Somewhere in the many months between the joyful and surprising morning I witnessed a pink line emerge on the positive pregnancy test and today – less than a week before Christmas and my little one’s 11 month birthday, I changed, perhaps immeasurably. In what seemed like a moment, I went from a carefree, adventure-seeking philanthropist and newlywed to a worried, sleep-deprived working mom, and for the most part, this change was to be expected. In fact, most of the time, I embrace my new life as mom and try not to think about the 20 lbs I have added to my figure or the fact that I haven’t slept through the night in almost a year, not to mention how long it has been since my husband and I have been able to go out for more than an hour or so alone. The problem is, that somewhere during this miraculous role change, as I embark on bringing up a bright, beautiful son who follows Christ, I started taking my priority off God. Praying less, seeking advice almost exclusively from mom forums, and just generally being alone and acting alone. In the first exhausting and thrilling five months that I was able to be a stay-at-home mom, I exchanged prayer time and reflection for diaper changes and baby cuddles.
If I am honest with myself, I believe I began loving my son more than I love God. Yes, that’s crazy. It is painful to admit, and embarrassing to realize. I know it sounds like one of the most horrible things a Christian could do, to actually love someone or something more than God, but it happened. I took my focus and priority away from my Savior and placed it on the beautiful blessing that he gave me. I would guess that a lot of moms go through something similar. Maybe the distance begins during all those hormone changes after birth when the coughing mom next to your baby’s crib causes you to go into a tearful hysteria (that happened to me). Maybe it is because we feel so incapable of being the perfect mom that we hope to be, or maybe, as in my case, we just love our little ones so much, that it pushes out some of our love for God. Babies are, in fact, very adorable, and mine is no exception. He has an irresistible smile, sweet disposition, and is very easy to love.
But the idea that I had a difficult time loving God as a new mom is disappointing to me, because I know that love, real and pure love from God is so powerful and expansive. I have certainly never heard of Jesus having a love shortage or tiring of charity. Over and over we read in the New Testament examples of Jesus helping the forsaken and forgotten, bestowing love even on those who will not accept it. In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes about the beauty of love. It is patient and kind, not envious, boastful, or proud. It isn’t selfish or irritable or begrudging. It chooses right over wrong. It guards, trusts, and hopes. Finally, and this is my favorite part, it perseveres and never fails. In other words, I can stake my life on God’s love. He gave his own Son’s life to offer us this beautiful love and extend forgiveness for our sinfulness and selfishness and offer hope in our desperation and loveless lives.
Even though I had more joy and parental love and concern for my child than I could ever imagine, I forgot about God’s love. In the excitement and exuberance of a tiny miracle with soft skin and sweet cheeks, I forgot to love the One who had bestowed this blessing on me.
What happened next is really all downhill, and had I realized what I was doing at the time, probably very predictable. I became more and more worried and insecure. I worried over the tiniest things like not reading enough books to my son or talking to him enough. Then when I started playing with him more, I worried he wasn’t getting enough sleep. When he began smiling and laughing, I worried that he smiled at his dad more than me and hence must love him more. I never wanted my baby to cry which is a little comical looking back on it, and extremely unreasonable. But once it had started, I just could not stop the cycle. Then it began to creep into my own self-image. Before I had been confident about who I was, what I had accomplished in my life, and who God wanted me to be. Now I faced self-doubt. I worried about my looks, my brains, my marital relationship, my friendships. You name it, I felt inadequate all the way around. The love in my heart had been replaced by fear.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Fortunately, before I lost control, I realized this isn’t what God wants. He wants me to be able to love more like He does, which means loving God, my beautiful baby boy, myself, and a bunch of other people all at the same time. It seemed like a very futile attempt, but I had to make myself get back to basics. On the mornings I felt like sleeping in or excusing myself to the mother’s room during church, I forced myself to listen to the preacher’s sermon and be in fellowship with people around me, even if it meant my little guy added a little dialogue to the message. When rocking baby to sleep, I found myself praying and singing old gospel songs and hymns that placed a vivid image of God’s love in my mind and heart. Eventually, and I think this was the real turning point, I began sharing love with others. It wasn’t the same as it had been in college or seminary. I couldn’t even teach the girls’ mission group this year or go on any service trips, but I began donating food bags to some of the children’s families at my workplace. I baked goodies and donated snacks during study sessions at the local college. I actually started letting other people hold my baby. I was sharing God’s love, and experiencing it for myself again all at the same time.
I certainly have not found the perfect balance in this love-offering life. Loving God, baby, and others is much more complicated than I anticipated so many months ago, but my journey is bringing me to a new place and role, not just as a mother but as a Christian. And I feel so much better sharing my love than I did giving all of it to my baby. Love is meant to be shared. Remember that moms. Being a mom is even more wonderful when we remember that we are children of God.
About the Author
Hi! My name is Carrie Freeman. I am Christ-follower, wife, and mother. I have spent the last seven years learning and teaching about God throughout the United States and Southeast Asia. I earned my masters’ in theology and intercultural studies. This past year, I moved back to my hometown and became a new mom. Now I find myself in a small town trying to find God’s purpose for me. Currently, I work for Save the Children, teaching literacy to impoverished and at-risk children. I am passionate about missions, literacy, and of course my adorable baby boy.