The day we deliver our first child, we deliver a new self, as well. In an instant, our identity expands to include motherhood, from the mundane, everyday tasks to the long-term planning needed to raise another human being. But it will take us a lifetime to grow into that identity, for our minds and especially our hearts to grasp this new role and all of its confusing, dramatic, lovely complexity. This quote from Linda Wooten summarizes it well:
Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.
In casual conversations with friends and family, I’ve heard many acknowledge that initially, their entire sense of self is wrapped up in being a mother. The host of immediate cares and concerns spurred by caring for little ones can cause us to forget who we are as women, leaving us overwhelmed and discouraged–even amid the countless joys that accompany new life. I certainly struggled with that thought during my first days with an infant. One thing that kept me going was the notion that I would soon find “balance”–a term overused in almost every corner of modern life. Somehow, I’d learn how to blend the woman I was before with the woman I was becoming, and everything would be perfectly calibrated.
It wasn’t until last week, while listening to Midday Connection, a Moody Radio program, that I discovered an alternative to balance, one that makes more sense. Author and pastor Mark Buchanan, in discussing his book, Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul, suggested that it’s rhythm, not balance, that we need to travel through life’s different seasons:
Balance is this kind of unicorn, I think, we’re chasing, that we never catch. We catch little glimpses of it–we think–and then we never get hold of it, because I don’t think it’s the thing we’re supposed to be going after. It’s rhythm. And every season that comes upon us has this inherent lopsidedness.
Buchanan points out that winter, for instance, is often a barren stretch of nothingness, while summer brims with overabundance. We need to develop a rhythm to help us move through these unbalanced seasons, one that matches the burdens, opportunities and gifts of each, he says.
This is an excellent way for anyone to understand his or her spiritual life, and that includes new moms. The early days of motherhood represent a distinct season in a woman’s life. Sometimes we are mired in winter, with its bleak, tired desolation. Buchanan noted that it’s often a circumstance that can usher in a wintry season for our souls, and I believe that for some women, motherhood introduces an unexpected sort of winter: Interrupted sleep, swinging hormones and a lack of alone time–to name just a few changes–can leave us feeling like dried-up sponges.
Suddenly, as the baby begins to sleep longer and our fatigue wanes, we may find we’re wading through spring, with its lush new life. We created a human being, after all, and there he or she sits, sleeps and eats, all because God granted us this gift. It’s startling, really. Each day this little person invites us to discover a different delight, and reminds us that nothing else we do will be quite as important as bringing life into the world.
Each of these seasons calls for a different rhythm. We need to grant ourselves enough grace to develop the rhythm that’s right for us and our families, rather than strive to attain a perfect balance. I agree with Buchanan–I don’t think God intends for us to chase an ever-elusive balance. We live, after all, in a fallen world, and there’s nothing balanced about that.