It’s so easy to look back and see clearly how and why things came about in my life. I write honestly about my journey in motherhood because I know there are other moms and dads out there like me and you all need to know that you are not alone. And maybe there are some younger men and women reading and perhaps something I say will spark something in your mind and be a warning of sorts.
Fundamentalism shaped my journey of motherhood. Not so much for what it did tell me but for what it didn’t. There is a huge emphasis on all thing marriage, motherhood, homemaking and feminine. The result is that anything not considered to fall into one of those categories was then an implication that that was not worth pursuing. It never told me or encouraged me toward any other options.
I wanted to be a writer, from a very early age. I wanted to travel. I never wanted to get married, ever. Now I am in my 30s, and I do still believe that that life would have suited me just fine. I enjoyed dating, but I prefer not to be too tied down. I am a solitary person of sorts, I hate being stuck in one place or one town. This is the struggle I now have as a mom of four and as wife. I am home all day with kids, something I never thought I would be a good fit doing. I was conflicted in a major way. I knew in my heart what I wanted and who I was but the world created around me, Fundamentalism, confused me and pressured me. I still take full responsibility for my choices. Nobody physically forced me down the aisle at 20 years old. Nobody forced me to get pregnant ….and then again….and again….and one more time.
In a nutshell, my childhood was one of abuse and neglect. When I met my husband, I was looking for something. I should have looked for that fulfillment and satisfaction in God and in myself, not in another person. But I didn’t know any better. I leaned on this person to fill in all the gaps that were there due to my upbringing. I placed on him a burden that he could never bear and that has lead to some issues in our relationship in the past. I know that now. I wished I would have known that then. I also got married to escape my parents household. There was no options for me besides going back to hell aka home or staying in hell aka a strict Bible college. Could I have walked out and started over in some random town on my own? Of course I physically could have, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to do that. I just could not even grasp at the time that that was an option. I really am in awe of some young adults that just strike out on their own and start businesses and go on adventures. It is very inspiring to know that some people have that sort of confidence and bravery.
Back to the story….I am now married and as my husband cannot fill these gaps for me and reality starts setting in, I begin to become depressed. I now know that I have generations of family that struggle with depression and the results….men that turn to substance abuse and angry outbursts and women that have low self worth and depend on men. I’d like to say that I was different, but I know I wasn’t. How can you be anything but what you were trained to be? I start thinking that maybe if marriage isn’t all it is cracked up to be, and I still haven’t found something that fills those holes in my life, maybe motherhood will do that for me. I should have been encouraged to work on me and not keep resorting to other people or other things to fill those holes. As a woman, I had no other options within the current church system. Keep in mind, my husband worked for the church off and on, we were heavily involved, and I had very few friends outside of church especially once I quit my job to raise children. We begin trying to have a baby and after about 18 months, finally a baby is on the way. The extended family is excited, my friends are jealous, and I have new found approval and attention from my church (also IFB at the time). I begin to feel that something is finally going to be right and something is finally going to turn out in my favor and be everything I thought it would be. You can see what a dream world I was in considering I grew up in a family of 9 children and knew well the financial hardships and other struggles that come with having children when you have little education and few resources. But we press on. Baby #1 is born. There is a pretty significant push for Baby #2 right away which was surprising because my husband was pushing for this too. We have discussed it thoroughly and come to the conclusion that he was just as pressured as I was to create this life that Fundamentalism told us was THE WAY. He would constantly go back and forth about our family size. I see now what the real conflict was about, him fighting between what he wanted and what the church and family would approve of, but at the time, I just felt unloved and confused. Baby #2 is special needs (again, we did not know this at the time). Fundamentalism does not prepare young people AT ALL for the reality that a child may have a special need. In fact, the system generally does not believe in the idea of mental disorders and medical assistance or worse, frames sermons and comments around the idea that medical issues are a punishment from God. There is a bigger pause at this time as we deal with a child that is not typical as well as an almost break up of our marriage (a whole different post….). We stupidly consider the pursuit of children because we feel pressure to have more than two. In Fundamentalism, two is like quitting. You gave up, you didn’t do it right, you closed the door to God’s blessing by not having more, and you didn’t trust him to meet your family’s growing needs. At this point, my husband is feeling really hesitant, but I will admit that I pressured him for more. Baby #3 comes along. The conflict continues….should we have more or not? Is it okay to pursue permanent birth control? Is it bad to let things like limited finances and obvious lack of resources decide your family size? In our ongoing conflict, we had a birth control mishap and 9 months later, welcome baby #4. At this point, our finances are stretched to the limit. We are both working more than 40 hours a week even though I am also at home with the kids! My husband was working 80ish hours a week for awhile. He had been working two jobs for years and now added on a third. We get on some public assistance just to feed our family (again, that is another post in itself). We are both exhausted. And you know what we heard at church? Tithe more. Give more. Be here more. Send your kids to school here and pay for it. Wear this. Go there. Do these ministries (with kids, serving kids, doesn’t matter if you are barely keeping upright in your exhaustion). Don’t wear this/be this/do this/say this/go there. No real help. Nobody checking on us when we are clearly struggling. No encouragement or spiritual helps in the sermon. No relief via adults only activities at church. No help with any real concerns, not even a food pantry. Condemnation about “people on welfare” as if only losers need help.
I cannot even describe how alone I felt at this point. It is one of the reasons we left that church. We are real people, trying hard but needing help and not getting anything but judgment. Nothing is ever good enough. It is too exhausting physically and mentally to be in that type of church any longer. I saw good and well what the patriarchal systems results in….exhausted, overworked, under-appreciated mothers and wives that are continually disregarded and that was the best it was going to be. The worse of it was abuse or worse at the hands of men and nothing done about it. Thankfully my own husband was never like that. He was kind. He tried so hard to be everything they thought he should be. He never fit in….thank God!
So now we are living fully in the results of this journey. I still struggle on a daily basis with the desire to pursue my own dreams and the responsibilities I now have. I created this family. I have a duty to my children.
But they have hope. They are being raised in a more appropriate way in a MUCH better church. They will have options I never had and acceptance and love even if they choose an non-traditional path. They have gratitude. From me. They helped me see the big picture and finally make some real changes.
And I have hope. Sure I am bogged down in diapers, meals and laundry. But it won’t always be like that. We aren’t having anymore kids thanks to modern medicine. And I am halfway through my college degree! It is hard work but so rewarding. There is something else out there for me. I can feel it. Someone once told me that whatever you are naturally drawn to is what you are supposed to be doing. And I believe that. I am still going to write and travel and help people and get an amazing career someday. Just with a few extra little ones on board this journey.