One of the most common complaints I hear from mothers is their lack of “me”-time. Weariness sets in and mothers long for an escape…for an hour alone to sleep, read a book, or go shopping without an entourage of strollers, diaper bags, and cranky toddlers. Mothers dream of a long, hot bubble bath without little fists banging on the door, shouting “Mommy! Jeffy spilled juice on the carpet!” They imagine long afternoon naps, uninterrupted by babies crying, clothes dryers buzzing and siblings fighting. After long days and weary nights of meeting physical, emotional and spiritual needs, sometimes for years on end, their hearts cry out, “But what about ME?”
The world’s answer to this problem is to demand our rights. We DESERVE a break, we NEED a nanny or a housekeeper or a more sympathetic husband. We OUGHT to find something that fulfills us, such as an art class or a part-time job or the time away to write a book. Our culture tells us that we couldn’t possibly find fulfillment in something as mundane as mothering, so we need to look elsewhere for our happiness. Probably the most common question I am asked (and decidedly my least favorite) when people hear that I homeschool my children is this: “But when do you have time for yourself?”
I believe that God’s answer to this dilemma is one that turns the world’s wisdom upside-down. Nowhere in Scripture does God tell us to satisfy our own needs or pursue our own desires. Instead, He instructs us to serve with humility and with our whole hearts, and to rely on Him for the strength to do so. Even more powerfully, He gives us an example of what this looks like in His son, Jesus Christ. Mark 10:45 says that “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." The Messiah himself came to earth and served endlessly, purposefully and uncomplainingly. He served when he was tired, when he was grieving, and even just hours before he was facing a horrifying death on a cross.
How did he do this? The Bible tells us that Jesus was fully human, facing all the temptations and limitations of inhabiting an earthly body. How did he keep going, keep meeting needs day after day after day? I believe he was able to do this because he had one goal—that of pleasing his heavenly Father. He drew his strength from God himself, and kept his gaze firmly fixed on his Father instead of firmly fixed on himself and his own needs and desires. The happiest moms I know are those who have fixed their eyes on Jesus. They have resolutely surrendered their own agendas and have invested their whole hearts into serving their families with love and selflessness. On the contrary, the most unsatisfied moms I know are clinging to their own wants and have listened to the world’s messages that tell them they can’t possibly be fulfilled by this role of mothering. They feel empty and unfulfilled and busy their lives with more and more activities, trying to find satisfaction.
Is being a God-focused mom instead of a me-focused mom an easy task? Absolutely not. Have I achieved this myself? Decidedly no. This is a daily battle for every mom—will I live in selfishness or surrender? While surrender is painful, and oftentimes frightening, the fruit is incomparable. When we surrender our will to God’s, He not only provides peace and joy and rest, but the strength to carry on in His power. In Isaiah 1:19, God tells the disobedient Israelites, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land”. I believe the same holds true for us as mothers. If we are willing and obedient to the calling God has given us as mothers, we will see the fruit of our wholehearted mothering. A passage that I discovered early in my journey as a mother (and have clung to ever since) is found in Isaiah 58:9-11:
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
I absolutely love this passage. Although it was written by the prophet Isaiah countless years ago, it speaks to the heart of mothering. We are laboring under a yoke of oppression that the world has thrust upon us. We have swallowed the lie that mothering is a menial task instead of a divine calling. We are struggling to keep parenting in our own strength, instead of taking part in the divine power that God offers us freely. This passage teaches us that God is our source of strength and satisfaction and that if we willingly give ourselves to our children (the hungry and oppressed!), He will provide all that we need to flourish like a well-watered garden. Notice that it doesn’t say we will just survive, but that we will flourish!
Am I saying that we never need a break from our task? Of course not. Even Jesus stole away for a few hours of refreshment (and was often interrupted by his needy disciples—sound familiar?). Taking some time out to refresh and restore our souls is vitally important, but we need to make sure we are receiving our refreshment from the right source. Taking the time for a manicure or a girls’ night out can be fun and relaxing, but don’t neglect to spend some time taking in God’s refreshment by reading His word and praying daily. The lover of our souls is the one who knows exactly what we need and is ready and waiting to supply it.
So how about it? Are you willing to try an unconventional approach to mothering? Are you willing to give up the world’s quest for “Me” and devote yourself to loving service to your family? Although it won’t be easy, God promises us that He will provide the strength and joy and peace that we need. When we turn over our rights and desires to God, He promises that He will satisfy our hearts and strengthen our bodies. He will sustain us in those long days and weary nights, and help us to find joy in this season of mothering. Even better, our families will flourish when we are surrendered and are giving to them out of love, not out of obligation or guilt.
“Me”-time is a myth…we will never find satisfaction in feeding our own souls. Only in God can we flourish in this season of mothering and successfully love and train these precious children that have been entrusted to us.