Motherhood: the feelings of value struggle

A friend asked me to post my FB comments here, so I’ll clean them up a little and do that. We were discussing feelings of un-appreciation and de-value as SAHMs, even when our husbands are incredible and incredibly supportive. Here are my thoughts:

First, I want to say that it’s good to bring this topic up, because it is something we almost universally struggle with, so we need a vocabulary and a way to think about this. Because it is often a cyclical struggle–it’s not something we figure out once, then everything is OK. It’s more like, we have to figure out patterns for handling well these recurring thoughts and feelings. (Because I think that in “retirement” age, for example, we’ll feel the same way.)

But also, knowing the truth logically [that what I’m doing is valuable and worthy], and feeling that it’s actually true, are often different things. To illustrate, I remember, about 8 years ago, reading Psalm 23– the green pastures, quiet waters, overflowing cup … and I thought, wow, how romantic it all sounds. But what a joke? I don’t feel like any of that is true! My cup is empty! I’m in the desert emotionally, for Pete’s sake…..

And I had to make a choice at that moment to press God– or more likely He was pressing me, you know. And I prayed and said how I didn’t feel it was true, but it must be true if Your Word says, so will You please help me see and feel that it is true? 

The answer didn’t come in any certain way. It just sort of crept in. But it was not the answer like how we’d want it to be– it was not a constant emotional high and feeling uber pumped about all my mundane responsibilities. 

I don’t even know how to explain it because I still struggle with “what is the value” of what I’m doing, however, I also more see the value of it. My cup does feel full, and I’ve let go of many of the expectations that were robbing me– like that I had to clean like FlyLady and home school like Charlotte Mason (OK, I love CM, but I fall short in so many ways), I eventually farmed out the English class, and I’m so glad….

But I realized all my struggles, in the long run, were good for me–they were green pastures making me strong and healthy, able to serve others in God’s way– not in the supermom way I imagined feeling fulfilled.

But anyway, I just wanted to reiterate that we need to be thinking about this topic because it plagues a lot of us, and we need to allow the Holy Spirit to establish us in peace in our “right mind”

I’ve been pondering lately, how I can understand the feminists, though I don’t agree with many of their conclusions. There are a lot of very real factors here: The Industrial Revolution moved money-earning out of the home. The only way I “earn money” as a sahm is by what I don’t spend– by how economically I can home school, buy groceries and prep food. … The Industrial Revolution also changed work so it can be done faster, and food is much faster and easier to make than it used to be. 

And most of the work a SAHM mom does, in this, the wealthiest nation on earth, is historically and currently done by servants. So we logically know that all our work is valued in the Lord, however in society and ingrained in us, it is not.

Here are realizations that have helped me: 
1. The “enjoy the moment” movement— Puhleeze, just kill me now. Rather: Enjoy the memories–YES! I gave up a calling to stay home with my kids. It hurts like nothing else has ever hurt me and for a very long time; I have actually only recently been able to shed my pain and disappointment over that. But today, 13 years into this deal, I’m glad I made that choice. 
2. I can make the choice to stay home, home school, whatever, and I can do it terribly. Just making “the right choice” (for me) doesn’t make the right end. Arthur Pink, in his chapter, “The Guidance of God” (in his book The Attributes of God) talks about how, after making the choice, we have to keep asking God to help us, so that we live out the choice rightly, according to His ways.

3. I’ve shucked a lot of my expectations of myself. I’ve stopped expecting myself to make three meals a day. I’ve stopped expecting myself to LOVE all my responsibilities (I used to make myself feel so guilty that I couldn’t make myself love it), and my home school is … what it is. 
4. My husband delegates to our kids. And that has helped me with cooking and laundry and cleaning everything. I hate delegating. So, letting him be in charge of some things basically means he delegates and I am very thankful. Our kids would know almost nothing and I would be frazzled to death if I hadn’t relinquished things. 
5. I try to do what I love. I love reading aloud to my kids, even just a little a day. I love books, so I fill our house with them and our kids learn a lot from them. We try to travel on the cheap, partly because V loves the water, and I love “educational” travel. We love missions, we love giving to missions and being involved in discipleship and evangelism. I’m just saying those examples because as our kids get older, we can do more, and our years together are shorter.

 6. I have friends who work “outside the home” and some also struggle with these things. So simply adding a job doesn’t get at the heart of what’s really lacking or wrong.

Maybe it’s the quality of our relationships that we’re really feeling the lack of and it comes out as this sahm value struggle, maybe not, I don’t know. 

Those are ways this has worked out in my own mix of life. Other people have different circumstances and personalities and it will work out for them in very different ways. But one thing I’m realizing, too, is that this struggle for value is probably a human struggle. It’s not a sahm struggle.

Also, I have learned to value the life and example of Christ– that He didn’t come to be a political leader or a prince or a famous inventor or take a place of value and influence. He served, washed feet, touched dirty people, ate with them, was hemmed in by them, He “escaped” only to pray. He had 12 close followers, all who didn’t understand the significance of who He was and what He was doing…. In short, He was a SAHM 😉

Here are some thoughts from this Parenting Teens with Love and Logic book, pp. 166-167: 
“Love and Logic stresses the importance of parents taking good care of themselves to set the model for their children…. Love and Logic parents need to put themselves first in a ‘centered in self” way that is not selfish but insists on a win-win relationship….. “I love you so much. First, I win, and then look how well it works out for you. When I’m happy, you’re happy, too.” Of course that grows to be reciprocal, and when our children are happy, we’re happy too.”

He’s more applying this to teenagers, treating them and ourselves with respect, etc. When you have young ages of kids, you need to think more how to do this, and there are time periods to just “survive” and enjoy the memory. 

But what are things that are actually under your control that could make you “feel” happier? And learning to value this as an indirect way you are taking care of your family. This is not talking about irresponsibility or laying around reading novels all day, but some ways I’ve taken care of myself, for example, are almost always having a topic I study. I love to study, so I try to keep some kind of study going– reading, etc. Sometimes it coincides with my life responsibilities, other times it doesn’t at all. 

Another thing that’s helped my happiness level is letting go my expectations. All the “good wife/mom/homeschool” books– letting them go, letting my image go, because it just shows me that Christ is not being my goal but my image/expectation is! And just lowering/raising my standard to be like Christ, who was peaceful and gentle and kind and full of hope, that it wasn’t all about dishes and neatness and checking off my “to do” boxes….

So there you go. May God rescue us all. He is the Savior.

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