The Mommy Haze of young motherhood is slowly clearing from my view. The clearing has been slow-going, and so subtle and gradual that I almost missed it.
If you have ever been a young mother, you know The Mommy Haze of which I speak. It is a faint fogging of the fringes and side spaces of your brain which make you forget when you last showered or whether you brushed your teeth this morning. Somehow, The Haze allows you to be painfully aware of which side you last nursed…and yet, allows you to forget how to properly apply eyeliner. The Haze causes certain senses to be heightened to find a missing pacifier in pitch darkness or to hear the pantry door being silently opened during nap time…while yet other senses, which should prevent you from mindlessly accepting the partially masticated bites of peanut butter sandwich from the proffered hands of small toddlers, are strangely absent.
The Haze opens your brain to memorize all the words to Daniel Tiger’s songs (If you have to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way…), but completely dims and obliterates your ability to be articulate in groups of professionals, of whom you were once an integral part. The Haze provides you with infallible homing abilities to locate lost shoes or stuffed animals, while simultaneously allowing you to lose your car outside of Walmart.
The Mommy Haze is the number one limiting side effect associated with the Superhuman abilities to magically kiss away boo-boos and rock babies in the blessed headlock of motherhood to woo them straight to sleep.
For me, The Mommy Haze also brought a painful sense of lost identity. A broken space inside of me which I really hadn’t the bandwidth to acknowledge most of the time…but which haunted me in the quietness of my own infrequent solitude (think: while sitting on the potty, watching tiny fingers wiggling under the door to reach me). Looking back, I can see that this painful sense of lost identity came upon me gradually and, while part of it may have been unavoidable, I largely invited it in through a few lies I bought wholeheartedly. For some of you who may be just entering The Haze or who are currently slogging through it, I want to share some items I wish I had considered sooner:
1. The role of Stay-at-Home-Mom is not a morally superior or Biblically mandated identity for mothers who love their children. It is an option (and a good one), among other available moral and Biblical options that should be thoughtfully selected, with consideration given to a multitude of factors. The family finances, the personalities and temperaments of all family members, the giftings and callings within the mother’s heart and mind, the special needs of the children, as well as the marital dynamics are all factors that should be considered long and hard. And they are factors that should be revisited with some regularity, to make sure that the decision is still the best one for all involved.
But the lie, whether spoken or implied, that SAHMs are somehow more completely fulfilling the calling of motherhood is one that should be exposed and debunked. God has formed you and He knows you. If you are pursuing a relationship with Christ and depending on the Holy Spirit to direct your path, He is equipping you for every good work to which He has called you.
Do the good work for which He has equipped you.
2. A faithfully cultivated intellect and mind should be key hallmarks of a Jesus-following woman. Intelligence is a tremendous blessing to your husband, to your children and to the world around you, not to mention a blessing to your own personal identity. Intellectual engagement, when combined with a heart that is convinced of the glorious hope of the Gospel, is sure to produce true and meaningful worship. The more we know of truth in the Bible, the more we seek to glorify God and obey Him. The more we learn of secular education, the more we find ourselves directed back to the Author of all Truth.
God never intended us to check our brains at the door. In Genesis, we see that man and woman stood side by side, both created entirely in His image, to receive the command from God to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over every living thing.” Further, we see in the Gospels that Jesus befriended women and related to them on an intellectual footing, preferring Mary’s careful consideration of His teaching over Martha’s diligent service. We can approach the cultivation of our minds with confidence in the fact that Jesus invites us to educate ourselves, to become knowledgeable and capable in all pursuits, whether sacred or secular.
Educate yourself in the work for which He has equipped you.
3. Distinct male/female roles need not infringe on a woman’s ability to live fully into her God-given identity. And the reverse is also true. Men are different from women. They don’t come radar-equipped and most men need to have their “marriage and family barometer” gently and kindly (though, sometimes more forcibly) recalibrated every so often. Likewise, women fail to see the importance of certain priorities of the opposite sex. But that doesn’t negate the validity of gender-specific priorities…it just means they are different.
I believe the Bible teaches that men and women stand on level ground before the Lord from the date of creation to today, but that men and women are largely called to different roles…which must also be practiced on level ground and not in hierarchy. Having been raised in the household of a “good marriage” and now working on year 15 with Jared to cultivate a “good marriage” of my own, I feel marriage is a prime place to evaluate gender roles and relationships. Notice I didn’t say either my marriage or my parents is perfect…but they are good. A good marriage allows for roles to be distinct, to be wholly owned and lived into by each spouse. I can safely assert that life works better when I let my husband manage his roles with valor and he lets me manage mine with valor. We are required in marriage to spur one another on to dignity and excellence in our roles. Based on my study of scripture, these gender principles transfer from marriage to all other facets of life. Distinct roles on level ground, all lived out with valor, excellence and ownership.
Cultivate valor in the work for which He has equipped you.
4. Regardless of how many books I read, I’m never going to arrive at a place where I have it all figured out. I can read every parenting book or marriage book or any other instruction/system/theoretical book that has ever been published but I will always still be left with a few holes in the theory that don’t apply to specific circumstances in real life. In conforming myself to pattern my parenting, wife-ing, boundary-ing, eating or just general life-ing entirely after the precepts set out in any book, I am setting myself up for one of two things: a type-A nightmare of legalism that is guaranteed to backfire or a failed and impotent attempt that will leave me feeling like an imposter. This is not to say that I should never seek advice or read books in order to improve my skills or knowledge. I absolutely must (see also point 2).. But to develop a fully systematized approach to any aspect of life, based on a book or blog or article is a proposition always destined to fail.
The only book that can provide the sort of dynamic self-help that young, uncertain mothers crave is the Bible. It is the only book that is living and active, that is useful for teaching and reproving and instructing in righteousness. When we look to other books to fill the place of the Bible, they fall flat and fail, often leaving us with a weakened personal identity and calling our convictions and certainties into question. The principles, promises and commands in the Bible are the only foundation that will unfailingly support the structuring of our lives and identities and relationships.
Stand on scripture in the work for which He has equipped you.
As it is clearing, The Mommy Haze is leaving me with a beautiful perspective of the life I’ve been privileged to lead during these sweet and fleeting early years of marriage and mothering. I am encouraged to live into all aspects of my identity with valor, to seek to do the work for which He has equipped me with excellence and dignity, and to walk in anticipation of the moments and opportunities that stretch out before me in this one wild and precious life.