This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen, here. Today, we have another fun, special episode for you. I’m going to be talking to Emily about a way that God has changed her perspective and transformed some of her original views. It’s sort of an interview show. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist talking a little bit and sharing my views, but we are talking about being a stay-at-home mom. One thing I love about motherhood is that as moms, we are all called to the same end goal. We are all called to live out motherhood faithfully in light of the gospel, and raise our children to know and love the Lord. But it looks really different. What we’ll be focusing on today is how you spend your time. We’re really excited because I think Emily has grown and changed in her view in this. She is going to be sharing her story about how God worked in her heart and how he’s changed her viewpoint. I think you’ll enjoy hearing, and hopefully, many of you will relate to her and figure out a way to further apply yourself in motherhood. Emily, I will let you talk.
Emily: I’m a little nervous; this is soul-bearing today.
Laura: I know. It’s weird to be on the hot seat, isn’t it?
Emily: It is. It’s a little nerve-racking. I don’t think I’ve ever told this story in detail to anybody beyond friends; really good friends. [laughs]
Laura: Perfect, today is the day. Why don’t we go back to the beginning? Tell me about what shaped your original viewpoints as stay-at-home mom? What drove your decision to be one?
Emily: It’s interesting because I can remember back to early childhood. I had this really good friend whose mom was a fulltime stay-at-home mom, a homemaker. Whenever I would go over to her house, there would be fresh baked cookies and she’d take us to the pool, and they had this gorgeous decorated house. I’d see her ironing her husband’s shirts and I was like, “What is this? I want that life.” [laughter] It was really interesting as a child, looking at that and thinking it seemed like a slower-paced life. It was fun for my friend to have her mom around, and I am a quality time person; I have always been. Even as a young child, I could have been a homebody, could have been with my parents 24/7, and really enjoyed that. Of course, all of those things shaped as I looked ahead into the future. When I was a little kid, I wasn’t spending a ton of time thinking thoughts about the future, but I think I knew that I did want to be a stay-at-home mom.
Then later I got into high school and college, and I was actually having to make decisions about what I wanted to do for a career, or how I was going to spend my time long-term. Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get married and have a family or anything, so felt like I had to pick something. I didn’t have this big vision of sitting in an office or having something I was super passionate about. Again, I think I was really longing for the day when I didn’t have to work anymore. [laughs] Again, where I could have these fresh-baked cookies, cleaning my house, going on play dates lifestyle, but I know I needed a backup plan.
Laura: I think a lot of women can relate to that. I think it can be really hard. College is so tough to figure out what you’re going to do because it’s so much pressure for the rest of your life. How did that play out? That was your vision and dreams—fresh-baked cookies, pool parties—what did that look like? What worked? What didn’t?
Emily: I did end up getting married obviously. [laughter] Basically, even as soon as I got married, I remember that there was a day that I was sitting at Starbucks. It was actually at the lowest point of the recession. I was not working at the time, and I remember thinking, “I can’t wait until we have this season of life where I don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore, like looking for a job. I can finally be at home and my husband can provide, and I can be in control of my day.” I had a “Yes, I want this stay-at-home mom life,” feeling and I didn’t even have kids yet. It’s definitely interesting but when I did have my first child, in some senses, it did live up to the hype in my mind. I did love some of the things I thought I was going to about it. My personality is a little bit more like go with the flow, go with what sounds like fun day. I didn’t really mind that there was mundane work to be done around the house. I wasn’t really bothered by some of those things, but I also was really shocked that I was not like Martha Stewart. [laughter]
Laura: You were shocked.
Emily: Yes. I thought, “I’m going to be awesome at this. I’m going to keep up with everything around the house. I’m going to get good meals on the table. I’m going to keep the house really clean. I’m going to take care of all of these administrative duties. I’m going to stay up on the laundry. I’m going to care for my husband,” but really, I was struggling with idleness. The reality was I was ping ponging from one activity to the next. I would try to schedule things but I didn’t have the self-discipline to finish those things. It was so easy to find an excuse of like, “I’ll just do it tomorrow.”
Laura: Because you had time tomorrow.
Emily: I had time tomorrow. I had time.
Laura: Yes, that’s a common trap.
Emily: Exactly, that’s a great way to put it. What was really shocking, as I look back, I couldn’t even keep my kitchen clean every day. I was in a season where I should have been able to do that but it was because I was being driven by my agenda, and my comforts, and my likes and living life the way I wanted.
Laura: Interesting. So it was less about the fact that you couldn’t do it because you were taking on too much but more about you hadn’t applied yourself in a way to get it done?
Emily: Yes, in hindsight.
Laura: In the moment, it felt like, “Oh, my goodness, I have so much to do,” probably?
Emily: In the moment it felt like that. But in hindsight, I think I, again, wasn’t really thinking of my life in terms of calling. I was just like, “I got all this time. I want to go to the park. Let’s go to Chipotle tonight. Let’s do something fun today.” [laughs]
Laura: Yes, with children, it’s funny because there’s a pressing need, break, pressing need, break, and the more children you have, the more pressing needs you have. But with one child, you get a lot of those naps. I remember I had four hours a day of naps. I was plopping on the couch, “I’m going to watch some TV,” even if there’s dishes in the sink because I had time that afternoon. I would put it off with the same mindset you had. What changed your view or how did your mind change to get that fire under you to do a little bit more? How did your goals and values change as a stay-at-home mom and when?
Emily: I remember being pregnant with my twins and realizing I was going to have three babies under 16 months and I better figure something out. [laughs] Because if I couldn’t get my kitchen clean and stay up on with these basic tasks with one child, I was really going to struggle with three very young children. I honestly feel like this was God’s sovereign goodwill for my life to sanctify me and put me under some good pressure. When my twins were born, we had a family living with us and I felt like all the control and all this idea of, "I have time," was taken out of my hands because I couldn’t live this lifestyle anymore. It was very limited to what I could do. I was always meeting a child’s need or taking care of something urgent for this long season. Anyways, I remember reading through The Ministry of Motherhood during that time and started to think about, “Wait a minute, am I looking at this all wrong? Am I looking at this from terms of how I want spending my time or am I looking at this in terms of what God has called me to do?”
Laura: That Ministry of Motherhood book is by Sally Clarkson. We will link to it in the show notes but it really transformed both Emily and I’s views on motherhood. Whether you work or you’re full-time at home, it’s a great book for all moms and it kinds of talks about what we talk about here on Risen Motherhood. Then, how did that play out? Once the twins are born, these things dawned on you. [laughter] Talk about not necessarily what you did with your time but just your mindset.
Emily: Having a lot of young children under a young age has shown me a lot about myself and what I worship. I’ve seen so many times how I just want to escape the hard. I want to check out; I want to take the easy way out. Or I can become controlling when people don’t do what I want them to do. [laughs]
Laura: Little ones under four feet tall.
Emily: Yes, my little minions in my house. One day it dawned on me that I could potentially be with my kids all day and not model Jesus for them and that was a horrifying thought. [laughter] I realized all that valuable time would be wasted. Here I am, I’ve made this sacrifice, I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I was really, really challenged because I was watching women around me that had a variety of circumstances, and a variety of situations living out their biblical call to motherhood and being faithful moms and not spending quite as much time with their kids as I was. Yet here I am spending a lot of time with my kids and I just kept going, “Wouldn’t it be this awful waste to say that I was with my kids all the time but I wasn’t passing along the gospel onto them intentionally.“
Laura: I think that will give us a great segue into the gospel and how our gifts fall into motherhood. Can you talk through a point or two about the gospel here? I’ll chime in here too. I’m a stay-at-home mom if you all didn’t know. Where do you want to start Em?
Emily: I think some of these realizations didn’t change anything necessarily about what I did. I’m still with my kids the vast majority of the day, [laughs] but it changed the way I looked at my day and I looked at my time. I feel like one of the biggest things for me that changed, especially in terms of how the gospel applies, is realizing that everything I am and everything I have belongs to God. It’s not my own, it’s not about me or my day, and what I feel like, or what makes me happy. It’s about God and his will for my life and his calling for my life. I don’t have a boss. I used to think about that like, “Woohoo, I don’t have a boss. I can do what I want,” but it’s like, "No, I have God looking at my work in all the hidden quiet places; looking at my heart." I want to give my life as an offering of thanksgiving for all the things he’s done for me and God sees when I’m wasting my time. He sees when I leave things undone out of laziness, or when I choose social media instead of intervening to discipline my kids. I just realize, “If Christ laid down his life for me, and I am giving everything to follow him, my life belongs to the Lord.” It’s not like, “Hey, I’m free to do what I want.”
Laura: It’s amazing too when you really apply yourself. I was actually talking to a girlfriend this weekend and she was like, “However much time you give yourself to get something done, that’s how long it will take.” If you have two hours and you’re like, “Oh man, I should probably have five,” but you only have two, you get it done in two. I think there’s an element as an at-home mom of thinking, “I have all the days to get things done,” or, “I can do that at nap time,” or, “I can do that after bedtime,” and we keep pushing. This is the moment to disciple your children. We’ve talked before on the show how during these moral years, you are really forming their morals up until junior high. You are starting now to junior high. That is when brick-by-brick, we are slowly building the love for the Lord, and the knowledge of who he is. We’re putting in the gracious and the kindness and self-control. We’re investing in all of these qualities we want to see in our children. You’re doing that now mom and it’s going to take that 15 years or 13 years or whatever it is, and we don’t have time to push that off to tomorrow or, “I’ll start quiet times tomorrow. I’ll wash the dishes tomorrow.” It’s amazing because if we apply ourselves to live faithfully and trusting God that he is going to put in front of us what needs to get done, we can actually often get those things done that need to be done.
Emily: Christ does not put a heavy burden on us. He equips us through the Holy Spirit to do what he’s asking us to do; to live faithfully in that moment. As we’ve talked about a lot on the show, identity is such a huge thing to understand. A lot of times, we can look at ourselves in terms of, “I’m a stay-at-home mom. Here is what my schedule is like and here is what I do during the day.” But I really started to think like, “No, I am a Christ follower. I am a disciple. I’m a co-heir with Christ, a daughter of the king.” Because that’s who I really am, I’m free to be about God’s priority instead of thinking about my time in terms of this legalistic way. There is no rule about how many hours I need to be with my kids each week, but I’m also free to lay down my other dreams and desires and not feel like, “I need to have it all right now.” In both ways, that’s freeing to be able to be each day, “I’m going to obey the Lord because that’s my joy.”
Laura: Remember that as moms, we are not out of the call to make disciples just because, especially when you’re at home, it can be hard to see that missing opportunity. Being home, our children are our disciples. In addition to that, there are ways that we can do ministry. Just because we are an at-home mom doesn’t mean we’re only contained in the four walls either. Bringing your children alongside you and ministering to other people, finding ways that you can use your gifts and talents and not just being at home. If you love to cook, then great. Host and have people over and entertain, and share Christ’s love through cooking. Taking your kids to the local Pro-Life clinic or serving at church and in the nursery. My church is redoing their nursery, so helping to paint that if you’re creative in that way. There are so many ways that, as a stay-at-home mom, you don’t have to be contained in your four walls. Also remembering that your greatest job is to disciple those children that are in your homes, and again, that’s whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom.
Emily: Finally, I think one of the things too that’s changed my mindset on this, and that God’s been really gracious to show me is that, not everyone is in the same situation that I am. There are a lot of women out there in different circumstances across the globe—my sisters in Christ, that are living out their motherhood and they’re calling, in much, much more challenging situations than what I was facing. I was reading this book recently, it’s called The Insanity of God, but there’s this part about missionaries and he talks about, not giving up in our freedom what persecuted Christians don’t give up in their persecution. I feel like thinking a lot about, “Okay, with all the time that I have, I want to do this well and be thoughtful about it because it’s a gift that I have.”
Laura: That’s so important to be grateful for, the fact that we even have a choice to be home and to recognize that as a total gift. I think that’s a good spot to end. Moms, I hope you were really encouraged by Emily’s story today of how God has really changed her mind and what that looks like to have a faithful calling to motherhood in light of the gospel. You can find a lot of the links. We’ll post everything that we mentioned on the show in addition to some other articles about the same topic in the show notes. Go to www.risenmotherhood.com, that is where you will find them. Of course, we would love some reviews and some ratings on iTunes, that is the best way to get the word out about the show. We would do appreciate it you guys. This is the best way to do it, to share the show if you like what we’re doing here. I think that’s it, right Emily?