I was a 26-year-old baby the day I had my first baby.
When we first brought her home at three-weeks-old and 4 scrawny little pounds, I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought I’d be. I don’t know if one can really prepare for motherhood, but I expected it to feel very natural, to be a smooth transition since I’d been well-trained for the role (or so I thought).
But I kind of felt like William Wallace being pulled by all four appendages in four opposite directions, which felt comfortable.
I didn’t know that I would be feeding her every two hours. I didn’t know that she would take 45 minutes to eat or that she would wake up all night long. I didn’t know she’d need to be held all day or how much she would cry or how much laundry she’d require. I didn’t know how much she would need me. Only me. Nobody else. All. Day. Every. Day.
In those experimental months (because what else is baby-raising other than trial and error), I knew I’d gained so much: a constant companion, a tiny, malleable being, a mini-me, a source of pride and joy, unimaginable, unconditional love.
But I also felt as though I’d lost a lot. Namely, my freedom. And there’s no way to prepare for that kind of loss.
And so, like William Wallace, I found myself, with a tightness in my belly, crying out for freedom. I literally wanted to cry out, “FREEEEEDDOOOOOM!” and be really melodramatic about it. Maybe even with face paint. But alas, it was just metaphorical.
I would watch my husband casually grab his wallet and walk out the door for a quick run to who-knows-where… like leaving the house was just that easy. Like, one could just stand up and walk out. Ta-da! And my heart would ache to have that back — the day that I could just stand up and walk out the door without having to warn anyone or pack 15 bags or ask for permission.
No matter how present and attentive my husband was those first few months, he wasn’t physically attached to that baby every two to three hours, and that inequity became a breeding ground for envy.
Over the next few years, my soul groaned along as more of my freedom drifted away with the addition of each little one.
I knew that I wanted to stay home with these wee-ones. I knew that I loved them intensely. And most days I was so thankful for my constant position in their lives. But now and then, there would come a day when I longed to switch roles with my husband. I’d watch him walk out the door (to provide for our family … or whatever) and crave that separation, that solitude, that freedom for just one day.
And to some extent, that feeling is natural, okay even.
But when missing my freedom turned into resenting my husband for his, when I began begrudging him for a choice I had made, when envy began to cast shadows on my joy, this verse jerked me back into the light: Love Does Not Envy.
Love does not envy because it tramples our contentment. Like my contentment with this precious life.
Love does not envy because it robs our joy. Like the joy so easily found in these sweet babies of mine.
Love does not envy because it erodes our peace. Like the peace in my marriage, the peace in our home, and the peace within myself.
God wants us to look at life through a lens of gratitude for our own well-being, so that instead of reveling in resentments and jealousies that will inevitably spiral into discontentment, we are able to find joy in the minutia, the daily details of a monotonous but blessed life. And joy feels good.
It’s okay to miss your freedom. Although it has gotten easier, some days I still do. But all too soon we will have that freedom back completely. And I’m pretty sure at that point, we’ll wish for these sweet days of maternal captivity.
If envy is threatening your contentment, whether it be that you feel your spouse has a better situation than you or you are having a hard time supporting him in his endeavors because you aren’t feeling successful in yours, here are some practical ways to work against that feeling.
1. Make a List
Focus on all that you DO have instead of all that you don’t.
2. Tell Your Spouse Thank You
Even if you don’t feel like it, fake it till you make it. The more you say thank you, the more you will actually be thankful. The more thankful you are, the more joyful you’ll be.
Confess to your spouse that you hate that you feel this way and you’re determined to work on it, but certain circumstances are wearing on you and causing you to feel jealous of him. When you put sin into the light, it keeps it from growing and festering. I’m willing to bet, your spouse will appreciate your honesty.
We are just so human. Sometimes we need a little help from the divine. This is the prayer we prayed today for the envy that seeps into our marriages …
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