A friend recently asked me how I enjoyed my first year as a mom.
For a minute I paused and felt a rush of mixed emotions. Memories, both good and bad, came flashing back. Amazing moments. Cherished experiences. But amidst those beautiful memories, I felt compassion for the new mom I remembered, who was very much wrestling with feelings of confusion and internal tension.
Did I enjoy the first year as a new mom?
When I think back to that first year, I remember an overwhelming sense of love that fuelled me to complete the day to day tasks of keeping my child alive. A drive that enabled me to endure multiple night wakes for months on end, marathon feeding session, endless diaper changes, and attempts to do anything that would make my son feel comfortable.
That first year was filled with joyful visits to and from family, connecting and reconnecting with new mom friends, and discovering a new level of gratitude for my husband.
That first year was filled with winter strolls by the lake, days at the park, picnics, playdates, mall walks, splash pads, swimming, and trying new baby foods.
But what caused me to get choked up when I though back to that first year, is the tension I knew I was wrestling with inside, through it all. I wish I realized that the tension was exactly what I needed at the time.
The tension between wanting to fulfill my self-gratifying (selfish) desires that once made me feel ‘happy’, contrasted with a period of letting go of those attachments in order to experience joy in something new.
The tension between keeping up the fast-paced life I had become accustomed to, created by a culture where you are praised for how much you do. A culture where you are told to push yourself to achieve your goals, seize the day, and reach your full potential. This life, contrasted with a period of time where I was forced to slow down, and perhaps, rest. To let go of the desire to be seen, to be praised and affirmed for my hard work and hustle.
The tension between my identity as a self-sufficient, independent, self-made millennial, contrasted with the humbling experience of asking for help, stepping out of the rat race, being vulnerable about my struggles, relying on others, and remembering that my self-worth is not self-made.
Many frame parenthood as a period of time to raise up a child; to teach, influence and mold them into people that we wish them to be. But what if we saw it as a period of time that can shape, influence and challenge us to be who we ought to be?
If there is one thing I want my son to know, it is that I am extremely grateful for the challenge parenthood has presented me. At his very young age, he has taught me so much.
That even though it seems like everyone around me is moving at an incredible pace, is accomplishing so much in a day, there’s beauty and wisdom in slowing down, in resting, and being present to the people and world around you.
He reminded me that it’s ok to admit that – while I could try to do it on my own and become a self-proclaimed super mom – it’s much easier and life-giving to accept help, admit we can’t and shouldn’t do it all, and are stronger when we are in loving community with others.
He reminded me to savour and to be grateful for the free gifts of life that hold so much satisfaction. Summer sunsets. Throwing stones in the lake. Savouring a sweet strawberry that’s in season. Good conversation. Free fun experienced from being a kid again.
But most importantly, he reminded me that my worth does not come from my abilities, talents, accomplishments, my outward appearance, my job title, my ‘lifestyle’, my paycheque, or the number of followers on my Instagram account.
Did you get that? Your worth does not come from those things. Don’t believe the lies.
I am fortunate to have parents who have shown me what unconditional love might look like, and who have pointed me to the source. Because the truth is, sometimes even parents can make their love conditional. The source has always been God’s love for all humanity, and by accepting this love, we are empowered to love others. This is a love given to us not because of anything we do, what we look like, who we know, or what we’ve accomplished. We are loved, and deserving of love, simply because we are His. Just like I love my son simply for the fact that he is my child, and nothing he could do could earn my love for him.
When I was reminded of this love, which captivated my mind and soul so many years ago – I was once again inspired and empowered to give this same unconditional love to those around me. And to finally let go of any of the voices that say I need to be anything other than the loving person I was created to be.
To be honest, I didn’t enjoy every moment of the hardest year of my life. But it’s not about that anyway. In becoming a parent, I rediscovered who I am, and who I was always meant to be.
The tension between our desires, both good and bad, are where we meet God. – John Mark Comer
1 John 4:16 – We love, because He first loved us.