Disclaimer: this post is the one I've been working on. It still doesn't sound quite right and is probably harsh at some points. I'm not even sure I got my points across as I shifted from thought to thought. Sorry it's so long. Overall I wanted the other young moms, as well as myself, to be inspired, not convicted or defensive but we'll see..
I'm a mom now. So, is that it? What else goes on the planner? Is the tendency to forsake all other parts of your life once diapers show up? I know it's not just me. I know that our church struggles on many occasions and for many events at getting the young moms involved. What is that? There's a time span that should be allotted for a learning curve but at what point does your 'motherhood' become your hiding place?
Here's the fruit of the issue: I'm not serving anywhere. You know, service. Helping others and taking care of someone besides my family. I also dropped out of most everything I used to be involved in, church related or otherwise.
There was a conversation had this week about nursery at church. The woman in charge is having trouble getting moms to sign up for a shift. It's a whole hour. Yikes. A whole hour once a month and I get free childcare the rest of the time for it? Sounds like an ugly commitment. Or just a simple way to serve. Another event we have at our church coming up is the "Harvest Party", held for our community. We are the hosts, not the guests and yet I know they have trouble filling the slots for manning the booths each year, especially from the young families. After all, we're the ones with kids, isn't this our event? Hmmmm. I'm sure there are legitimate reasons for some families to not chip in but here's my problem: in our church it seems that the young families are the ones who receive a lot of the help, arguably more than many other subgroups. Yet it's this group that has become unwilling to serve and I've just slipped in along side them. Is that ironic to anyone else? At what ages will our kids be before we stop always taking and start giving, if ever?
This weekend we were at a college retreat with a campus ministry from Mizzou. (Yes, we took Eliot camping! More on that later...) While the kids were playing capture the flag, we got a chance to chat with the director of the ministry. When asked what his biggest struggle with this generation of kids was he replied that they are in a place of critical consumerism. They are there to be served, and very few are there to lend a hand or reach out. Most of them are Christians. If his ministry isn't providing enough for them, they move on to another one instead of chipping in some help. Where has the church gone wrong? Is it the church or is it a mindset that we parents have unintentionally instilled in the minds of our children. Would rejecting the plea to help out in the nursery one hour a month at church create an unsaid message to Eliot? Maybe. It certainly does to the nursery staff that work all week but serve anyway.
And while I'm up here on this soapbox: at our church we have lots of things offered for personal growth. For your marriage they have classes once a week for a short season. For women we have bible studies and a retreat once a year in the fall. At these events, there's very few young moms represented. Where are you? Do you not need to work on anything but motherhood during this time of life? At what point does 'life' stop because motherhood started?
There have been opportunities that have come up in the last few months for me and at times I've been hesitant to participate. Why? Because Eliot needs me. Of course he does, I'm his mom. However, that thought process could be taken too far. It can be taken to the "martyr" role pretty quickly, at least for me. And that, my friends, does NOT need to be nurtured.
What does this 'denying self at all times at all costs for the sake of your children' lifestyle lead to other than self-centered children? It has to affect your marriage, first of all. Secondly, your sanity. Aren't you exhausted? I am. Thirdly, I'm assuming, would be bitterness when your life is gone and your kids don't worship you anymore. Your personal needs didn't vanish the minute you held your first little one. Your child(ren) weren't meant to meet all your needs, and neither was your husband. You were created to desire more than that and ultimately to serve and therein glorify the Lord. Does raising Godly children glorify the Lord? Absolutely. Does taking a break once in awhile, even weekly, so that you can nurture other needs take away from that calling? I would say no, that it in fact would enhance your ability to raise your children. What opportunities are you and your family missing by hiding out in your house? Was our identity so wrapped up in our life before kids that we now struggle to know whom we are and so we just retreat backwards into motherhood, never to be seen again until soccer teams start?
Now, a couple of limitations of my rant: I'm a mom of one. I've only been a mom in the states for a couple months. My husband willingly shares responsibilities of parenthood, even in this young stage, and has the flexibility to do so. My child is pretty flexible in new situations and can adapt his schedule accordingly. That being said, I'm still concerned about this trend.
Please don't hear that Eliot's needs are secondary and that I just get to them whenever I'm not out being social. He's always a priority. Not just his immediate needs but also his needs down the road. Does he need to grow up with a mom who's made him the center of the universe so much so that she has very little of her own life or very little marriage left? Does he need to grow up in a house that sees the church as a place to be served or to serve (more than once a year, that is...)?
I'm not suggesting that a little slow down isn't necessary once diapers and bottles enter the picture. I just don't know why you have to quit everything until further notice. I'm also not suggesting you "do it all!" as the American culture can pressure us to do but there needs to be some balance.
There are moms out there that have broken this mold for me. I love seeing pics of my friend Erin who goes rock-climbing and hiking with her toddler. I cherish memories of hanging out with high school kids weekly as a young kid as my parents volunteered with the youth ministry. I love that my Arbonne teammates enjoy combining our informal meetings with play dates. I was encouraged watching Lisa bring Charlie to small group before we had Eliot and putting her to bed in a pack-n-play so that she and Jake could participate in something once a week for their marriage. I look up to my friend Amanda who runs the children's program at her church with her two kids in tow.
It all boils down to serving Jesus. Which, again, has some irony involved in that He "didn't come to be served but to serve." He didn't suggest the disciples wash his feet since he was the big chief, he insisted on washing theirs. There was no entitlement or "rights" in His walk here. While he had every right to come and be served, he denied that and chose to constantly serve and His disciples learned from walking along side Him. That's how I want Eliot to learn. Not just from me saying thank you to those who serve me but from walking along side me as I serve.