I notice a friend pushing a grocery cart to her car as I pull into the parking lot, someone I haven’t seen in months. Before going into the store, I walk toward the direction of her car while calling her name. When she sees me, I outstretch my arms, wrap them tight around her shoulders in a hug, thanking her for the pictures waiting in our vacation mail; old snapshots of my daughter with friends at youth group. We tumble into conversation about time passing, our kids growing up and fears about the next season.
She admits that she struggles with her place in life as her kids achieve independence. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do now that I’m not needed as much; it’s a common phrase I hear from women as their children grow up.
Some create a wide berth for motherhood while others squeeze parenting in between the small cracks of pursuits. As mothers we tend to journey from worrying too much about the details of our children’s lives to worrying about not being part of the details of their lives. But the most common mistake many of us make is assuming motherhood as an identity, instead of a gift.
You are more than a mother. You are woman carrying a unique voice of Hope for those dying without it. There are a million ways to feed His sheep outside of motherhood.
I used to be one of those mothers who showed up at my kid’s school several times a week to volunteer where help was needed. Teachers became more than my children’s educators, they were friends who asked me to pray for them during their free periods. But when we moved, my kids told me to stop volunteering because they knew I had other pursuits waning. In thoughtful discernment, they told me they didn’t need me to volunteer at their schools.
My volunteerism was no longer about them and they knew it. Their honest admission gave me permission to let go. Until the year my son got the teacher nobody wanted.
I observed the alchemy of a passive teacher with a classroom of troublesome kids transform my son into a puddle of apathy for six months, soaking my pillow with the tears of his sadness. And the irony? It was a do-over experience. He had the same circumstance with another teacher in his first year at the same school. That’s why we hesitated to be that parent and meet with the principal again. But hesitation became pleading prayers of desperation for rescue.
The result: he spent the last two and half months of that school year with another teacher and his countenance glowed again with hope. My son learned the value of true and healthy leadership by being in the trenches of a difficult experience.
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says hope is not an emotion, it is learned. Children with high levels of hopefulness have experience with adversity. They’ve been given the opportunity to struggle and in doing that they learn how to believe in themselves.
That’s why it’s good to cultivate other pursuits outside of mothering, not just for you but for them. Your kids need to be set free to struggle, and fulfill their God given place as His children on loan with you. Don’t wait until their adults to do it.
How are you cultivating other pursuits and interests outside of parenting? Do you allow your kids to experience healthy struggle or are you more prone to find ways of escape?