But My Pre-baby Dreams Are Collecting Dust
I've always been a very optimistic person—my glass has never been half empty. But as I began setting my 2017 goals and reflecting on my 2016 accomplishments (or seeming lack thereof), it was as if I had watched the water of my life's glass just evaporate right in front of me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I began to feel overwhelmed with regret and disappointment at what I was unable to accomplish, even though 2016 was probably the best year of my life. Why? Well, I'm about to get REAL with you and I'm hoping there are other moms—especially new moms—out there, particularly, who will listen, relate with me, and maybe even press on with me.
Bottom line: I had a baby in 2016 and this whole "new mom" game is H A R D. Also, working from home with a baby is much more challenging than I imagined it being. I used to be incredibly driven—I had high expectations of myself and excelled until I exceeded them. I had no problem envisioning my potential or getting after it. At the end of 2015, I had put an aggressive action plan together for all of my exciting new business and personal dreams and goals for 2016.
...And then I was pregnant and tired in a way I didn't know was possible. My body had a roommate for nine months! As much as I enjoyed our "bonding time" as roommates, I felt like I had new limitations and needed to put a few dreams on a shelf for a season.
...And then I had a baby and it was the proudest, most physically demanding and rewarding day of my entire life. My body healed quickly and bounced back well, but not without feeling limitations along the way.
...And then I was a first-time mom, experiencing the largest rush of raw emotion ever while learning how to give, give, give, give of myself constantly. I learned yet another level of "tired" but also of "love" and "joy." I saw my role as a person shifting without my permission, limited by what I used to think and what I didn't yet know.
...And then even after my baby began sleeping through the night very early on, he would not take a bottle or use a pacifier for any reason, no matter what kind, no matter the timing, no matter if I was there or not, no matter who was giving it. I was pumping ridiculous amounts of milk at night and was limited in the time I could spend away from him during the day—as if that mattered, since emotionally (if I had admitted it), I still couldn't bring myself to part with him anyway. I used to be so independent and confident, but this baby's dependency on me was limiting my control and molding me into someone new altogether; someone unfamiliar. I was afraid of who I was becoming, but strangely loving it at the same time.
...And then each time I would finally feel like I had a handle on "momming," my baby would sprout more teeth or go through a phase of development that required even more of my patience, attention, and time. I was feeling like a complete failure in any roles outside of "mom"— unfortunately including the roles of "wife" and "friend." I felt so isolated and unlike my extroverted, energized self.
...And then my baby was eight months old and I realized I had spent four entire months trying various schedules to find a successful rhythm for working from home with my husband while taking care of our baby. I had also begun resurfacing into society with friends here and there. But all I could see was an out-of-control email inbox, unanswered social media messages, unreturned phone calls & text messages, friendships that had been loosened over time, piles of dirty dishes, a baby still attached to my breast and an un-showered, droopy-eyed reflection of myself in the mirror. The crazy part is, I wasn't as bothered by this as I once would have been.
...And then it was now—time to set goals again for the coming year. That aggressive 2016 action plan of all my pre-baby dreams I mentioned earlier is left un-checked, collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. THAT is the real reason the water of my glass seems to have evaporated.
But like I mentioned earlier, I've never been a "glass is half empty" person, and certainly won't allow myself to be a "glass is completely empty" person, right? Today I was reminded of a message my pastor (Pastor Steven Furtick at Elevation Church) gave a a few weeks ago called There's More to the Story that began to set me free from this thinking. He encouraged us to realize that, "The scene you're in is just a set up for the whole story God is telling through you." He also said, "The season of struggle you're in will bring significance to your story later."
Sure, my glass has been sitting still for awhile which has allowed the water to evaporate, but you know what? I'm choosing to believe that right next to that glass is a big, fat pitcher that is slowly being filled. With every dirty diaper I've changed, with every tear I've wiped, with every book on parenting I've read, I've added drops of water to that pitcher. Each time I help my baby turn a cry of distress into a joyful giggle, I add a drop to that pitcher. Every day I wait on my own dreams for the sake of investment into the future of my baby, I'm adding drops to that pitcher. Every amount of milk pumped, food prepared, sleep lost, love poured out, prayer spoken, laundry washed, and snuggle given adds to that pitcher of mine. Every innocent smile, every skill learned, and every bit of comfort felt by my baby brings me joy and adds drops to my pitcher. I'm choosing to keep my eyes on that rather than my empty glass. One day, when this season of sacrifice comes to an end and the scene changes, that pitcher will be overflowing; it will be more than ready to refill my dry, empty glass with such intensity, urgency and refreshment that I will never go thirsty again.
And until that day, I will embrace every drop I give. I will extend myself grace. I will release the unhealthy expectations I have placed over myself. I will take things a day at a time. I will celebrate the little wins (whether that means my outfit made it through the entire day without getting puked on or I worked two complete days during the week). I will not feel bad about spending more focused time with my baby than with others or about taking too long to respond to an email. I will stop comparing myself to other moms or other non-moms. I will stop holding myself accountable to recreating my pre-baby self (including my body image). I will no longer let the definition of my old role limit the beautiful potential of my new role. I will be grateful. I will be joy-filled.
In 2017, "I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalm 34:1 KJV)