Lying Fallow in the Middle Years

The other day I read a lovely blog post one of my friends posted on Facebook. It was about how a mom should just… be. Live fully in mom-hood, love it, bear it, and own it for all that it is, and even all that it isn’t.

This post made me feel really good. My family comes before all else, and I do want to own my motherhood. In fact, I think I do own my motherhood. I started to share the post on Facebook, knowing it would reach my mom friends who, like me, often need encouragement to slug through the haze and daze of these middle years.

But then I didn’t.

I certainly realize how beautiful the haze and daze really are if we just allow them to be, but I can’t get rid of the nagging thought behind that realization: even if one loves and adores the 24/7 reality of staying home, paycheck free, that doesn’t negate the internal desire to create. It doesn’t take away the gifts we’ve been given. The God-given desire to “stop evil,” that my friend Bronwyn has felt for 20 years, or the desire to teach that my friend Aleah has burning a hole in her heart, or the words that pour from my friend Lesley, even if she can’t stay awake long enough to put them to paper.

The choice of work-at-home vs. stay-at-home vs. pulling the double shift five (or more) days a week is not the whole picture of what women face. More often than not, what keeps many moms awake at night is figuring out how to fulfill a true passion for motherhood—stay-at-home or not—with the need for well-rounded personhood. And then, perhaps, feeling guilty and selfish for needing something else, or actually pursuing something else, when those activities mean dinner comes from a box, or there’s a bit too much screen time a few days a week. Or maybe that date night gets put off a few too many times.

Bible studies, moms’ groups, potlucks, and the like are fabulous and fulfilling. Volunteering at food banks, shelters, and low-income schools impact lives in incalculable ways. But sometimes there’s a need for something else. To not just do good, but to stop bad. To fulfill political aspirations, teach from a position of leadership, see one’s name shining, preferably on hardback, on the rack at Barnes and Noble.

Acting on these desires when the kids are little and the nights are sleepless, when daycare is expensive and families live hours apart, when friends are too overwhelmed with their own children to watch someone else’s, is a near impossibility.

I’ve thought and thought about what the solution is to this. Patience? Yes, that helps. But that doesn’t solve the nagging—and sometimes overwhelming—dissatisfaction that might negatively influence parenting, and at the very least makes life much less enjoyable. Is there a policy we can implement? Free, 10-hour a week in-home childcare for those with pre-school aged kids? A lovely idea, but it isn’t likely to happen.

I’ve also wondered if perhaps we shouldn’t find a solution. Negative things stem from selfishness. But is acting on the gifts God’s given us a selfish thing? If so, why do we have the gifts? Is it a lesson in patience?

Perhaps.

To be sure, this is a luxurious kind of problem to have. It isn’t about food scarcity, or having the gas shut off for non-payment, or homelessness, or the millions of other possible life issues millions face daily. But it is nonetheless a problem, and not just for those who feel like less of a person when gifts lie fallow. It’s a problem for those who could be touched, served, and changed by having another person in the world doing good or stopping bad.

Perhaps the best way to do good and stop bad is by throwing all we have into our families, making our crafts and changing thousands of diapers, or by earning our paychecks and then coming home and barely managing to keep our eyes open during tuck-in time. But I wonder if throwing all we have into our families doesn’t include feeling like a whole person and setting the example of going where we’re called, even if that means feeding our families frozen pizza yet again, or having the kids watch just one more episode of Dora.