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I had the most fascinating midwife for my most recent labor and delivery.
I’d only met her briefly before this since my clinic rotates providers during appointments, but we had the chance to have a lengthy conversation with her during labor (To make a long story short, I had a strange episode with my heart that gave everyone a scare, and she stayed with us for nearly two hours as we calmed down from the crazy experience. Thankfully everything was fine). As we asked her some questions, what unfolded was a series of unique life experiences. Judah and I (along with the nurses) were quite mesmerized.
Near the end of the conversation, it somehow came up that I was a stay-at-home, homeschool mom. I felt a little sheepish saying it after all she’d shared (even though I truly love what I do). I’m quite used to replies that border on pity or shock. But my eyes widened as she replied, “Wow, good for you. I always wanted to homeschool. Even though my kids were well-taken care of and I love the experiences I’ve had, if I could go back and do it again I’d stay home with them.”
I was taken aback. Hearing a statement like this from a woman who’d seemingly lived out the “You can do it all” mantra of our culture to a T was quite impactful. As a believer, I know why I’ve made the motherhing choices I’ve made, and why I have the particular convictions I do. But to listen to an unbeliever share that with me who—by all worldly standards—has been very successful, further convinced me of a concept I’ve been pondering for quite some time:
A yes to one thing is always a no to something else.
In this case, what that means for me as a mom to young kiddos.
I’m sure you’ve seen the ads backed with inspiring music that declare to women, “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it all.” I also see well-meaning reels and posts that tell us that children don’t have to get in the way of our dreams—that we can work hard and have everything we desire. But I’ve been a mom long enough to know that “can” is not the same as “should.” Sometimes saying yes to something I can technically do is limiting me in my ability to be the mother I should be. And sometimes—sometimes our current dreams get in the way of the better thing right in front of us: our younger dreams come true we have in our families.
As a young woman with kids, Scripture is clear about where my priorities lie: I’m supposed to be investing my “cream of the crop” time and effort into loving my husband and children (Titus 2:4). If another dream or passion begins to compromise that priority, I need to consider what’s at stake. My children will only be in my proverbial mama kangaroo pouch for so long, and I’m the only mother they will ever have. Will I look back and regret choosing them over other things? I think not. Do I trust that what God commands us to do is for our good, too? I surely hope I do.
Now, the beauty of this command to love our children is that it can be lived out however is most fitting for our family. Each of us have varying capacities and giftings, and we have freedom to pray and evaluate how to best spend our time alongside the calling of motherhood. For me, writing is one of those things that, right now, enriches my motherhood. It gives me a place to invest creative energy, grow in a skill, serve others, and process what the Lord is teaching me. I can weave it into our rhythms of life quite well. I’m all for kids watching their mamas cultivate talents and, through that, give inspiration and vision for their future. But with each new kiddo, I’ve also said no to quite a few good opportunities and dreams and passions of mine. At least, no for now. Or no in the capacity I was saying yes to before. It hasn’t always been easy to step away. However, just like I want my kids to see me stewarding my talents for God’s glory, I also want to model the reality that we are finite and in need of wisdom for how to most wisely use the limited time and energy we’ve been given. I want them to grasp that it’s ok to do a few things with excellence rather than try to do a myriad of things half-baked—to simplify for the sake of our own health and the good of those we’re called to love. And, I want them to see that it’s a very good thing to prioritize the things God says are worthwhile even when the world tries to convince us otherwise.
I have to ask myself: what kind of legacy do I want to leave with my yes’s and no’s? I’m told by mothers who’ve gone before me I’ll never regret trimming back on outside pursuits for the sake of pursuing my kid’s hearts. And right now is a training ground for my own heart, too. Will I be faithful with today so that I’m bearing good fruit tomorrow? I know I won’t do it perfectly—goodness, I’ve made plenty of the wrong yes’s and no’s in these first ten years of mothering already. But by God’s grace, I pray that I’ll be ever more in step with the Spirit, making each decision according to His Word—the lamp to my feet and light to my path (Ps. 119:105).