A couple years ago I was asked, “What do you like to do?” I was stumped. What do I like to do? Well… My mind reeled for an answer. Finally I sputtered out something like “watch movies, scrapbook, bake, write…” Truth was, I really had no idea anymore. Watching movies usually meant sleeping through movies. Baking was not more than a simple banana or pumpkin bread for breakfast. And scrapbooking and writing hadn’t been done since I had become a mom.
I almost felt lost. Who was I?, I began to question. Two years ago my answer would have been, “I am Brad’s wife and mom to two little boys.” While I absolutely loved those titles, I couldn’t really answer who I was let alone what I liked to do. I often felt like I didn’t have time to do anything besides be Brad’s wife and Connor and Dylan’s mommy.
Today, however, my answer has changed. “I am Brad’s wife, Connor, Dylan and Ethan’s mommy, and a child of God. I like to decorate and work on DIY decorating projects. I like to get together with friends and cookout. I enjoy game nights, riding bikes, writing, watching movies, sunbathing, organizing my home. I love going on dates with my husband. I love tickling my little boys and doing crafts with them and reading to them.”
I can honestly say all those items are things I actually do now! Actually, many of them are items I have done for years. However, I was so caught up in my roles and my title that I forgot about what made me me. I forgot what I liked to do and the talents and uniqueness of me that I could contribute to our family. What I was really missing was balance.
Finding balance in your life means learning to balance three main elements:
- Being a wife
- Being a mom
- Being me
A little over seven years ago, I recited these vows to my husband:
Brad, your patience is remarkable and so appreciated. You are quick to praise and slow to anger. You are a sweet, loving, and generous man, always giving from your heart. Your kind and gentle spirit make you so easy to love. Your friendship is sincere, your words truthful, and your heart overflowing with goodness.
. . .
I promise to love you, honor you, cherish you, be faithful to you, live with you, laugh with you, and dream with you. I promise to never take you for granted, to hold you when you need to be held, rejoice with you in your happiness…
Weddings are beautiful, joyous days filled with excitement (and nervousness) as two hearts and lives are about to become one. But the wedding is just one day. Marriage, on the other hand, is for a lifetime.
As I think back over our last seven years, there are countless ways I have failed Brad. There have been times when I have not respected and honored him as I had promised, when I have acted selfishly and put myself first, and there have been numerous heated arguments in our marriage. However, he is my husband. He is the man I made a covenant with before God, our families and friends. He is the man I chose to spend my life with, he became my family before we had children, and he will be the one I get to grow old with long after our boys are grown and gone.
As I re-read the vows I made, I was blinded by tears. I absolutely feel the same way about him now after our 3 years of dating and 7 years of marriage. So if one feels so strongly and intimately about their spouse, shouldn’t they be a priority? So often we moms think our first priority should be our children. I am without doubt guilty of this. They are tiny little people trying to understand this big crazy world around them, how it works, and who they are. They need us constantly for love and protection. Yet isn’t love and security also what we promised our spouse?
Our spouse is our person. They are the one in our corner. They are the one we should make our highest priority here on this earth. That doesn’t allow him to leave dirty socks in the middle of the kitchen floor, but it does mean we need to set aside specific, uninterrupted time with just him.
For Brad and I, our marriage works best when we can communicate about an issue before it ever becomes an issue. Of course, I would love to sit and talk feelings with him for hours, but truth is, just talking with him is good for us. Brad is a quiet individual. He listens, I talk. Getting away from our everyday routine though, is a good break for us and allows us to communicate on other things than “how were the kids today?” Just sharing some tidbit of info you found interesting on the radio may spark a totally different conversation. I still learn new things about Brad by listening to what gets his attention and interests him.
So take some time to just be with your spouse. Spend time together doing something you both enjoy. Take a walk. Play a game. Go out to dinner just the two of you. Or go on a picnic together. Make it one-on-one face time where you can talk and feel free to be that fun, young woman your husband fell in love with. I asked Brad one night as just he and I were sitting around our campfire if our life was what he had envisioned when we met. He said, “No, I wanted to wine and dine you more.” He went on to say how much he enjoys the life we made, but he would like to take me out more. (At that, I went and got my heels on and ran to the car! Ha ha!) Truth is, just hearing him say that gave me a glimpse of where his heart is and once again showed me his desire to just be with me. Do that for your spouse. Speak your love for him in both words and actions. It doesn’t have to big, but let him know he is still your one.
Back when I was a new mommy, I was so nervous. Was I doing what everyone expected of me? Am I going to be a good mom? Am I doing this right? I was paranoid of all the things that everyone told me could possibly happen to this precious baby boy. And most of my time was devoted to that one little person I was now responsible for.
With baby #2, I was just tired. I had an 18 ½ month old and a newborn. Nights were filled with feedings, mornings came too early, there was even more laundry, and now I had a very active toddler to follow around! (Yawn!)
So I laugh when I say that we had to have a third child to get this parenting thing right. In other words, I’m now used to the responsibilities mommyhood brings and I’ve calmed down enough to really enjoy this stage of life (well, most days).
My three little guys are little rays of sunshine to my days. I cannot imagine having a better job than being their mommy. Nothing satisfies me more than holding one of my little loves close and just breathing them in. Their little smiles bring such joy to my heart. I melt hearing the “I love you, Mommy” that comes when we are doing an activity together that they are enjoying, when they feel safe and secure, and when they are wanting some extra cuddle time.
At the same time, being a mom never stops. There is always a squabble over toys to break up, a mouth that needs fed, a bottom that needs wiped, a scrape that needs kissed. There are toys scattered across the floor. There are laying-on-the-floor-in-Target screaming fits that need to be handled. There is food in little blonde heads of hair and markers on hands. It can be exhausting. (And this is doesn’t include the ensuing housework that follows our activities.)
The point is that just because I am with these three beautiful boys 24/7… just because my days typically revolve around playing with them, teaching them, feeding them, exploring with them, tucking them in, comforting them… just because they still require lots of help and attention… doesn’t mean I can’t be myself.
Our children should never question our desire and love for them. They should never feel second to anything. But if we make them our whole world, when they go off to college and the house is empty, will you know who you are? Will you and your spouse still be as in love as you were when you wrote your vows?
The best thing you can do for both you and your children is to share your interests with them. Do you love crafts? Let them help you make a project. Are you a reader? Sit and read a chapter book together. Let them help you in the garden. Let them see a different side of mommy than just the one who runs after them all the time. Kids love to learn. By including them in your hobbies, you are giving them hands-on exposure to new experiences which will help them find their own interests.
Plus, I want my boys to know me. Not only do I want them to know how much I love being their mommy, I want them to know who I really am, to know how much I love their Daddy, to see me live out my faith, to see that it is okay to be your own person, and to know how much I love this life we are journeying through together.
Taking time for me sounds glorious doesn’t it? We often treat this concept like a whimsical, fairy-tale idea that would happen in “the perfect world”. The truth is, we need it to happen regularly.
Realistically “Me Time” does not entail a trip to the spa, getting pampered with pedicures, or being whisked away for wining and dining. The “Me Time” I’m talking about is just some solitude or doing something you love. Allow yourself a few minutes to breathe and some time to reflect on you, on what energizes you, on what restores you, on what you need to get built back up.
When it was asked of him, “”Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt 22:36-39)
How can we love ourselves if we don’t know who we are? How can we fully love our families if we aren’t loving ourselves?
Honestly, the days I’m tired, stressed, over-committed and overwhelmed are not the happiest days in our house for my boys, for Brad, and even me. What has worked for us and for my sanity, was joining a gym with childcare. The boys get to play for two hours while I join in a workout class, lift weights, relax in the lounge, or take a shower by myself! Not only am I helping myself get exercise, lose weight, and get fit, but I am also coming away a better mom. I need that little bit of time for me, to clear my head, to de-stress and to return to my babies with a renewed energy. I have to be honest, I have never loved exercising, but I am learning to… partially because most days it’s the only “me” time I get, but also because I took time to do something good for myself.
Sometimes the gym isn’t a feasible option and that’s okay. Just take care of you. Some days holding Ethan a few extra minutes during his naptime and staring into his beautiful face helps melt away the chaos of the morning. Or eating a quiet lunch by myself after the boys are down for their naps helps me. In the summer I love to sit on the patio and enjoy the fresh air (without someone yelling, “Mommy, look what I can do!” as they perform a daredevil stunt on the playset). Some of my girlfriends have a special cup of afternoon coffee as a pick me up treat. Whatever you need to feel good about you… do it (well, as long as it’s not indulging in a whole tub of ice cream)!
Just as important as taking care of ourselves physically and mentally, is feeding ourselves spiritually. Sit down and take time to bask in the beautiful person you are. Drink in what God says about you in His word. He perfectly and wonderfully made you to be a child of the most high king. He loves you unconditionally… even in times when it feels like you’ve failed, during those moments when you are overwhelmed, when you’re having a rough day, He is there to pick you up. It is His love and his strength that helps us love — love our neighbors, love ourselves, and even our own families.
Moms, balance is a constant struggle. Just when I think I’m starting to get this whole wife-mom-me thing figured out, life pitches me a lemon to knock me off my pedestal. It’s what I choose to do with that lemon that matters. Am I going to allow myself to feel overwhelmed singing the ol’ boo-hoo-woe-is-me song or am I going to take that lemon, grab the lemon that was pitched at me yesterday, and the one from the day before and start juggling? It’s a balancing act that only gets better with practice.
Your challenge today is to make a list of your favorite things. What is your favorite way to relax? What is your favorite meal? What do you really enjoy doing with your children? What is an activity you would like to do with your spouse? Sit down with your husband and share your list with him. Ask him to help you think of creative ways for you to achieve more of that balance that you are longing for. By doing this, you are already making strides in all three areas!