Finding Yourself in Motherhood

Four days after my son was born, I bawled like a baby as I heard the little cry start again.  It was 3 am, I was utterly exhausted, and this was the fourth time I had tried to lay my new son down and slip into bed.  Thirty minutes later, I fell asleep with him draped across my chest…something I vowed to never do…something the pediatrician who had checked him out in the hospital had told me to never, ever do.  As I slipped into sleep I cried again, feeling like a failure as a mom. 
I’d always wanted to be a mother.  I was pretty sure that, when the time came, I would know exactly what I was doing and that motherhood would come naturally to me.  I was so wrong.
Sure, I had those amazing feelings of love you always hear about.  Changing dirty diapers didn’t make me cringe a bit.  Once the struggle of the first tough month was over, I even enjoyed nursing.  What I wasn’t prepared for were the feelings of inadequacy and uselessness.  My filthy house, dirty dishes stacked high, and inability to get one decent meal on the table made me feel completely incapable as a house wife.  The fact that my son was not a “typical” newborn (as I thought he should be) made me feel out-of-control.  My exhausted frustration at my son when he would scream for hours every night from colic made me feel like a terrible mom.  Most of all, though, I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything all day.  I struggled with feeling a sense of purpose.
I knew that taking care of my son was my purpose for this season of life, but there was a disconnect between knowing that and feeling it in my heart.  I knew I was doing something very worthwhile and purposeful, but most days I felt like I was just treading water.  The problem was that, deep down, I wasn’t just a milk-producing, diaper changing, baby holding robot…there was a very real and individual person just dying to be let out!  The challenge in any change of seasons is finding the balance between who you are as a person and the tasks God has put before you for today. 
For me, finding this balance meant two things.  The first was that I had to change.  I had to let go of my need for control and desire to do things the “right” way and instead be flexible and learn to be the mom my son needed…not the mom I wanted to be.  Anytime God refines us, the process is far from easy and painless.  There were days that I despised the new mom posting on Facebook asking for ideas of things to do because her baby was so easy and she was bored.  Yet, I have come to realize that God gave me Miles with all of his out-of-the-boxness so that He could mold me and force me to let go of my controlling tendencies.  He gave me a very real little individual so that He could change my individual self.
Finding the balance for me also meant fusing who I was as a person with the role of mother.  Again, this isn’t an easy process.  I have come to believe that, in any season or role we find ourselves in, our personality should still shine and show through.  I don’t parent the same as any other mom because I am not any other mom.  I am a tea-drinking, outdoor-loving, greenthumb-wannabe who loves traveling and good food.  Consequently, my son spends a lot of time outdoors, is well acquainted with garden tools, has traveled more than most people will in a lifetime, and will eat just about anything…including spicy food or strong-flavored ethnic cuisine.  He is his own person, but his daily life is the way it is mostly because of who I am as a person.  God placed Miles in my care because He knew that the mama I am is the mama Miles needed.   
As I approach my two-year anniversary of being a mother, I’ve gotten into a better groove.  I have a system down for at least keeping the house manageably clean.  We do eat a home-cooked meal most nights, even if it was something I stuck in the freezer two weeks ago and just dumped in the crockpot that morning.  I already have long lists of freezer meals to assemble and preparations to make for whenever Baby Baker #2 decides to enter our home, knowing very keenly how needed those will be.  I feel very purposeful as I order our home, chase my toddler around, and reach out to other moms in our community. 
I am not the same person I was before my son was born.  And yet, I am more than just a mother.  I am Caitlin Baker, wife, mom, homemaker, and very real person…something that brings me very great joy.    

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Feeling 22

I’ve never been a big Taylor Swift fan, but there was a day that I could sing “Picture to Burn” with all the bitter venom of the next girl.  Her songs were, quite simply, relatable.

When I first heard her newest song, 22, I thought it was catchy.  It was teenage angst moved into the next generation…the anthem of the single twenty-somethings stuck somewhere between the free-from-responsibility life of college and adulthood.  Sounded good.

And then I realized that I was 22 when my son was born.  For me, twenty-two didn’t mean making fun of my exes or falling in love with strangers.  I wasn’t “happy, free, confused, and lonely”.

I realize I wasn’t exactly the typical twenty-two year old.  I had been married two years, had a college degree, a mortgage, two dogs, and a baby on the way.

To some that may sound terribly sad.  They may feel like I wasted my years of freedom and tied myself down too early.  In many ways, they’re right.  I never studied abroad, worked my way up the career ladder, or spent a year on the mission field.  Twenty-two, for me, didn’t look like twenty-two for the rest of the world.

And that’s okay.  

You see, twenty-two looks like something different for everyone, simply because God has different paths for all of us.  For me, His path was getting married and starting a family young.  It didn’t include years of singleness and crazy experiences.

But lest you start feeling sorry for me, I want you to know that I really am a happy twenty-something.  I love feeling young and carefree and trying new things.  I’m blessed to have a husband who works hard to support us, so that I can have the time to both take care of my handsome little guy and pursue all sorts of interests in my free time.  Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, I feel happier and freer than I ever have.  I know I’m right where God wants me.  I dream, and I see those dreams realized.  My days are simple, but incredibly rich and full.  My husband and I go on lots of crazy adventures…just with a baby in tow.

Yes, I’m a mom and a wife.  But I am not in bondage.  You see, true joy and freedom can only be found when you are right in the center of God’s plan for you.  And that’s where I am.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s possible to embrace both the responsibility and carefree spirit of being twenty-two.  I know, I’ve lived it.

And so I embrace who I am today.

I am a wife and a mom.  But I’m also twenty-something.

  

I Vote Because of Miles

*Warning: This is a political post.  If you tend to get upset about these types of things, then please don’t read it.  I don’t want any scathing comments.  These are just my thoughts and opinions, so be nice. 🙂

Tomorrow morning my husband, my young son, and I will stand in line to cast our votes in what has turned out to be a very historic election.  I will proudly wear my “I Voted” sticker, and that night I will watch the news as the results come in.

I’m not the political fanatic in our home.  While my husband spends much of his free time following the latest polls and debates, I generally try to avoid them.  I do follow the election, but only to some extent.  I already know who I’m voting for, and I prefer to not let politics dictate my emotions and moods.  I prefer to stay away from debates, as they usually don’t result in anybody actually changing their minds.

Tomorrow, however, I will eagerly cast my ballot.  I will do so because of my son. 

Having a child changes everything.  You can talk and talk about wanting the best future for your children, but if you don’t actually have any, then it’s just talk.  This year, when I vote, it’s with the best interests of Miles’ future at heart.  Suddenly, the “future of my children” is very real, because I can see it in my son’s big blue eyes.

I have friends who aren’t voting this year, or who will be writing a name in.  They don’t agree completely with the Republican candidate, so they are holding their “principles” high and not voting for him.  They are voting with their “conscience”.  They say that they cannot in “good conscience” vote for someone who is more Moderate, for gun control, not opposed to abortion under any circumstances, not against homosexuality, not wanting to do away with the federal government completely, a Mormon, or any other reason.       

I cannot in “good conscience” not vote for him.

No, I don’t agree with Romney completely.  I’ve made it very clear before that I am against abortion, even in cases of rape.  I lean more Conservative than Moderate any day, and I firmly believe that the federal government has become far too big.  However, I will most assuredly be casting a vote for Romney tomorrow morning. 

Everyone has a right to their own opinion.  Many will vote for a third-party candidate or a write-in because they are voting on “principle”.  They insist that they are not wasting their votes.  They may not be in the sense that they are standing firm in their beliefs and voting based on them.  In truth, however, they know that there is no chance that anyone but Obama or Romney can win the election.  It’s just the facts of life. 

Those same people may criticize me for “voting for the lesser of two evils”.  They are entitled to their opinions.  But so am I.  I could not in good conscience vote for someone tomorrow who has no chance of winning.  Why?  Because when I imagine four more years with Obama in office, my son’s future starts looking very bleak.  I know that in my heart-of-hearts, I’d do whatever it takes to prevent that.

In a perfect world, Romney may not be my choice for president.  I hate to break it to you, but we don’t live in a perfect world.  We live in a fallen world, and we must do the best we can in it.  In my opinion, casting a vote for someone besides Romney is, in essence, voting for Obama.  That vote that could have been used to prevent four more years of Obama has been made basically null-and-void.  It counts, and it’s not a waste, but it’s not going to change this world or the future of our country.     

So, before you cast your votes tomorrow, look deep into your children’s eyes.  Think about the kind of world you want to leave for them.  In voting for Romney tomorrow, I am not “voting for the lesser of two evils”…I am voting for the best option.  Someday when my son asks me what part I played in this election—in helping decide the future of this country—I want to be able to tell him more than that my vote counted.  I want to be able to tell him that my vote mattered. 

Tomorrow when I vote, I am voting because of Miles.