As I push the stroller back home I watch Zeph struggling to find his thumb. The little guy needs that tiny finger to suck on and help him fall into a much needed sleep as I’m walking back from a coffee date with one of my close friends. She is a great mom, bakes the best cookies, loves Jesus with all her heart and has this never disappearing smile on her face. And we laugh together. So hard. I love her.
Even though my YWAM life is marked with many – too many, I am tempted to say – goodbyes, the beauty of this revolving door of relationships is that God keeps giving me great friends in every season of this journey.
We talk about motherhood, life, crying babies in the night, kids that break your favourite piece in the house. About the privilege it is to be a mom, the guilt of failing, the intense sense of happiness motherhood brings, the fear of missing out while you stay back home with the kids. We talk about sacrificing dreams and passions, or maybe I should say put them on the shelf. It’s a phase right? It’s a season. Yeah, it’s only a phase!
Which mom has not been told when pouring out their challenges that ‘it’s only a phase?’ Often times that cliche has a bit of a negative tone if you would ask me. As if the phase of having kids, and raising young kids is a burden. That it is about surviving, hoping we will get through that phase without too many scars. I would be the last one to say that raising a family doesn’t bring its challenges, but aren’t children first and foremost a blessing, as the Bible says?
Yesterday I waved Reinier off to the airport for an 8 day trip to the USA, where he will be part of a global gathering called YWAM Together in Kansas City. Well, actually I saw him out all the way until he disappeared though the sliding doors below the letters ‘Central Station.’ The great thing about living where we do is that I can almost see him hop on the airplane. Although, I have to say at times it also makes the goodbye slightly more painful when I watch that happen from my own living room.
Over the years of being a mom while also being in the mission we had quite some goodbyes as a couple. More than once I’ve had comments in the range of ‘don’t you wanna come with him’ or ‘when is it your turn to go’ or ‘why do you guys never go together?’ Others would say ‘can’t you bring the kids somewhere’ or ‘ask someone to stay at your house to watch the kids while you go together’ Aaaand pause…. This is where things can get tricky. Before you continue reading I do want to say this: please hear my heart, this is my story. Just a peak into my journey. One that is different than yours. I am not trying to tell you how to do life. Or judge anyone who does things differently than I do. Because I trust that you know in your situation what is best for your family and more importantly what you feel led to do and what God is telling you to do. I know us human beings, and sometimes specifically us moms, have the pitfall to compare, defend. Or maybe that’s just me… Probably my own insecurity…
So yeah, my story… do I want to come on this trip… Uhm… yeah maybe… I mean: of course. I guess. Well no, actually not.
What am I supposed to say…?! What do people expect me to say? Or does that not really matter, maybe? When I think back of 5 years ago when we were asked to pray about leading the YWAM base here in Amsterdam we believe God spoke to us: yes! Reinier and I have always loved working together side by side, as a team. But leading the base while having a young family did mean prioritising things very intentionally and also having a clear picture of who would do what in which capacity. I remember praying about my role in our ‘yes’ to the question of leading a base like ywam Amsterdam. It would be different roles and expectations for each of the 2 of us, yet we would still be a team. Regardless of titles or positions. For me personally two things came to mind very clearly. I was to support Reinier and to bring a sense of family to the base. One of the ways we felt to shape that 2nd part of our mandate was to move from our own apartment in the North of Amsterdam to Samaritan’s Inn, our YWAM facility with communal living across the main train station in Amsterdam. We were to create a place, a house, a home, where the door is open for people to come and go. To laugh, cry, pray, eat, just be and do life together. Over the years I have seen that hospitality is truly something that changes lives. It so reflects the character of God.
The other part of my role to support Reinier has been in the first place to prioritise holding down the fort at home above all else. Reinier is by far not an absent member in our family, and I’m confident to say my kids don’t feel like that either. But I do think I can best describe it that I am the one who brings the stability. Around that stability Reinier can plan his work flexibly without bringing our family out of balance. In evenings and weekends, and also to be able to go on trips like this one. Does that mean we never have a babysitter? Not exactly, we have babysitters all the time. Does that mean I never leave the house and have ‘my own things?’ Nope. And no, the house is not out of balance then in case you are wondering 🙂
You don’t have to pity me. I am not missing out. I am not saying that because it might be the right thing to say. It’s hard work when it’s just me and my little crazy bunch of 4! But I plan, ask for help, sometimes I lose my patience and then I tell my kids I’m sorry… and we move on. We FaceTime, Skype, we pray together and we laugh. Oh, and sometimes I cry. Which I also happen to do when Reinier is actually around.
It’s a season, right? It’s a phase. I’m not going through it in survival mode, but with the best I have. Sometimes I mess up, and then I get up. I’ve had people tell me ‘Your time will come’ to make me feel better. It was only later that I realised… ‘Really? My time will come?’ My time is now! It only looks different than what people think is best for me.
The second day Reinier was gone, Noélani said to me: ‘Mom, you’re doing a great job as a mom, with daddy gone.’ In the back I heard Loïs talk to Zeph: ‘And you Zephy… you are doing a great job holding up with mom.’ I laughed so hard! I love, love, love these kiddo’s and am so grateful I get to be their mom. It’s only a phase so I better enjoy it as long as it lasts.