Summertiiiimmme, and the envy is easy.
It is summer and my social media feeds are flooded with images that feed that Green-Eyed Envy Monster deep within me. Pinterest offers Must-Do Activities for the summer. Insta is sea of perfectly filtered memories; both of the backyard variety, and of the more extravagant vacation set. And moms take to Facebook for advice on keeping kids busy while simultaneously keeping themselves sane.
Some moms are so excited for their busy summer plans. Some are sort of terrified and overwhelmed.
I am mostly indifferent toward summer. Well, maybe a little bitter. Because, as the sun comes out and the air warms up, I still haul myself out of bed every morning at 5 and get ready for work. I still kiss my kids good-bye and leave them for nearly ten and a half hours. Granted, my husband works for our parish school and is off most of the summer. So, my pace is slower, and I don’t have to get anyone else ready for the day anymore, and believe me, I count my blessings for every daycare dollar saved. But, I am still away from my kids. And, it is hard.
I find myself jealous of my friends who are home with their kids. And, jealous of the ladies I barely know online who are home with kids. I am even fighting off the feelings of jealousy I feel emerging toward my husband who is home with our kids.
The root of my envy, I am discovering, stems from a main place of weakness for me spiritually: Pride.
I am jealous of the stay-at-home-moms, and the work-from-homes-moms, and the working-part-time-moms, and even the summers-off-work-moms because of my pride. I am afraid I am not measuring up to something. I am afraid I am not good enough. I am afraid that I am less-than. I am afraid of being judged. And, if I am being honest, most of the judgment I fear isn’t even real, but perceived. Probably, perceived judgment is the impetus for all of the mom-guilt that plagues moms of all circumstances everywhere.
The hard truth is: many of our fears probably are true. Because, no, I am not good enough. None of us are. If we are relying on ourselves, on our own merits, as The Thing that will make or break our kids for life, then they are already doomed. We are not good enough on our own; not for our kids, not for our husbands, not for any other duties we’ve assumed. But, regardless of our own advantages or disadvantages, of our own failures or success; when we surrender all that we have to Christ, He makes up for what we are lacking.
The temptation is to think, “Being a stay at home mom is ideal, so because I am working I am doing a disservice to my kids. I am less-than.” But, I don’t think this is a zero-sum game. All we can do is the best we can. Doing the best we can doesn’t make us less-than. It makes us the widow who gave her two coins. Persevering in holiness through less than ideal circumstance actually makes us saints.
I think we can focus too much on an ideal and forget that our lives, just exactly as they are given to us, messy and sometimes unpleasant, are gifts. I am reminded of a passage from Anne of Avonlea that struck me during a re-read earlier this spring. Anne is talking with her friend, Mrs. Allan, about her recent decision to remain in Avonlea and help Marilla at Green Gables rather than attend college. She laments to Mrs. Allan that, “Perhaps college may be around the bend in the road, but I haven’t gotten to the bend yet and I don’t think much about it lest I might grow discontented.” Mrs. Allan gives one of the most beautiful lines in all of the Anne books, “Well, I should like to see you go to college, Anne; but if you never do, don’t be discontented about it. We make our own lives wherever we are after all… college can only help us do it more easily. They are broad or narrow according to what we put into them, not what we get out. Life is rich and full here.. Everywhere.. If only we can learn how to open our whole hearts to its richness and fullness.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea.(Emphasis mine).
We know our lives on earth will be full of suffering. But, knowing that doesn’t make it easy. And, if I am going to suffer, and maybe it is my pride talking (it is) but, I always think I could carry someone else’s cross better than my own. And not always because I mistakenly think theirs are easy. But, I want to Choose-My-Own Suffering. And, as Anne would say: “It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.
I am working on remembering to embrace my circumstances in gratitude and humility to defeat my envy and my pride.
Y’all, this is my new life motto. Next time I am struggling with anything, take out “college” from that first Anne quote and replace it with any struggle. Perfect advice every time. A big house, a dream job, more financial security. Icing, baby. Those things are just icing. They are things, that when a life is properly ordered, can help us to enjoy life. But those things are not our source of joy. Jesus is.