On contentment and fortitude

Growing up, all I wanted to do was be a wife and mommy.  I was under the impression that your life would be like Anne of Green Gables: meet that boy in high school, have a little bit of adventure and go to college and then settle down with your high school sweetheart for an idyllic life with your brood of 6 precious children on your self-sustaining farm in the Mohican Valley.  Ahem.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anything, but I would like to point out to my 12 year-old self that it might have been beneficial to ask a few more questions before settling down on this idea of what life would be.

When my life’s path changed and I got to set aside a career and work closer to home, making significantly less money in the hopes of becoming more peaceful so that I could sustain a pregnancy, I jumped at it.  I thought it was my ticket to the life I had laid awake at night dreaming of.  Even though I was supposed to be at peace, I was incredibly discontent.  I hated that I was home more, but there was no baby.  Every announcement of pregnancy from my friends would send me into despair.  So much so that one friend who knew how frustrated I was about everyone else being pregnant didn’t tell me she was pregnant and when she started spotting, she couldn’t rely on my support.  I didn’t know until after she had made it through, the baby was safe… and I was myself pregnant.  I’ve never allowed discontentment to cause me to behave like that again over the desire for a baby.  Admitedly, I struggle.  I was pregnant when Liam was 1 and I’m not now that Sylvi is 1.  It’s not the season of my life for it and I’m working to accept that gracefully.

Once I had my baby and the birth I had dreamed of, I was blindsided by struggles with nursing, colic and depression.  No matter how many positives there were in my life, I couldn’t look past my disappointments and even try to be content.  I wasted the first 8 months of Liam’s life wishing and hoping for change, regretting things beyond my control and pinning for relationships that will never be.

Motherhood is hard.  I didn’t know that when I day dreamed of my children’s names.  When I planned for their births, I didn’t figure in mental battles.  I didn’t realize what sleep exhaustion does to rational people.  But I learned.  And I am still learning.  Because, you see, in addition to the challenges of motherhood, it is also ever-evolving.  I am a routine loving person, but with small ones, the routine isn’t always concrete even remotely predictable.

I want you to know that although I struggle within myself at times to remember that this is just a season of life, it’s getting so much easier.  Life itself isn’t always easier, but my attitude in the thick of things is easier.  Why?  Because I am really am content.  I am content to stay home with my kiddos and be the on-call parent in the middle of the night.  I am content to the be the one who settles temper tantrums and cleans up puke.  I am so grateful to even have these children who laugh, cry, dance, run, scream, hit, pretend and hug.  I am so grateful to be able to stay home with our children, even though it means we have to pinch pennies and make sacrifices.  I am grateful to have a husband who wants me to stay home and care for the house, the kids, and all the logistics involved, including picking of many, many stray socks.

I’ve heard mothers complain of being bored while being at home.  Don’t say that!  Perhaps you long for the days when you could just pick up your purse and jet across town at a moment’s notice, but those days are not part of a season of life that involves small children.  Parenting is a major sacrifice, one in which all your own weakness are amplified and underlined.  Life at home, if your circumstance allows for it, is what you make of it.  Don’t let it stop being a joy.  Don’t let the pressure to rush and be involved in every play date create discontent.  Don’t mistake “me time” for actual restorative moments that refresh you.

Don’t snort after reading that last paragraph and ask where I get off telling you to stop complaining about being bored.  Listen to me when I tell you that contentment is something you may have to work at, but it’s worth it.  Sarah at Clover Lane says it so well:

 “Fortitude is a word often used to describe something big…a battle fought, a peak scaled, a disaster survived.  But when it comes to motherhood, I think fortitude is simpler, quiet, more constant.  I think it is the perfect word to describe a trait essential when mothering many different ages, stages and personalities.”

 Finding the place within yourself where contentment and fortitude are in harmony is so freeing.  You need the fortitude to find the contentment and you need the contentment to manage the fortitude.  Our lives as parents, as mothers, are not here to just exist and change diapers.  We are here to love precious little lives with all our might.

I am far from perfect.  There are days when I want to wallow in my mood and not gently show Liam how to put his unders on correctly for the 47th time.  Sometimes, I get frustrated that Sylvi just wails constantly while she’s teething and there is little I can do to ease her pain.  And sometimes, the sight of a stray sock just about sends me over the edge.  However, I must always remind myself that today may be the last time Liam needs help with the direction of his clothing.  Sylvi will one day have all her teeth and I won’t get to write the new tooth dates in her baby book.  (I have nothing to say about the socks, though… they really are a thorn in my side!)  I learned my lesson with Liam to not wish away time or complain about the hardships… I hated how hard nursing was for me, I hated how I felt, I hated everything about it… and then one day, without getting to make the choice myself, it was gone.  It may seem dramatic, but that was a turning point.  I learned that I had to foster contentment and develop the fortitude if I was going to get to be that mother I dreamed of being.  Every time I start to slip, I remind myself that today is all I have to work with and it can either be beautiful , or it can be a wasted square on my calendar.

How about you?  How do you cultivate contentment in your life?

3 Replies to “On contentment and fortitude”

  1. Just popped in to read the whole thing. Well said!!! What an eye-opening post. I think I’m pretty content in my parenting but I struggle in other areas of life. Mostly with DH’s job taking him away all day and the farm keeping him away all evening. I try to bathe it in prayer.

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