I fantasized that I had a one-way ticket in one hand and a suitcase in the other. I imagined calling my husband from an undisclosed location to inform him that I would be gone for an indefinite period of time. I saw myself enjoying endless days on the beach, eating in luxurious restaurants and finding an exciting new job — one that didn’t include taking care of other people.
The desire to run away from home can hit us mothers at any time, even when we truly love our families.
“Each day just runs into the next,” says one young mom. “Sometimes I want to escape, even if for only one day.”
“I love my kids, but they take a lot out of me,” says another mom. “I never get a break.”
Sound familiar? If these or similar thoughts run through your mind, you’re not alone. Three of my friends wanted to leave home the week of the snowstorm and confessed it wasn’t the first time they’d felt a desire to run away.
Truthfully, I would never do anything as selfish as leaving my family. But I felt trapped and needed to deal with that emotion. I also felt guilty because women of previous generations weren’t as fortunate as I am today.
Knowing that other women around the world worry every day about simply feeding their children didn’t alleviate my sense of guilt, either. Why was I feeling burned out when I’d been given so much?
Something in my life was out of balance. I took an inventory and realized that I’d been holding on to some pretty negative things and had let go of some positives. We mothers have to maintain emotional and spiritual balance if we’re going to love and nurture our families without becoming as discontent as I was.
Finding equilibrium can be difficult when so many things compete for our time and attention. Sometimes we struggle with holding on and letting go.
For example, women love to make memories permanent by keeping wonderful photo albums for the whole family to enjoy. However, we’re wired to remember all the negative details, too. We tend to hold grudges and can recall exactly how we felt when someone hurt us 25 years ago.
Often, we can’t let go when we need to, such as when our kids leave home. Knowing what to hang on to and what to let go of can make the difference between feeling content or wanting to run away from home.
If Anne has to cook one more meal or scrape food off the wall again, she might scream. “What happened to me?” she asks herself on a regular basis. “All I do is take care of other people. I’ve become the most uninteresting person I know. I bet my husband thinks I’m boring, too.”
When we expend a disproportionate amount of energy caring for our families, we lose a sense of our own identity. We can’t remember what we like to do for fun, what brings us fulfillment, or what our talents are. We become disconnected from ourselves.
Spend time each day reflecting on what brings you pleasure. Think about the gifts and talents you’ve been given. If you can’t cultivate them right now, plan on doing it later.
Sometime during my journey of full-time motherhood I abandoned my dreams in the mistaken belief that I would never see them fulfilled. Our hopes and dreams are an important part of who we are, and God will use our talents in significant ways.
It may not be while we’re in the throws of child rearing. It may come after we’ve moved beyond this intensely sacrificial season of our lives.
God created us with unique personalities and identities. He wants us to pursue our own interests and to enjoy ourselves. It’s essential to hold on to who we are, our dreams, and what we love to do for fun.
It’s equally important to let go of any unrealistic expectations. Jumping through hoops doesn’t create emotional or spiritual balance — it drains us.
Tricia laments that her husband doesn’t remember her on special occasions. Her kids never finish their chores on time, and she has to constantly nag them.
“Why do they make me so angry? They just don’t get it!” she fumes.
Husbands and kids are wonderful, but they don’t think like we do or set the same priorities. We have to choose to hold on to everything they do that pleases us, let go of what frustrates us, and forgive them when we’ve been hurt. Then we will experience a greater measure of God’s peace and joy.
Jen questions why life has thrown her so many challenges. “I don’t know anyone who’s gone through as much bad stuff as I have. When is it going to let up? I don’t deserve this,” she groans.
When we focus on our blessings instead of our struggles, our hearts and minds find rest. We can either grumble or be grateful — it’s a choice we make every minute of every day.If we spend too much time thinking about our challenges, we can drive ourselves into the pit of despair.
God instructs us to hold on to all that is good in our lives and let go of our struggles. Then we can maximize our opportunity to experience joy and contentment.
As I’ve grown closer to God, I have recognized that He abundantly provides for us and is attentive to our every need. The struggles and challenges I face pale in comparison to His goodness and the many ways He has touched my life. God promises to bring good out of every trial we face, so why focus on the negative?
If we hold on to our talents and passions, and focus on our blessings, we’ll maintain the equilibrium necessary to care for our families. When we let go of unrealistic expectations and accept that God will take us through life’s inevitable challenges, we create more balance for ourselves.
We can enjoy our families without sacrificing our identities in the process.