Guest Post: A Role of Irony

My dear friend here in Austin, Texas, Carolyn Bright, wrote a beautiful piece on her new job of “mom.” Being eleven weeks in to motherhood myself, I have turned to her and many friends as I embrace this new role.

“A quick update on my latest job as a Mom and why it’s one of opposites”

One of the primary definitions of irony, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.” If I could summarize motherhood lately, it would mirror that definition. It is a role full of expectation and lots of incongruity. Contradiction is a primary theme.

The irony seems to lie in both the practical and the deep emotions I experience daily. As I returned to work three months ago, I found myself missing my child, craving her giggles and our long days together. She and I were no longer two peas is a pod, spending our days coexisting with aligning schedules and priorities. Lainey attends daycare eight hours a day, five days a week. She has lovely teachers who care for her, feed her, change her diapers, and wipe away her tears. I now spend my days juggling being full-time working mom. Side note on this: I dislike the use of “full-time working mom”. Isn’t motherhood a full-time job? Even the way we talk about being a mother is full of irony.

In the midst of this transition, I’ve face a strange realization and an unlikely irony. Why do I miss my child while I’m away, but crave time alone when I’m spending a long day at home? Am I incapable of succeeding at this motherhood job because I crave more mental stimulation and adult conversation? Why do I feel sad as I wonder whether my daughter is napping or playing each afternoon, counting down the minutes until I see her? Am I delegating away my role as a mother or living out my dream as a woman who supposedly is doing it all? My emotions seem to range from one extreme to the other, all in a day’s (or hour’s) time.

Somehow, I don’t think I’m getting at the real problem. This is where most of the motherhood versus “work” conversation ends. People ask if I’m happy in my situation. I struggle to verbalize my emotions, but oftentimes mention that there’s an ongoing tension that seems hard to resolve. I usually suggest I’m confused, torn, and dissatisfied. At the end of the answer, I find myself asking, what’s the real problem here?

I dig deeper. Why the range of emotions? Why the discontent? Is this just the state of being human — wandering from one hope to the other in search of lost joy?

Admittedly, I will never solve the tension that exists for women as to what they pursue in the early years of motherhood. Yet, I must address the darkness within me. My lack of joy is not due to my current situation — it lies in the unrest of my heart.

I crave whatever my life does not contain at the current moment, looking to places other than Christ for fulfillment and peace. When I experience them, I leave feeling empty. I seek other mothers’ advice, hoping they’ll point me to a clear answer. Yet, I find similar challenges in their lives. I try to focus only on the practical things, tweaking my schedule, maximizing my work productivity or taking a day off. The lift I feel is short-lived. I attempt to parent “better” and find myself striving without purpose and believing my role as a mother will end in some sort of performance review. I daydream about a different or better life and sink lower when I face the reality of my own. I become ungrateful and self-focused.

I seem unable to address the real issue here: my heart. C.S. Lewis notes that, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes and precautions — to Christ.” I confess I’ve tried every means for self-resolve without turning whole-heartedly to Him. I’ve been tossed back and forth by the waves without looking up. I’ve attempted to control the situation by treating it myself or masking my own discomfort.

I’m writing this down as a form of confession and repentance, but also because I want other women to ask deeper questions than whether they should get a new nanny or take a long vacation with their kids or find a job with better benefits. If it were that simple, a lot more people would have figured out the key to contentment. Addressing the problem of the heart is more challenging and yet, more fruitful.

I often picture God waiting for me as I come home from work, rushing around in all my self-absorbed busyness, thinking about my next task at work and my child’s hunger cries all at once. Meanwhile, I’ve somehow missed Him sitting on a barstool in the middle of my kitchen with a cold drink in hand, waiting for me to tell him the details of my heart and ask for new joy and purpose.

What I’m here to confess and ask is simple and honest. I’m confused and seeking, humbled and encouraged, broken and redeemed. I’m ready to sit down on that second barstool and allow Him into this tension. My prayer today is that I will pause more often, ask the hard questions of the heart, and believe that a little bit of heaven will enter into the messy (and even contradictory) emotions of motherhood. (ORIGINAL POST HERE)

The Serenity Prayer and Your Beautiful Mind

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
— The Serenity Prayer


On Saturday mornings, I try to make it to my favorite Al-Anon meeting in town. Today's meeting reminded me of a good movie you see. You leave the theater and know you are going to think about it for a long time. That was this morning. I feel incredibly rich being in a room with such gorgeous people and fellow travelers through life. 

First Reflection: Often, when I pray the Serenity Prayer, it sounds like this: "God, grant me the serenity-.... [oh wait, I've go to do this....fold the laundry, unload the dishwasher, fill my car up with]" My mind and heart are so concerned with making my life happen, checking through my to-do list, so that "I will feel better." Daily, I have that conversation with myself. It goes like this: "I'll feel better when ______________." (I get fully licensed, my husband finishes his exams, we have a baby, we buy a house, summer comes, etc....) Do you have that conversation, too? The "I'll feel better when" promises relief and finality, but it doesn't work. The when in our lives is ever-shifting. 

Second Reflection: The Serenity Prayer brings up this aspect of control. Controlling spaces. Controlling others. "...the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..." I love control. It brings and promises me comfort. Growing up in the midst of alcoholism, I have learned that my physical environment intersects with my experience of feeling in control. Cleanliness, minimalism, and order-it promises so much. The physical scene of my space inside the home mirrors my hope and longing for my heart and mind to be the same way-clean, minimal, and in order. Yet the human heart is anything but that. Often, my heart is a mess. It is turbulent, always loving something, always in flux. While I love beautiful, clean spaces, (and that is a good thing), they never stay clean for long. There is always something else to be done. Even this morning, I spilled my coffee on the counter. So, I will never arrive at perfection, at least in this life. We sin, we mess up, we confess, we need grace, we receive mercy, and start again. Clean, dirty, clean...

Things we are powerless over: the weather, aging, children growing up, what people do, how our family acts, fashion, technology, traffic, disease. What else? You tell me. 

My mom often told me growing up: "We are powerless over people, places, and things." It was some Al-Anon slogan, and often, it annoyed me. But she is right. I have control over myself, to a certain degree. I can choose to focus on what is worrying me, what is scaring me, or what I am grateful for. When I change my thoughts, I can change my feelings. And when I change my feelings, I can change my actions.

In the same way I want to focus on "cleaning" or "controlling" my home and physical environment, this aspect of control can show up in my longing to control other people. It's always about the other person and what he or she is doing wrong. Right? If they didn't act this way, then I would be okay. It is wild thinking. We must stop using our beautiful minds as a microscope into the lives of others. Jesus says, "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7). In fact, the person in the mirror (me) is the one who is sick. Jesus tells us that he comes not for the righteous, but for sinners-for those who know they are not well. And I am not well. None of us are well. We can be honest about this part of our hearts. I am finding that it brings relief to be honest.

My step-father, John, often says: "Worry about yourself." He does not mean this phrase in a manner of self-absorption. He means for the words to liberate-to remind us where we end and other people begin-to free us from the compulsion to believe that our happiness exists within another's hand. I am responsible for myself and no one else. Here's one more voice saying the same thing: Dr. Bill Barnes. He is a retired surgeon in Georgia who works with horses. This is how he describes this nature of our relationship between ourselves and others:

The number one thing that motivates a horse to be with you is peace, and that also is with people. People like to be around people who are settled, who know where they are going, who are directed and have self-confidence, and also, are trying to be a servant to others around them. You’re really working more on yourself more than the horse, and that is a real art.
— Dr. Bill Barnes


Third reflection: Life is about loving and being loved. (The Moral Bucket List by David Brooks). It isn't about how successful your career is, or how much money you bring in. It's about relationship. Be honest. Love people. Do the next right thing. Make your bed. All will be well. God's planning and timing are perfect (and different from what we would like). Don't argue with the wisdom that comes in your gut. You are loved. Spring is coming.




Spring is Coming

Spring is Coming