“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis
Have you ever felt like laughing, crying, jumping for joy and bawling like a baby all at the same time?
If you're a female, chances are good that you are currently nodding your head in agreement.
If you're a mom, chances are even better.
That's what happened to me earlier this week.
You see on Monday, for the first time, I dropped all four of my kids off for the start of school. Not just half day, three times a week school but full-time, all day five-days-a-week-other-people-know-my-kids-better-than-I-do school. And the dog and I came home to an empty house.
And as I sat there with my coffee and my devotion, completely undisturbed, I realized that I really don't know how to do this sort of a life anymore. I knew that there was definitely no shortage of things to do, for I have a to-do list a mile long including both household-related tasks as well as work-related obligations. But for 9+ years, my time and schedule has been largely dictated by a minimum of two little people who needed to get dressed, eat, play, whine, sleep, go to the bathroom, tell me a story or show me a newly-learned trick. Now the house was silent and my time was pretty much my own.
I thought back to the night before, one of my 9-year old daughters crying as she got out of the shower, grieving the end of summer vacay and the change that would inevitably take place the following morning. Oh, how I felt her sadness. It had been a great summer – so many wonderful days spent at the beach, the park, laughing with family and friends, riding bikes, taking walks, perusing the books at the library, checking milkweeds for monarch caterpillars and the list goes on. So many good times.
But, if I'm being honest with myself, there were also times when it wasn't so good, too. Times when patience ran short due to a late night of fun the day before, times when nobody could agree on what game to play or show to watch, times when the mosquitoes ate us alive and drove us back indoors when we were in desperate need of fresh air, times when I couldn't believe it was time to start making lunch when I hadn't even begun to clean up from breakfast, even times when I dreamed of the days they would all be at school and we’d all have a routine again.
While packing school lunches on Sunday night, I laughed as I recalled a recent conversation with a friend about my dislike for lunchtime during these last summer days when I was out of ideas and out of stamina for preparing yet another grilled cheese or hot dog. Was needing to prepare four kids' school lunches really any better?
While helping everyone pick out clothes for the first day back the weight of not just having clean clothes but proper clean clothes washed over. I guess swim trunks and an old t-shirt wouldn't fly for my boys in their Kindergarten classroom. I suddenly viewed the shorts differently which my daughters' now much-too long legs made look awfully too short.
As I checked everyone's alarm clock (including my own), I lamented the fact that we would now be dictated by a schedule, even though the lack of routine over the past few weeks and lazy mornings were starting to drive me batty.
And as I sat there Monday, I wrestled with the slightest feeling of guilt over the days I didn't fully enjoy. After all, how blessed am I to have four healthy, happy kids who I get to hang out with on a daily basis? I have the luxury of running my own business from home where I can set my own hours and determine my own schedule. I'm able to do the “fun things” with my kids and pretty much be home every morning when they get up and every night when they go to sleep.
Now they were all at school and I missed them. There was nothing “lazy” about this morning, everyone up and dressed before 7:15am. There was no lunch to prepare come noon time. And laundry, well, you know, there's always laundry.
For those who have been down this road before, I know what you're thinking: I'm gonna love this. And I don't doubt that what you say is true. Give me about two weeks and I'm sure I'll be wondering how I ever functioned when they were all home and I seemed to need to get someone a snack every five minutes.
But the point I'm trying to make is this: motherhood and loving your children, as with many things in life, brings with it a great contradiction.
I crave a break from my kids, my responsibilities so badly but when I finally manage to get one, I long to be with them.
I want my kids to grow up to be independent, responsible human beings but I also want them to never stop needing me.
I want to eat lunch with my kids but I don't want to have to prepare it or clean it up ;)
Will I never be truly happy?
The easy (and seemingly depressing) answer is no. But there's a reason for that.
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
But Jesus says:
“‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’” John 10:10
This “full life” will never come from our children, our families, our careers, our possessions, our accomplishments, our circumstances. Because without God, His plan for our lives and His Word which tells us that we were made for His glory, there would be an irreconcilable void. I love my children more than I ever thought possible. But there's a reason that even they do not completely fulfill me. Only God can fill that hole.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12
Do I pray for contentment in this new season of life? Most definitely. But my prayers are different than before. I no longer pray that I fully enjoy all of my days, regardless of the leg of the journey and that I find a new routine that makes me constantly happy. Because there are no guarantees that this “new normal” will continue – in fact, it's pretty much a guarantee that it won't. Holiday breaks will come upon us, someone will stay home sick for a day or two, summer will come again and a whole slew of other unpredictable “bumps” which are not even on my radar. And if I base my contentment and fullness on those circumstances, I'll be shaken the moment they change. Rather, I pray that God continues to work His Spirit within me, to fill me with the wisdom and contentment that can only come from Him and to show me my new role in furthering His Kingdom during this stage of life.
And every time I do feel that lack of fulfillment and contentment? I pray that I will be thankful for that, for it will simply be God's way of reminding me to turn to Him. For we truly were made for another world.