What Gives You Life?
by Melissa Caddell
“What gives you life?” Rebekah Lyons directed this question to moms in a recent interview. And it made me pause for a moment: Huh? What does give me life? And why is she asking that question?
Rebecca Lyons is the mother of three (sons Cade, 11, and Pierce, 9, and daughter, Kennedy, 6). She works alongside her husband, Gabe, as the Executive Director of Q, a non-profit organization that addresses the role of the church and cultural renewal (Qideas.org).
Rebekah contends that conversations about what inspires us as women are just as important — possibly even more necessary — than conversations we have over coffee about homework woes and play date etiquette. She challenges moms to consider an investment in our own life story as a strength and not a selfish act. Here are more of her thoughts on this important topic.
“If you’re a mom with children, you may not have a lot of space to nurture yourself,” she said. “There are days you barely come up for air! It sounds indulgent, but I would argue that it is a life preserver. If you’re not being restored, you cannot restore others. It translates to all of humanity — mothers are not exempt from this!”
As we enter motherhood, we usually have several things we like to do that are life-giving. For Rebekah, some of these things were reading, writing, playing the piano and taking her dogs on a run in Central Park. In the course of life and marriage and parenting, we can push those things to the side to focus on our role as homemaker (and breadwinner if you’re working outside the home). “And we’re just not that interesting anymore — we’ve lost all of the things that give us life, and the one role can weigh us down because we’ve lost the balance of the rest.”
Rebekah encourages moms to focus on four areas and to ask ourselves, ‘What gives me life spiritually? What gives me life physically? What gives me life emotionally? What gives me life intellectually?’
Answer these questions for yourself and ask your girlfriends. Think about the last time you felt refreshed; what did you do? Meet a friend for coffee? Write in your prayer journal? Work out? Visit an art museum (the kind with art on the walls and that didn’t include any cutting or pasting)?
Somehow, when we’re wearing our motherhood hat, we think it’s selfish to do these things, that we shouldn’t cultivate our inner life. But we are the sum of our parts. They all co-exist. We are daughters, friends, wives, pet owners, neighbors, co-workers, community volunteers, spiritual beings and creative souls. Fostering time for life-giving, restoring acts allows for a holistic perspective and can help us remember why they are so necessary. “It keeps your heart full of gratitude and hopefulness for what God is continuing to bring in your path, versus feeling stuck in a pointless rut that you just have to buckle down and get through.”
Without that holistic view of our lives, we can become mothers who are bitter. Mothers who become depressed. Mothers with resentment in our hearts that grows and impacts our relationships. We can end up resenting the people around us who are working to maintain areas of their life outside of parenting (a girlfriend who goes on a weekend retreat or a husband who goes golfing). And then we’re jealous — how can they do these things when we haven’t taken a shower in four days?
As you look for space to cultivate and nurture yourself, find support. If you’re married, encourage your husband to take over some of the caretaking role. Empower Dad to be in that role — it’s important to him. If you’re single or have a spouse who travels a lot or is in the military, find a support system of peers who can come alongside you. Find a church with a real heart for single moms or find mothers who are older than you and who are willing to mentor you or be an extra set of hands.
When we do this, it allows space to ask questions about what gives us life. It can be difficult to ask these questions when we’re so buried in responsibilities that we can’t exhale. Create margin in your life to nurture yourself. It lets us be better women.
Melissa Caddell is a writer, speaker and coffee drinker. She and her husband, Casey, are raising three delightful, chatty girls (ages 12, 9 and 4) in the ‘burbs. Melissa writes from the relative quiet of her closet. Visit her at melissacaddell.com.