I have been talking to more and more moms (mostly those who stay at home), who are struggling with their sense of purpose. If you have chosen to give up your career and stay at home, maybe you identify with this.
At our old jobs, we were good at what we did. We felt like we were accomplishing something when a deadline was met, customers were pleased, and goals were achieved. We had tangible rewards, such as a paycheck, a raise, or an award. Even at a difficult job, getting paid was a motivator to keep coming to work each day.
At home, it can be a different story. There's no paycheck calling your name. Maybe you feel like you rarely do anything right. You work hard to clean, but the room is destroyed 10 minutes later. You have half-finished projects lying around. Bills are lost in piles of papers. You haven't even had time to put your makeup on. After a few days, then a few months, then a few years of this, it is easy to see why mothers can get discouraged and feel lost. Many of these moms I have spoken with feel confused, sad, and bored.
There are some moms who seem to be so good at what they do, and it comes so natural to them. Yesterday I was talking to a good friend about her new life with three girls under age 3. She exclaimed, "I love, love, LOVE motherhood!" Indeed, she finds her greatest fulfillment in staying home with her girls, and it seems to flow easily from her very core. I do love motherhood, but staying home has been one of the most difficult aspects of it for me. I wouldn't trade it or change it, but it has forced me to work on every single weakness that I have, every minute of every day.
It's not that we would give up our lives, or don't love our children, or aren't thankful for the opportunity to stay at home. Yet if our identity was in our job, our accomplishments, or our degrees, it is hard to make that "shift" in our thinking to realize that our children are now our job and our accomplishment - especially when we are dealing with simultaneous meltdowns in Target while judging eyes are watching.
So how do we find a new identity as a stay-at-home mom? For awhile, I joined outside mommy-groups, which were a life-saver to me. I made new friends, got involved in leadership, and felt a sense of purpose. Yet when it came time to move on, I was again faced with that question, "What do I do now? Who am I?" In other words, how do you find your identity when you are not in a position of influence outside your home, yet that is what you enjoy so much?
I truly believe that God leads us into seasons of influence, and seasons of rest. We are always called to influence our children, yet many of us long for more. We read of other moms getting to do what they love, and we want that, too. Yet we are day-after-day stuck inside of our houses folding laundry and doing chores, yearning for the day we can chase after our passions once again.
It is during these seasons of rest that we find out who we really are. Do we have a true relationship with God apart from what we do for Him? Do we seek Him as much when we're not in a position of influence? Do we still get fed spiritually when we're discouraged, or just give up? Our true character comes out. We are put to the test with our patience, our love, our forgiveness, our anger. We get frustrated easily. We cry. We lose it.
Yet here is something that I have learned over these six years: this season of me staying home is not only about my children's character development - it is about my character development. It is about me becoming more like Christ and experiencing my weaknesses to their full measure, and watching Christ use me, love me, and forgive me despite myself. I want to run, and get out of this house, and find fulfillment outside of these 4 walls. Yet God keeps calling me back in. "I'm not done yet," He says. "It's not time yet," He whispers. My heart grows impatient, but He does not grow impatient with me.
It is tempting to focus on all we are not getting to do. I struggle with this every day, because I am a do-er. I get energized when I have a deadline to meet or a goal to accomplish. Here, I don't have any big looming deadline or goal that propels me forward, and so I can easily get depressed and bored. The other day, though, I had a small revelation. Instead of focusing on the larger picture of my life, and all that I am not getting to do right now as I stay home (besides have an eternal impact on my children), I will try to just stay focused on today. Today a friend called who needed me, and I was able to encourage her. If I didn't accomplish anything else, today that was my purpose. Yesterday I spent time in prayer for someone else. If I didn't accomplish anything else, that was my purpose yesterday. Somehow that perspective is keeping me going, helping me to move forward.
We all know that this is "just a season." Yet there is still purpose in this season. That purpose is your children, but it is also YOU. Welcome to your purpose - God is changing you day by day.