Things are typically easier said than done, right? I know. Everything I’m writing about today is strictly theoretical for me, and I’m in NO way suggesting that this will be an easy shift to make. But – I need to make a shift. Are you ready for it?
Everything should be simpler. That’s right, I said EVERYTHING.
Take parenting, for example. I was listening to a TED Talk a few weeks ago by Jennifer Senior, a wife, mom and writer, who spoke about the challenges of modern parenting. Recent studies have shown that, statistically, the role of a mother in the Western world is one of the least desirable roles that a human can have due to the perceived amount of stress and anxiety associated with the role. Through a series of interesting and insightful talking points, Senior attributes a significant portion of the stress of modern motherhood to a goal-setting problem.
Senior explains that many modern, Western mothers (consciously or subconsciously) make their children’s happiness their goal, thus running themselves ragged by taking responsibility for something that is beyond their control. She contrasts modern/Western motherhood and its endless list of “should-do’s” to motherhood in the agricultural era when a mother’s role was, essentially, to teach her children two things: morality and work ethic. Her simpified argument is that, when taught morality and work ethic, children are equipped to choose well and live “happy” and fulfilled lives, but if our GOAL as mothers is that our children are happy, we are bound to emotionally crash and burn inside the realization that ultimately, their happiness is out of our control.
More than anything, listening to Senior inspired me to evaluate my own goals as they pertain to raising our three kiddos, and what I realized over the last few weeks is that I am making complicated what is meant to be simple. Not only have I un-knowingly made their happiness a personal goal, I’ve even decided (subconciously) that I can’t be happy if they’re not happy. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of co-dependent powerlessness. The saving grace inside of this discovery is, if I acknowledge the problem and choose to fix my eyes on Jesus, then He will show me how to love in the areas of my life where I’ve partnered with fear… fear of the kids struggling, fear of the anxiety that’s incurred when hardships come, fear that I will forever lose part of myself to stress if they don’t end up alright, and on it goes…
And fear truly is the problem. When I make subconcious agreements like, “I’m only ok if they’re ok,” I put someone else in charge of whether or not I can thrive. That leaves me a victim to circumstance rather than powerful and free.
Maybe setting for my kids a foundation of core values and teaching them good work ethic aren’t the only two important goals to set in parenthood. But what I do know is that if I set unattainable goals and sit in powerlessness, I will not be able to teach them the most valuable lesson of all: how to partner with love, not fear, in all things. I think that if I could simply make LOVE my goal in every situation (I know. Easier said than done.), life would simplify in every area: family, relationship with God, work, rest, creativity, recreation, dreaming, planning for the future…
So I raise my glass to the simplicity and infinite mystery of love, knowing that if I give myself to Love Himself, fear will be cast out, and I will live in the freedom of my own imperfection, made strong and able to lead well.