As mums, it can often seem like life is like a train running at incredible speed. We feel the constant busyness of not only having children to take care of, as well as a house to manage, but also admin, relationships, work commitments, church activities, the list goes on.
If we’re not careful, we can crush under the weight of our own, or other people’s expectations. That’s why we need to stop and consider what God has for us. What His best is.
Below I share with you my experience as a young mother and what God taught me, which is an excerpt of my book Unique – A Mother’s Journey.
Attempting to live up to expectations
“One of the most common feelings I experienced in my first years as a mum was overwhelm.
While this was in part due to having three children in the space of three years, with the accompanying constant hormonal changes – I was pregnant, breastfeeding, or both continuously for over five years – it was also due in part to my attempts to live up to what I believed was expected of me as if nothing had changed since I’d become a mother.
For instance, my drive to provide cake or a good meal and to be always present and attentive when we had visitors, even though I had a mountain of things to do, was not motivated by my conscience. No. I did these things because I used to do them before I was a mother, and I felt they were expected of me. And so, I put pressure on myself.
Something else that contributed to my internal pressures was that I looked at what other mothers were accomplishing, and I believed I fell short.
I was the full-time carer of my children, I took full responsibility for the housework, and I also sometimes worked as a part-time teacher and translator, but I felt I was failing at giving the children an active social life and focused playtime with me.
Fearful of other people’s opinions
Many times in my sense of doing my duty or fulfilling other people’s expectations, I was fearful of people’s opinions of me.
I wanted to be Anna, the mum who received her guests with a smile, and a cake. I wanted to be Anna, the mum whose house was always clean even though she had three children of three years old and younger.
I wanted to be Anna, the mum who managed to work alongside her homemaking and mothering. My main motivation was to be seen as a mum who had it all together. I didn’t want to be seen as sloppy.
In time, though, I felt God show me it was this insecurity regarding what people thought of me as a mum, as well as my inward pressure to accomplish things that weren’t my priorities, that caused so much overwhelm. I had to let go of other people’s expectations – perceived or real.
If I simply didn’t have the time or mental space to host someone for dinner, for example, that was ok. Maybe they could come over for coffee, or maybe we could arrange something for another week.
If someone visited us and wanted my attention but because of the children or my work commitments I couldn’t give it, that was no reason to feel pressured.
As a young mum, my life was different from how it used to be and I was in a particular stage of motherhood, which demanded a lot of me. My children were my top priority, and my work was a commitment. And who else was going to run the household?
In essence, God showed me how to live by my priorities and that He would give me the strength to do what He had called me to do.
One thing that propelled me onto this journey of letting go of other people’s expectations, perceived or real, and being wise with my time according to my priorities, was that I came to see how my time on Earth was finite.
The time I had with my children as their steward was finite. Yes, I would always be their mum as long as I was alive, but they wouldn’t always be under my care.
God showed me the importance of living by my conscience as a mother and by our priorities as a family. I didn’t want to look back on my life and realise I had spent hours fulfilling the expectations of others or pleasing those who weren’t part of our family unit and who could not understand our priorities as parents.
What led me to think about all this was something that happened in the summer of 2020.
Making the most of our time with the children
One day, Luís and I were pondering how to celebrate our wedding anniversary at the end of August, when I had an idea. We could go away with the kids for a few days.
We’d already had time away that summer, but it had been short, and the children and I liked the idea of going to a house with a pool. I realised that from the outside it probably seemed strange that we would go away with our kids for our anniversary, but there were good reasons for this.
Firstly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be hard to get a babysitter.
Secondly, I felt a strong desire for our children to witness and be part of our wedding anniversary, as they were the very fruits of our marriage. As far as romance goes, I knew that even though our children would be with us during the day, we would still have time alone in the evening after they went to bed.
Thirdly, the wonderful bonus of being in another setting, which, after many months of lockdown at home, seemed magnificent!
Finally, before this, I’d been musing that our children were growing up so fast, and how important it was to make the most of our time together.
My thoughts on this were confirmed when we were away and I was reading the autobiography of celebrity chef, baker and food writer Mary Berry. I reached the part in her book where she described how she lost her son, William, in a car accident.
My eyes watered as I read about what happened. As a mum, I put myself in her place and I felt her pain and loss. Again, I felt the importance of being a good steward and making the most of the time I had with the children while they were under my care.
My children’s steward
Another situation that led me to reflect on this concept of stewardship as a parent was when I was reading All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg, one night before bed.
In the first chapter, the author describes the last time he saw his father before he died, after many years of no contact with him. While I didn’t resonate with this story due to never having experienced this, when I turned the light off, I reflected on the fact that it was that father’s last day with his son.
And then I imagined what I would do if I knew I had only one day left to live before saying goodbye to my loved ones.
In the morning I would gather all my family: parents, siblings, nephews, nieces, even uncles and aunts whom I hadn’t seen in years, as well as Luís’s family, and our friends. We would spend the morning together.
Lunchtime would be spent with my parents, siblings and their husbands/wives and my nephews, and nieces, as well as my core family. Then I would want to spend the afternoon just with Luís, and our three lovely children. Then finally, after the children went to bed in the evening, I would spend time alone with Luís.
I guess this summed up my relationships in an inverted order of priority.
As I was imagining seeing my family and friends for the last time, my eyes filled with tears. It was one thing to spend a lovely day with friends and family with the assumption that I would see them again, and quite another when I thought of it as the last time.
When I really started to cry though was when I thought about putting Abby, Priscila and Daniel to bed, and instead of “goodnight” saying “goodbye”. The thought was almost too much to bear. As their ‘momma bear’, I was their world.
And then when I thought about saying goodbye to Luís, I choked up again. My husband was my other half. I couldn’t imagine us being apart. I then realised I wouldn’t say goodbye, I would just lie there with him, holding on until sleep took over.
As I lay there in bed, I tried hard to suppress my sobs so I wouldn’t wake Luís. After a few moments, I diverted my thoughts to what I could conclude from this, and I realised that this perception of my time as finite was the very thing that would help me let go of the little things and hold on to what really mattered.
I yearned to be a good steward of what God had entrusted to me, and that was more important than career, money or status. I knew that, on my deathbed, I wouldn’t ask to see diplomas, CVs or my list of accomplishments. I would ask to see my dearest loved ones.
And for that reason, I needed to say no to anything that would divert me from my priorities as a parent. No to anything that would distract me from what God had called me to do. No to anything that was not aligned with His will for me. No matter what the world said.”
Excerpt from Unique – A Testimony Of Hope In A Comparison Obsessed Mommy Culture – available on Amazon as a paperback, and as an ebook across multiple book retailers.
God basically taught me three things regarding my time:
🕐 to let go of other people’s expectations, whether perceived or real;
🕐 to live by our priorities as a family and not other people’s;
🕐 to make the most of the time I had as my children’s steward.
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