The Grass Isn’t Always Greener
Recently I read a discussion online about a young mom who was feeling trapped. She was very open and honest about her feelings. She said she longed for her pre-children days. The days when she and her husband had the freedom to go where they wanted, do what they wanted whenever they wanted. She was reaching out to other young moms hoping to get some validation for her feelings. She got her validation. Lots of tired young moms sympathized with her.
I felt for her. I recognized the feelings she had. They were feelings of discontent. They could easily turn into feelings of jealousy and envy if not kept in check. Discontent is a sad way to live life. Even with all the blessings God has given us, it’s so easy to become dissatisfied with our life.
Being one of the “older” women in the group I felt like I should encourage her in some way. Here’s what I told her:
I have to admit, I never felt this way at all…that is…until my kids started getting older. I absolutely LOVED the baby stage. I didn’t mind staying home for days on end without leaving.
I began feeling like my life was not my own, like I would never get to do anything that I wanted to do again, that I was just on a repeat cycle that would never end when they (the 4 oldest) were elementary age. They were involved in Cub Scouts, baseball, I taught Bible class and private violin and piano lessons, we were home schooling. I was beginning to wonder if it was all worth it.
Looking back on those years when my babies were elementary, middle school age, it’s not surprising that I longed for their baby days. Their world was expanding. Even though we home schooled, the activities they were involved in meant that we had to follow someone else’s schedule. We also learned that we were going to have to jump in and get involved. It was exhausting. We were always on the go. Trying to maintain a reasonably clean home, somewhat healthy meals, the school work and all the outside schedules was more than I really wanted to deal with. I felt like this was all there was. I was stressed. Maybe it wasn’t stress. I was being self-centered, selfish. The focus of my boys’ lives was turning from me being the center to others being the center. I didn’t like it.
I continued telling her:
Like so many have mentioned, it’s important to live in the moment. It’s when we look outside of our little world that we become dissatisfied.
She was advised to find time for herself. She was advised to find time to get with the hubby. She was advised to not lose sight of the fact that her little ones would only be little for a short time. All of these might be helpful for a time but the big problem has not been addressed. What did I advise her?
I got out of that funk by doing what I loved — I had two more babies.
That’s not really a solution either. It’s great to keep doing what you love but the underlying problem is still there as you can see by the rest of my comment to her:
Now, those two are the only ones left at home. They are teenagers and I’m beginning to feel those feelings again. I see couples we went to school with who have raised their children and are now enjoying lots of free time to travel, visit the grand kids, pursue hobbies.
I didn’t have the advantage (or disadvantage) of Facebook when my kids were young but it is Facebook where I see the pictures of my empty nest friends going out, traveling, having a good, carefree time. It is Facebook where she sees her childless couple friends enjoying travel, new homes, dining out. We see a glimpse into our friends lives, on a daily basis enjoying themselves while we are surrounded by the mess of real life. But since most people don’t post the down and dirty of their lives, what we see is the carefree and beautiful. Compared to our lives, which isn’t always roses and bluebirds, their lives seem so much better. Their grass seems so much greener. What we don’t see is the longing the childless couple has for a family of their own. We don’t see the loneliness the empty nesters are experiencing because their children have left home.
It is so important to remind ourselves of the blessings in our lives. What seems like a problem in our lives may actually be a blessing. Many times it is just our attitude towards something that renders it a problem or a blessing. The song we sing, Count Your Many Blessings, comes to mind.
I have to remind myself that although I’m not getting to do what my friends’ are doing, I’m really the blessed one. I have 6 handsome, healthy sons, 3 beautiful daughter in-laws and 6 (soon to be 7) adorable grand children. Hopefully, we will be having more daughter in-laws and lots more grand children added to our family.
Looking to others, comparing ourselves with others, longing for what someone else has — none of these are good for us. None of these are what God wants us to be dwelling on. God wants us to be content. Content with Him. Content with what He has blessed us with. Content with the responsibilities He has given to us.
While my dissatisfaction or restlessness is a little different than yours, the result is the same and the remedy is the same. We are doing what God designed us to do. It is our job to find joy and fulfillment while doing it. As your children grow and you see the fruit of your labors, you will look back on this time and smile knowing that you survived…even excelled.
The more we turn our thoughts and desires toward God, the more content we will be. When we feel discontent we are looking inward, thinking about self, thinking about the physical. When we look to God, we can put our selfishness aside. It isn’t a natural thing for us to do. It is something we must work at. Sometimes we will find it more difficult to work at than at other times. Those are the times we need to take some time, not for ourselves, but for God. We need to spend time in prayer. We need to spend time in reading God’s Word. We need to spend time meditating on God, His majesty, His power, His grace, His word.
Here we are, two women in two different seasons of life. One looking back at what she has lost, the other looking forward to what she wishes she had. Really, it’s the same problem with both. We both lack contentment. Reading the comments that followed her post, it’s obvious that being content is a struggle for a lot of people. While dealing with the daily, messy struggles that is life, it is easy to overlook the blessings and long for what looks like greener grass.
How we handle this discontent will determine if we ever truly overcome it or not. We could deal with it the way the world does. After trying to decide the cause of our lack of contentment, we could look for fulfillment elsewhere. Maybe spending more time on me would do the trick. Maybe spending more money would fill the void. Maybe giving my responsibility of raising my children to someone else would allow me more time to fulfill a sense of contentment. Maybe even finding a new husband would do the trick. When the world sees a problem, the answer is always to find what feels good to me. It isn’t important who gets hurt along the way. What is important is that I feel good about myself.
But we are not of the world. We know that seeking to fulfill our needs by looking at the world’s remedies will not really fulfill anything. We know that we need to find fulfillment in God’s word.
Let’s look at a few passages that will get our minds thinking less about self and more about God. Notice the verbs in these passages. These are the actions we are expected to take. These are the solutions to our problem of discontent.
Psalm 34:10b But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (NIV)
Job 36:11 If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. (NIV)
Notice the things God will do for us:
Proverbs 30: 7-9
Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
2 Cor. 12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Here is what true contentment looks like:
1 Timothy 6:6-8 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
This is a good passage to memorize. A good one to think on when we begin to feel discontent.
Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.