youngmomDear 31-year-old me:

I found your journal the other day and my heart was filled with tenderness for you. You are terrified, but I promise, you are going to be okay. In fact, you will be better than okay. You are embarking on the greatest adventure of your life.

You are just a few weeks away from giving birth to your second daughter and you have decided to quit work. Work that you love! Never in a million years did you dream that YOU would be a stay at home, full-time mom.  Never in your wildest dreams did you imagine that you would give up your beloved career for a season to do the mommy thing exclusively.

This was a hard decision, but you are both clear this is the right choice right now for your family. Taking all the factors into consideration, this path makes the most sense. You are sure, but…

You are scared. You are afraid you will lose yourself.

And you will. You will lose yourself, but you will also find yourself. Over and over and over again. With each new stage, you will begin again and learn different ways of being you.

Here is what you will discover along the way:

Connections with other women will keep you sane. You need your girlfriends, other moms who understand the struggles. Cling fiercely to those women who are real. Lean into the mommas who know you still love your kids, even when you complain about them. Find women who laugh with you over your stupid mistakes and cheer you on when you finally win the battle. Make time with these women a priority, a sanctuary, a non-negotiable. Make sure they are women who believe in the power of prayer because these will be the ones who will love your kids fiercely and storm heaven on their behalf. Some of these moms will still be around 20 years later praying your babies through college decisions and boyfriend troubles. They are your lifeline. Find them as soon as you can.

Find places to serve outside of your family. For you, the happy homemaker thing will not be enough. You will need the creative outlet and intellectual stimulation of work that feels meaningful, but allows you the flexibility you need to care for your family well. Volunteer work in the church and in the community will be the answer for you. You will develop a gift for leadership and organization you never knew you possessed, but it will require sacrifices at home. Finding balance will take you a while, but your volunteer involvement will ultimately make you a better mom and teach the girls some important lessons about not being the center of the universe. You will have the opportunity to model for them the beauty of service and the responsibilities of privilege.

Helpful hint: go ahead and hire someone to clean your house the MINUTE you can afford it!  In fact, cut a few corners and do it sooner. Everyone will be happier, I promise. Get over your guilt about it immediately and quit rationalizing. Some people are good at keeping a house sparkling clean and well organized: you are not one of them. Trust me on this.

Don’t forget hubby. Here is the deal: these children are eventually going to leave and you will be left alone with this guy who has been wandering in and out of your house all these years and helping you raise these kids. Do what you need to do now so that he is not a stranger when that time comes. In the early years, when you are exhausted from little people climbing on your body all day long, keeping the romance alive will be difficult. The idea of anyone else touching you will seem excessive, to say the least.  But those days will pass and your marriage will survive. Staying connected as a couple will require work and intentionality. Sometimes, the kids and their never ending needs will have to come second. They will survive this “neglect” and in fact, be better off for the example of a healthy marriage. Say yes to those opportunities to get away for a weekend. Say yes to date nights and moments alone. Listen to him, tell him he is gorgeous and smart, thank him repeatedly for his hard work on behalf of this family. Don’t take him for granted. When you do make that mistake, and you will, fix it. I promise, the energy it takes will be worth it 20 years from now. FYI, he is just as handsome and adorable at 51 and the empty nest thing is more fun than you expected!

You need God. In case you aren’t convinced of this fact at 31, you will know it for sure by almost 51. Being a parent will stretch you and make you a prayer warrior. You will dig deep into God’s word and find answers to questions you didn’t know you were asking. Your time with God, your bible and your journal will become your source of strength, wisdom and joy. This hunger for God will become a driving force in your life and you will feel compelled to share it with others. Sometimes, you will wander away for a bit, but God will draw you back time and again and you will remember. You can’t do it alone. You don’t have to do it alone. He is with you, as close as your very breath.

The proximity to God will change you. He will push you out of your comfort zone repeatedly. You will find yourself serving in places you never imagined. You will find yourself writing and speaking and teaching. He will change your mind and change your heart. He will make you brave.

Your kids are amazing human beings. Finally, I know you aren’t convinced right now, but you are going to be a great mom. Being a mom will be the hardest thing you have ever done and you will make millions of mistakes, but you have some great examples to follow and you and hubby will figure it out. You may not ever have the patience to play with Barbies for very long, but all the teenagers will love coming to your house. You will delight in how different the girls are and they will constantly surprise you with their wisdom, creativity, and insight. You will be the loudest drama mama in the audience and the craziest sports fan in the stands. They will pretend they are embarrassed, but will secretly love you for it. You will fight with them and for them like a warrior. You will forgive them when they are awful and beg them for their forgiveness when you are. You will be so proud of them that it feels like your heart will burst, even on the hardest days. And you will pray for them every single day for the rest of your life like it is your job.

They are almost grown and they are your favorite people in the world to be around.  Good job, mama!

Oh and honey, one last thing. That first child, the easy one that makes you feel like a super mom? She was just a warm up. You might want to rest up and get ready for number two daughter 🙂 This one is going to be a whole different story!

Don’t worry, you are going to do great!

Your older and hopefully wiser 50-year-old self