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10 ways to find peace as a stay-at-home mom

My decline began, unbeknownst to me, on November 30, 2010. I had high hopes, as I'm sure so many former working mothers do. Leaving a job where I'd given my all yet still been demoted was the right thing to do, or so I'd convinced myself. My pride was admittedly hurt, but I prayed about it and talked to my husband. We agreed that it was time I put my efforts and heart where I thought I could be more appreciated: at home.

My profound naivety was well hidden behind my fantasies of days spent doing arts and crafts with my daughters, taking leisurely strolls in brownstone Bedford Stuyvesant and being a superstar Executive Assistant to my husband's new business. Oh and finishing the book I’d started! But alas, this was not at all what happened.

Fast forward to 2016—two apartments and one additional daughter later, and now I finally see how much my plans and my reality were at odds. Of course at first, with nothing but time on my hands and my family happy to have me ever present, things were great. I was happy. But inevitably, reality kicked in and expectations were made clear: I was now to be everyone's everything because I had nothing but time. My most egregious error was that I expected to be fulfilled by this new role and I expected to be more appreciated by family. I was neither. Nor did I have the excess of time many seem to assume we have as “Stay at Home Moms.” Instead, what I found was that as the years and responsibilities increased, I became less and less who I wanted to be.

I stumbled through a haze of predictability and became lost in chores, duties, and the constant struggle to be a great mom and wife. Amidst scheduling conflicts with my husband’s ever-changing positions, I eventually stopped doing the small things that I now know helped keep me sane. I stopped volunteering, I stopped attending the book club I had started and I became the cranky, complaining mom I swore I would never be. And despite having advised many other moms to always take time for them, I still failed myself in the very same way. Most importantly, I failed to do something with the talents God has bestowed upon me. I wrote sporadically, but with no real purpose or commitment.

The Turning Point

The full realization of my perpetual misery hit me one fateful date night. “You're always cranky, but it's ok, I've gotten used to it.” My husband told me in his kind, nonchalant way. I had heard this before, but on this night the words stung so badly that I had to fight back tears while he went to replenish our drinks. I scrabbled to write a quick excerpt in my IPhone journal and express my anguish:

“On a date night and my husband tells me that I basically have changed for the worse, not the better. What do I do with that? I can't help but agree. I suck. I've become a New Yorker. I am impatient, aggressive and mean at times. I am so not who I used to be...God help me!”

Who was to blame for my fall from grace? Surely not I! My thoughts remained consumed by how much I was required to constantly give. Instead, I wanted to blame my husband for being too busy and inattentive. I wanted to blame my kids for being ungrateful and not understanding how hard it was for me adjusting to having a new baby and moving to a new apartment a few months later. I blamed New York for being such a noisy, unforgiving, expensive place to live. But in the end, I knew it was me. It wasn't my setting that needed to change, it was me. It wasn't my husband or kids’ jobs to make me happy, it was all me. As a follower of Christ I knew it was not pleasing to Him to be mean all the time. It was therefore up to me to begin to change, to begin to get up again.

Through ongoing prayer, personal assessing, writing, reading the Word and my good (imaginary) friend Joyce Meyer, I’ve begun my journey.

Here are 10 lessons that are assisting me in changing for the better:

  1. I cannot depend on or blame one person for my happiness. No one deserves such a responsibility.
  2. How happy I want to be is truly up to me! The "perfect time" to improve my quality of life doesn't exist so I can't be passive in getting what I desire/need.
  3. It is impossible to stay upset when you begin to recount all that you have to be grateful for.
  4. Find out what gives you peace and joy and pursue them actively! Put them in your weekly Schedule!
  5. Pray and ask God how to begin to give of yourself outside of your home. This is so necessary! We are designed to help others.
  6. Taking the time to assess personal thoughts and attitudes can be painful but change doesn't come without this honest process.
  7. I CAN CHOOSE my attitudes by checking my thoughts and changing my perspective. Negative thoughts lead to negative attitudes and then negative words. Focus on the positive! Cliché yes, but very true.
  8. A person who can hold his/her tongue is much more powerful than a person who always has the last word. Choose your words carefully to avoid conflict.
  9. I am as close to God as I want to be. When I seek Him daily and learn more about Him, our relationship is deepened and I have more peace.
  10. Feeling angry often? There is always a reason. Seek counseling, pray, journal, do whatever you need to do to find the root of your anger and deal with it.

I'm aware that this overall experience is not unique, but my perspective is. I hope that in sharing what I've learned personally someone reading this can benefit. I'm finally happy and proud to be a mother but there is much more I'm to accomplish! I have many life goals and I know that God has endowed me with much. Though it took me long to get to where I am, and I still have very far to go, I'm thankful for the journey. I’m so grateful for God’s help in finding my balance and peace again.

Lisa Lloyd-Branch resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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