people in my country that I call home? That is not something God can do for me. I have to do that myself. But giving me the spirit of resurrection? And the bottomless well of grace that allows me to be fully transformed, even starting from what seems like zero? Oh…! That’s God.
Turning my full attention onto my children and their little tiny needs, when just looking at them makes my exhausted introvert’s skin crawl? I don’t think God’s doing that for me, either. That will is mine. But giving me love and love and more love — mother’s love but also just plain old compassion — to overflow that frustration and open up my heart again and again? I think that miracle work is God’s work, too.
This is my plea, to the #wholemama community, and to every mom out there who is balancing motherhood and personhood in a big way.
Please, don’t underestimate our power.
I hear the need to shake off those old fake superhero capes, which were all about surviving, and were based in numbness and secrecy and not admitting when we were in over our heads. I hear that. And it’s super important. We are not made to walk through this world faking it.
Also, I hear how we need to be giving up our power, as in our egos. We’re giving up our need to make things all the way we want them to be, and also, you know, be famous while we’re at it. But mamas, I don’t want us to give up the very power God gave us, in order to live the Kingdom God designed.
I don’t want us to throw that power because we’re trying to be good mothers, which is sometimes another version of “good girls.” I don’t think God needs “good girls” right now. I think God needs some courageous love warriors. I think God needs us to get brave and step up and step out.
So this is what I have to say to you, anyone who is balancing motherhood and personhood. (I promise, I’m almost done.)
If you want to do something big? Find some deeper resources. If you want to do something amazing? Find those deeper resources. If you want to do something dangerous? Well, you’re liable to fall right on your face, but maybe that risk is worth it. Because maybe this is what it really means that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
And mamas, just think what you’ve done already! Grown a baby, knitting bone and blood together in your womb? Or given birth, in blood and pain? Gotten up in the middle of the night ALL THE TIME, maybe for years? Made food out of your body that feeds another human being?
You are a superhero. Yes, you are. A superhero. Not one iota less.
We aren’t free of pain, or free of brokenness, whether or not you set the alarm for 4am. This new civil rights era is happening, whether or not you are among the marchers. And your kids are going to pass through the phases of this terrifying, beautiful life, one way or another.
You can make choices…about what you attempt, what you begin, what you think is possible.
I believe in you. I believe in you because I believe in deeper resources. I believe in you because I believe in a resurrection God and a redemption Savior. I believe that we don’t live free of pain and we don’t live free of effort — not in this world anyway — but in some ways we are free to choose which pain. We are free to choose to do the work we need to do.
And when your faith falters, because it always does…? I’ll let you borrow my cape.
I’m linked up with my own #wholemama link-up. Which is funny, I know. But the anchor post on this week’s word, “Power,” was by the beautiful and so-encouraging Jamie Wright Bagley. And I wanted a shot at it, too. Go here for Jamie’s post and many other posts on #wholemama and #power. Also, it’s not too late to add your own.
Oh! And I almost forgot, join our Instagram challenge to win free books by Christian women! Last week Abby Norman won a copy of Teach Us to Want, by Jen Pollock Michel. We’re giving away a book every week. All you have to do is post an image using the #wholemama hashtag. But if you post a picture of yourself acting like a superhero? Then…you get entered twice. Have fun!