When I visited Ghana as a college student, I was overwhelmed by culture shock. Goats and chickens wandered freely, most people lived in shacks without plumbing or electricity, and open sewers lined the streets. The smell of diesel fuel permeated the air. Everything was unfamiliar. When I returned home to the U.S., I wanted to hug the customs officer who stamped my passport and greeted me with, “Welcome home.”
About six years ago, I entered another new country, but this time there was no passport or return ticket. When my daughter was born, I was again overwhelmed by the unfamiliar territory I found myself in. I struggled with postpartum mood disorder after a difficult birth and breastfeeding challenges. I wish I could say I quickly recovered, but it was a long journey, made more difficult by the social isolation I faced as a new stay-at-home mom.
I remember looking at my empty calendar and thinking about how it used to be filled with work and social activities. There was no schedule anymore, other than my daughter’s schedule of sleeping, eating, and diapering. Most of my friendships seemed to fade away. I didn’t know what to do with the long hours alone with my preverbal baby. I walked all around our southeast Portland neighborhood with my daughter, wishing for opportunities to talk to people.
I slowly discovered activities I could do with my baby. Mom and baby yoga class. Visiting the ducks at the rhododendron garden. Baby sign language class. Walking around the zoo. Mom and baby writing group. Storytime at the neighborhood library. These became the activities that filled my schedule.
Fast forward six years later and my life looks quite a bit different than it did during those early days of motherhood. I am now a mother of two very talkative and active young children.
As I write this, my three-year-old climbs up next to me, and says, “Mom, I am glad to see you!”
My calendar is no longer empty and now verges on being overfull. Balancing my family life, part-time job, church and social activities can be a juggling act. Instead of long unscheduled hours alone with my child, my life now requires a high level of efficiency. I am the family chauffeur, maid, grocery shopper, cook, accountant, and activity scheduler.
As I write this, my son Paul grabs my arm and says, “I’m kissing you.”
Parenting continues to be a journey of being interruptible. As a highly-scheduled, task-oriented achiever, embracing interruptions is hard for me. I always have a place to be or a to-do list to work through.
I think many of us, myself included, allow ourselves to be overscheduled because we’re afraid of the same empty calendar that I experienced as a new mom. We’re afraid of being lonely and disconnected. We’re afraid of missing out and not living our best lives. I get it. But sometimes I wonder what we might miss out on as a result of being overscheduled.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
Our Western culture places a high value on busyness and efficiency. We also greatly value certain types of work over others. The work of parenting is of very low value in our culture, and I often undervalue my own contributions to my family as the primary parent. During my early years of motherhood, I went through a lot of deconstructing of my identity and self-worth. Was parenting just an interruption from my “real” paid career? Was I contributing enough to society and to my family by staying at home with my children?
But the Bible instructs us not to conform to the pattern of this world, that instead we are to conform to God’s will. The values of this world often do not align with the values of God.
Today I know that parenting is incredibly difficult work and should be valued as such. I was deeply encouraged by a dad who told my mom’s group that in his opinion, “Moms who take their role seriously are the backbone of Western society.”
I want to do a better job of being in the present with my children, and being more patient and interruptible. When my children interrupt me from a task I’m working on, I want to remember that being their mom is in fact my most important work. Today my children are giggling in the background as I finish writing this post. I’ll take the sound of their giggling over silence anytime.
About the Author
Ursula and her husband Spencer have two young children, and their family enjoys playing hide-and-seek and dancing in the living room. She works as a communications and events coordinator with the University of Oregon. Ursula has also just become CitySalt’s new Children’s Ministry Director. Congratulations, Ursula!
You can read more from Ursula at motherbearblog.com.