Every day was a battle.
As a young mom who mainly stayed home with her kids, I battled post-partum depression. I battled exhaustion. I battled discouragement. The days felt so long, and I felt completely inadequate. And I knew, somewhere deep down in the pit of my soul, that I was the only mom not loving the days of the littles.
Friends had told me that they felt called to be moms. (I never felt that calling.) Others had told me they couldn’t imagine doing anything else than being a stay-at-home mom. (I loved being a part-time professor.) One even told me I wasn’t doing enough for my children if I didn’t educate them the same way she was. (Just no.)
Every day seemed to breed a new level of comparison with other moms, especially those at my church who seemed, to me, to have it all together.
I quickly felt “not enough.” Not spiritual enough. Not Christian enough. Not mom enough. Who did I think I was to think I could possibly raise three daughters?
As my standards for myself grew higher and higher, based on what I thought others were doing, my mood sank lower and lower.
For many of my early years of parenthood, I imagine my face formed into a scowl. I was not happy, even though everything in my life was, logically speaking, wonderful. I knew my unhappiness was of my own making—I kept comparing and coming up short.
A Pivotal Moment
One day, however, God got my attention. As I was making lunch for my girls, my sweater got caught in the flame of the burner on my gas stove. Very quickly, the flames crept up my back toward my hair, but as I swatted at them with a kitchen towel, they only seemed to get bigger. Not knowing what to do, I ran out our back door and stripped off my sweater, stomping out the flames in the snow. When I walked back into the house, three pairs of wide eyes stared at me, wondering what had caused me to rush outside into the cold January air to take off my clothes! I held out the sweater and showed them what had happened, tears streaming down my face.
We all sat down on the couch. I cried while three confused little girls tried to wipe away my tears. How could I explain the impact of that moment? The Great Sweater Incident of 2000, as I have come to think of it, was one of those moments that don’t often come along in life. I felt like God grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and set me down in a new place. Pivotal, for sure.
As I sat on the couch crying, very much aware of what could have happened but, thankfully, didn’t, I thought about the previous years. Years I had wasted by feeling miserable, cheated, bitter. I thought about my attitudes, my insecurities, and my kids. They deserved a mom who was all in, not a mom who was constantly wondering how her life could be better.
From that moment, I felt like God told me to say no. No to comparison. No to complaining. No to constantly longing for something else. I suddenly realized that I had been given a gift—the gift of being my daughters’ mom—but comparison was stealing my contentment.
After the initial shock of the fire wore off and we had finally eaten lunch, my girls settled onto the floor of our family room to play. I watched as small hands maneuvered wooden blocks, marveling at my daughter’s ability to carefully stack them. I listened to their little girl banter. I heard them singing sweet lullabies to their babies. I looked around me and contemplated the gift I had been given. These three amazed me!
I suddenly saw the privilege it was to be home with my girls. I saw the value of being able to pour into their little lives every day. And I was grateful for the opportunity I had been given to be their mom. Sure, the toys were still strewn about the floor, and the kitchen still needed cleaning. My kids still fussed, and they still needed my energy and attention. My perspective, however, had totally changed, even though my situation had not.
That day, I said no to comparison, but I said yes to something even more important: I said yes to gratitude. In everything. Even for the difficult child having a meltdown in the middle of the grocery store. Even for my home that felt so small. Even for the lack of sleep.
Saying yes to gratitude made me aware of not what I lacked, but how much I had been given. And what I had been given was so much more than what I felt was missing. The day my sweater caught fire was the day I was given the gift of perspective, and I’ve never stopped thanking God for it.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
If you want to read more from Shelly, visit her site here!
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