In the last few months, though not nearly as often as I thought I would, I have been writing about some of the difficult things I faced after first becoming a mother. Those days of muddled thoughts, body-aching tiredness and never quite reaching the expectations set for me. I have never been as lonely as I was then, and now that I’m on the other side, I will always say that I think it is vitally important to talk about those things and to acknowledge the feelings and struggles that are unexpected, far from pretty and not what we think a proper, godly mama should have.
I do not usually like disclaimers. To me, they blur a message, sound apologetic and lower a writer’s credibility. However, a couple of things have been churning through my head since I started writing on this subject.
You’ve likely seen me roll my eyes over cheesy romances or rant about the flawless, picture-perfect lives found in some conservative literature. I will be the first to shudder at a photoshopped selfie paired with the perfect inspirational quote and wince if I see a smile plastered over tired, hurting eyes. There is something in all of us that yearns for authenticity, and as women who already struggle so much with comparison and identity, we have found relief in recent years as it has become more and more okay to talk about “real life.” In fact, it’s become the new trend: we are now more cool and more worthy of being looked-up to if we fill our instagram accounts with photos of our messy houses and dirty toddlers and talk about the hard things we went through last week. We are now gloriously authentic.
This is my fear: I think sometimes we are now far too comfortable with being real and vulnerable and we can veer to the other side into cynicism and negativity instead of focusing on what fills our lives with beauty.
I have seen this in myself and it’s a weight that I am constantly mulling over and trying to balance. How do I strive for authenticity and the breaking down of walls through vulnerability while maintaining a spirit of delight and joy? How do we gently reign in our “real lives” to have no fear in being honest about our messy hearts but no longer compelled to advertise them? Why have we over-reacted into feeling shame over sharing a moment of peace and calm without the disclaimer of the chaos behind the scenes?
(As a personal case, I thoroughly love housework and have felt guilt before over having a tidy, organised house nearly all of the time. I know it’s silly, but I have on occasion deliberately left a messy corner of toys or a sink full of dirty dishes for visitors to see, because what if they think I’m less of a good mother or hiding something if my house looks too good to be true?)
I say all this, because I have been convicted into a new focus regarding these things I have written and want to keep writing about. I long for authenticity, and if you are another young mama who has struggled with postpartum depression or finding fulfilment in motherhood, then I hope that my talking about it will give you some companionship and that you will know I am beside you and deeply care. But I do not want to react with frustration that nobody acknowledges these things by veering deeply into the opposite direction and defining motherhood (or any other area of life) with cynicism and darkness. Just because these things are real doesn’t mean that they must now be expected and normal, and if you are one of those new mothers whose real life actually is just as beautiful as one of those photo-perfect squares and you have found the transition into motherhood to be a seamless one, I want you to know that you belong too. If I have made you feel ashamed or less-than-normal for feeling nothing but joy over your role as a mother, I have discredited you, and I am sorry.
I want more than anything to live a legitimate life and I will never apologise for writing about it. But if darkness and hardship become the bulk of what is real in my life, then my heart is not fully grafted into the Father of Light, and I am not being defined by the loveliness found in Him. Pursuing life in Christ does not mean we will hide behind walls of perfection or pretend that life is flawless, but it will instead change our focus onto how we find victory over these things of darkness, and not on feeling comfortable or normal by dwelling in them. We will find no fear in the vulnerability of acknowledging struggles, but as daughters of One spectacularly perfect, we should also find no fear in the telling of beauty, without shame and with no apology.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.