When I settled into a new church with my husband and took on significantly fewer commitments, my husband summed up my new season nicely with these reassuring words: “You can rest now, Sarah.”
In the years before I got married, I had joined a multitude of ministries (worship, young adults, mission trips, etc.), believing that it was important to “maximise” my season of singlehood. While I did grow spiritually and don’t regret any of my involvement, it did bring about an unhealthy feeling of discontentment whenever I wasn’t “doing” anything. At one point, I had to learn again to “Stop and Be” His child (the title of a song I wrote), instead of doing so many things only to miss out on the one needful thing (Luke 10:38-42).
I love being a new mother. However, the joys come with its share of challenges as well; I’ve had to give up more than I’d anticipated, such as evening commitments at church and spontaneous fellowship opportunities. The “mum guilt” is especially real as well, since I’ve gone back to working full-time and can’t spend as much time with my daughter and help her achieve her milestones.
Some days I still find myself unsettled, especially when I see the “supermums” and “superfamilies” in church. While they seem to be able to handle ministry work and parenting at such high-level capacities, I often feel fatigued after a long work week and can only decide between resting at home or pushing myself to attend cell group, or whether or not to attend events on Sundays when it required manoeuvring around my baby’s sleep schedule and my evening nausea due to my second pregnancy.
As I ruminate on this new season of holding fewer responsibilities, here are three things I’ve learnt that have guided my family and me over the past two years:
1. Humbly and gratefully accept our need for rest
Sleep is one comfort that we cherish more and more as we get older. I know I am a better mother when I get enough sleep. I am more attentive, less cranky, more able to make better decisions and remember important commitments.
However, it can be tempting to choose to do something else other than sleep, especially when my personal time has been taken up by mum duties and there are still other things I want to do. It takes a conscious and humbling effort to put everything aside and just sleep in order to be well rested enough to care for my family.
I am reminded of David’s peaceful sleep even when he was sought after by his enemies: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). Despite danger just lurking round the corner, David’s deep trust in God enabled him to give in to his body’s need, to actually lie down and sleep. Reflecting on this gives me perspective on how the choice and ability to rest reflects our trust in God.
In this world that vies for our attention and affection and pushes us to fend for ourselves, Jesus calls us to rest in Him (Matthew 11:28), to humbly accept God’s work-rest design for us and trust the goodness in it.
2. Don’t compare; be who God has called you to be
“Don’t compare yourself with others. Just look at your own work to see if you have done anything to be proud of. You must each accept the responsibilities that are yours. (Galatians 6:4-5, ERV)
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24, NKJV)
I’ve had conversations with my husband where I would compare the pace of my life before marriage to our pace now as a couple, and I’d talk about how I had pictured us actively and frequently serving God as a couple, the way I’ve seen other couples do.
This made me realise that whenever I feel unsettled, it’s because I am comparing myself to a previous version of myself, and to other mothers and families who seemed able to “do it all”. But when it comes to knowing and fulfilling our God-given mission as a family, I can’t compare us with other families because we all have our own strengths and limitations—yet God still calls us to an identity and a role, a mission specific to each of us, that’s just as important in helping us work together as one body in Christ (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 7:17).
I have since learnt, whenever my husband is serving in church, to accept that my place of service is in the infant care room with my daughter, and that even there, I can encourage and be blessed by the other parents and babies in the room with us. We introduce ourselves to one another and encourage our children to play together and share their toys. We ask each other about how the past week has been and trade parenting tips where we can.
Aside from the infant care duties on Sundays, I also lead our Friday small group whenever I can. Though it’s not as frequent as before and it looks different from how I used to serve, God has shown me that I can still practise my gifts of teaching and spiritual care in new ways this season, especially with my daughter.
Guarding my relationship with the Lord has been the best way for me to build awareness of myself, especially as I transit from singleness to married life and now to parenthood. It helps me remember that He loves me the way I am—and so I should seek to serve Him with love and gratitude for how He has designed me for each season.
3. Embrace the unique good in every season
Being a parent doesn’t disqualify me from service; rather, it teaches me to serve in other ways. My husband and I still attend Sunday classes where we can (taking turns to keep our daughter entertained), and we still have fellowship with friends over lunches (taking turns to eat as needed).
Most importantly, I see how invaluable it is for me to focus on introducing my daughter to the faith (she’s now able to say “Bible” and “Amen” at the right times!). I’m learning to treasure and not despise the precious opportunities I have to actively care for my daughter, especially when personal time is so limited. I’ve heard it said that parents should attend to their children as much as they’re able to while the children are young, because once they grow up, they won’t call for their parents as much anymore.
In these earliest moments of my daughter’s life, I see how each moment I’m able to spend with her brings her much joy; more than that, it is a sowing into eternity, meaning not any amount of time we spend together is ever wasted, no matter how mundane the task at hand may seem.
What gives me hope in difficult moments is knowing that my child is continuously growing and learning. All I need to do is sow the seeds of faith, water them every day with love, and trust that the Lord will bring about the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7-10).
Through this season, I’ve witnessed how children are truly a gift from God (Psalm 127:3) and how they bring joy to those around them. I’ve learnt to see creation with new eyes and realised how all of us in the Lord are like little children: we make mistakes, we learn and we grow up in time. We have to be patient with both ourselves and each other, persevering in this journey that the Lord has marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Amidst the challenges of this season, continuing to “stop and be” the Lord’s child has meant continually filling the margins of my life with reminders of His presence (e.g. catching breaks to listen to my daily Bible readings, playing praise and worship songs while with my child). Discovering my mission for this season has led me to continuously depend on the Lord so that I can teach my children to depend on Him, and can pray for them and love them with the love I have from my Heavenly Father.
I hope to learn more of the Father’s heart for His children and for those who have yet to be brought into His fold; and to keep embracing a humble, childlike faith that depends utterly on Him for all that I need, i.e., daily strength and comfort, so I can pass them on to my children and to those I serve.