I have the privilege and the challenge of teaching Sunday School class to three and four year-old little boys. While I love talking with them about the Bible, my challenge is helping them grasp high-level concepts in ways their little brains can process and remember.
Our lessons this month all focus on the story of Creation. We had lots of fun last Sunday learning about God creating Adam to watch over the land, animals and sea. We learned that God realized Adam needed a companion who was more like him. I had the boys act out the story, first by pretending to mold Adam out of dirt. Then, I asked them to lie down on the carpet as if they were sleeping. I revealed that God put Adam in a deep sleep so he could take one of Adam’s ribs, which he used to create Eve. As they “woke up” I asked the question, “And what do you think Adam said to God about his new companion?” After just a brief pause, my son definitively exclaimed, “Give me back my rib!”
When I recovered from my fits of laughter, I started thinking about Adam’s lost rib. DID he want it back, or did he realize what he’d given up was insignificant compared to what he received in return? Or maybe he didn’t even know anything was amiss. Inquiring minds want to know, I say!
To me, these questions can be correlated to the way most of us, as selfish beings, approach our lives. Even happy, well-adjusted people often mourn what they’ve given up regardless of what they’ve received. I think this is particularly true for moms who often feel like they give up little bits of themselves in order to effectively take care of their families. I’ve talked to many women who feel torn between living the life they think they should love and coveting a life they either used to live or see others living.
I LOVE being a wife and mother. In fact, there’s nothing more I wanted for my life than to marry a man who makes me better than I really am and have children to love, teach and raise to adulthood. Now that I have a wonderful husband and children, you could say I have everything I ever wanted. However, there are days – lots of them – when I mourn the footloose and fancy-free days of my former life. I shopped without accountability, I didn’t get out of bed in the morning (or afternoon) until the growling in my stomach forced me to either find the remote to turn up the volume or pour myself a bowl of cereal, and spent my free time catching up with friends or doing any number of “me” activities. Sometimes, when I find myself out of money because the kids need new shoes, rising at a ridiculous hour to head to a soccer game, and missing my friends who I rarely get to see anymore, I think to myself, “Where’s that darn rib!”
Likewise, I have a friend who has been very honest about her struggles with feeling altogether content with motherhood. She is blessed with beautiful and healthy triplet babies. Her life changed dramatically the day she found out she was inexplicably pregnant with three babies instead of the one for which she and her husband prayed. After the shock wore off, she embraced her “new normal” and began to recognize how special it is to be chosen for this journey. While life since the birth has been anything but ordinary, she now has seven months of experience behind her and is feeling like she has accomplished more in those months than in her previous 30+ years. And, of course, she is over the moon for her three little ladies.
Despite the joy in her life, she also has begun to recognize a sense of loss for who she was a mere year ago. She was a “doer” and a people person. Having opted to quit her job due to the constant needs of the babies, she sometimes feels trapped inside her home, lonely, and worried her friendships will never be the same. She wonders if she will ever use her professional skills again and feels the itch to use her brain for more than just reading the directions of a new baby contraption. No amount of normalizing her thoughts and emotions takes away either the feelings themselves or the guilt of having the feelings despite the ample blessing many others never get to experience. While her situation is unique because of having triplets, how many of us have had these same feelings?
The reality is that it’s hard to feel content 100% of the time, regardless of our circumstances. They say you can and should HAVE IT ALL. I don’t know who “they” are, but I disagree with them. I believe life is all about making choices and following the path we know is right for us, our families, and our faith. However, I also believe we can and should be thankful for ALL WE HAVE. While my thoughts and emotions can betray me sometimes, I know my rib is a small sacrifice for the beautiful life I get to live with my beautiful family.
It feels good to know others have the same feelings and concerns, but also the resolve to manage them. In talking with my friend, we agree on so many issues relative to the choices we make for our families. Yes, we shop on a budget, but that’s because we want to plan well for our family’s future and not just satisfy immediate “wants.” We get out of bed when the kids wake because they need us and there will come a day when we wish we’d had just one more minute with them, let alone one more hour. And, we relish the moments we get to spend with friends in supportive conversation, regardless of how infrequent the opportunity.
Making choices and sacrificing for others isn’t always gratifying in the moment. However, I challenge anyone to say in retrospect that they wish they would have chosen something, anything, over their family. And I don’t think it’s selfish or a reflection of discontent to hold close our memories of the footloose and fancy free lifestyle we once lived. Even Adam didn’t have to look far to find his missing rib. In fact, it was right there beside him, made far more beautiful thanks to God’s knowledge of what he needed for a truly fulfilling life.