Why Are Women Fading? Rebekah Lyons

Rebekah Lyons, at Qideas, with a powerful set of ideas and questions:

Its 3:45 a.m. and you have been lying awake for almost an hour, plagued by self-doubt and anxiety. It begins with your son’s dropping grades at school, and how he is losing his confidence. This rabbit trails to your daughter’s heart, and the defiance that leaves you exhausted. You blame yourself and how you are failing to reach her. The clock keeps ticking and you move on to other stressors: you don’t call your parents enough, your siblings are far away, you have an inbox that never empties.

Two restless hours pass and the sun is rising and you have given up on the thought of going back to sleep. The sleep deprivation migraine kicks in, and you stumble out of bed a few minutes later to get your kids ready for school. You are a spent, hollow version of yourself and you make a mental note to not go to bed without a Tylenol PM or Benadryl ever again.

This routine is painfully familiar for many women.

Different topics include a baby that won’t sleep, a toddler that won’t stop screaming, a husband that works too late, a friend that doesn’t call back, parents that are sick, the uncertain futures of our kids, our financial stability, and on and on it goes.

Are we grieving our lives because they don’t look the way we imagined they would when we headed off to college?

Could it be that we put pressure on our children’s potential because we realize we aren’t living up to our own?

Have we faded by surrendering every moment of our days to the cultivation of everyone else…but ourselves?…

Recently, a friend confessed through tears that she is struggling with deep bitterness. Her life doesn’t look the way she imagined it would. She couldn’t reconcile how her life—looking so successful on the surface—could disguise the aching void that brings her tears the moment she lets herself feel any deeper.

What is most alarming is that many women don’t see past their manicured lives, a grasping for society’s definition of being “put together”. We have pretty ways to mask it, don’t we? We use all kinds of retail therapies and beauty products. We have homes to furnish and decorate, then re-decorate once we tire. We have styles to keep up with, parties to throw and attend, and a rigorous pace to maintain. While these things are all delightful and beautiful and worth celebrating, the danger comes when we use them to conceal a desperate identity crisis.

So we compromise. We say, this life I lead ought to be enough. I ought to be content being a mother. The dreams I had in my youth were simply that—dreams. Let it go. And we push down any hope when we see it flair up. The desire for change uncovers that which we are most terrified of—failure. …

In either case, this displacement of a mother’s purpose (beyond child-rearing) becomes a huge loss to our communities. If women aren’t empowered to cultivate their uniqueness, we all suffer the loss of beauty, creativity and resourcefulness they were meant to contribute to the world.

Can we imagine a mother chasing the dreams that stir her heart and simultaneously raise her children?

What if husbands saw it as their responsibility to cultivate the unique gifting in the lives of their wives?

How could our communities of faith support this type of lifestyle?

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  • Why does she think this is restricted to women?

  • Joe Canner

    ChrisB #1: I was wondering the same thing. This, in particular: “Could it be that we put pressure on our children’s potential because we realize we aren’t living up to our own?”

  • Well, guys — I agree that men may have the same issues, but this seems to me to be the nurturer role that homemakers tend to inhabit. There are men who are nurturers on the outside and those who sre nurturers on the inside.

    All these issues come from accepting cultural expectations as the norm, rather than embracing the challenge of Kingdom life with Jesus. I struggle with these issues, too.

    I am still processing my Peck series, which is more profound that I ever imagined…. Life is difficult and the fight against entropy (laziness) when it come to extending ourselves for spiritual growth — our own or another’s — is huge. When we add expectations that are not understood or carefully thought out, we find a sense of frustration growing … that blooms into bitterness.

    This is a human experience … it comes in all shapes, sizes, genders, ages and stages…

  • Kelly

    I can’t speak for the author, but while this isn’t restricted only to women, it does seem that this question is particularly telling of why women alone are addressed here:

    What if husbands saw it as their responsibility to cultivate the unique gifting in the lives of their wives?

    The norm (in many churches at least) is for women to cultivate the unique gifting in the lives of their husband and children, and women are told through various means that this is their highest calling. This is how they are to serve the Lord. There is an enormous amount of pressure place on women to allow this to be their one and only dream, thus creating an enormous amount of pressure on women as described above.

  • I have a girl’s name, but I’m male. Just wanting to clear that up for this post.

    A faint alarm sounded in me, too, regarding the sense that that the post suggests women uniquely suffer from social expectations. I suffer from some of the same expectations experienced by women, and I don’t suffer from others. So I felt like being acknowledged for the suffering I do experience because of cultural norms and messags. (Okay, all together: Acknowledge.)

    But now I’ve gotten that off my chest, I have long been saddened by what women live with on the inside and haven’t a workable way (something that might work better than Tylenol PM) to resolve. Much of the time, if there’s a husband around who doesn’t “get it,” I coach the woman less to pressure her man to change than to inhabit a different moral space, won in which she accepts her own reasonable limits without guilt, exercises new life- and joy-giving aspects of herself, and let’s the man figure out what about himself he has to deal with in order to work out a more fulfilling (and possibly, but not necessarily, more responsible) for himself.

    What I can say about what happens to me in this situation is that you can talk me to death about understanding what more/different/better you want from me, but when I will acutally understand anything is when I’ve accepted new hard facts in my life (like a partner’s changed behavior) and accommodated those facts with integrity and grace.

    I don’t often achieve perfection, or sometimes even manage good enough, but responding to what’s really happening in my life has worked far better than trying to respond to descriptions of what I would look like, if I were what someone else imagines a better me would be.

    And, in my better moments, I take my own advice: Stop talking, and start being.

  • Susan N.

    “Can we imagine a mother chasing the dreams that stir her heart and simultaneously raise her children?”

    Peggy raised the point of women employing their feminine quality of nurturing, and tending to “own” that role in a family, more so than men.

    Nurturing is a process that doesn’t obey the laws of time and efficiency. Whether it’s a baby or a teenager, sometimes we can’t imagine how much of a time and energy investment it is going to take to “nurture” our children to healthy adulthood. Being available in both quantity and quality is important.

    Can a woman “have it all” (marriage/family and a fulfilling career) — I should qualify: without losing her mind and burning out?

    My answer is, not unless her partner is equally committed and invested in the nurturing process. Who is going to do the laundry, cook the meals, clean up, change the diapers, take the sick kids to the doctor, transport them to their extra-curriculars, help them with their school work, talk with them and advise them and “walk” with them through their troubles and struggles?

    I have dreams for the next stage of my life (after raising my kids and launching them out on their own), but no delusions of focusing on any big personal achievement plans right now.

    I read this post and felt pressured to be and do big(ger) things while raising my kids, with a sense that moms who do not pursue more fulfilling endeavors are somehow too hyperfocused on their kids. Oy vey! Really? Or is it just me that got that?

    I’m no complementarian, nor am I a strong feminist in the secular sense of the word (in my own self-analysis); but, I have learned the practicalities of what is required to be a mom and to be a career woman. Some women might have an abundance of stamina and energy to do it all, at once… I know that I need to focus on one thing primarily at a time. I feel no guilt or regret about that. I have counted the cost.

    I don’t claim responsibility for what my family will do with my investment in them; after a certain point, the ball’s in their court. I want to know that I did my best for them, and have no regrets about my priorities being out of whack. But then again, my priorities are very much a product of my own experiences and convictions. To each, her own 🙂

  • DRT

    Wow, reading comments 1 and 2 then hearing Peggy start out “Well guys…” I thought they were going to get it! But Peggy was patient and kind.

    Susan N. – You speak Yiddish! Boy I miss that.

    Having lived through the young kids years I can safely say that there are many women who struggle. My wife was a reluctant stay at home mom and, in retrospect, I wonder if it was the right thing. But there may not be a right thing either….

    Christy – I think what you are getting at is the codependency that seems to almost be expected in our society and I think that is wrong. As you said, we are each responsible for our own fulfillment, and I will add that the other is there is a supporting role, not a fulfilling role.

    Wonderful post, but not as wonderful as Findley.

  • DRT
  • Susan N.

    “But there may not be a right thing either….”


  • Gloria

    Great comments everyone. Wow – terrific. And I agree with DRT, a wonderful post, but not as wonderful as little Finley! What a precious new life.

  • DRT … what!?! You thought I was going to chastise, eh? Oy veh, again! 8)

  • LFDS

    How could our communities of faith support this type of lifestyle?
    If this question is asking about the lifestyle for a woman to pursue the unique gifts and talents that would primarily operate outside the role of being a mother…then I say: rethink the purpose of “women’s ministries”. The purpose (or the why) is reflected in the how and what. Most “what” elements of a women’s ministry do not align with very many facets of my life in Christ. I simply did not share the same purpose and thus did not need most of what was offered. I did, however, wish to be invited into learning/leading spaces that were typically only offered to men.
    So you know: I am a 49 yr old female having raised two hard working Kingdom minded (now young adult) children while serving in pastoral ministry, non-profit management and higher education. No I didn’t do all that at the same time. My life is far more fluid (ie: crazy and unpredictable) than what I just described.

  • LFDS

    Oh and by the way. I have an amazing husband who cooks, cleans up (including throw up), listens, advises, heeds, respects, leads, follows, etc, etc, etc.

  • DLS

    The phrase “First World Problems” comes to mind.

  • phil_style

    This is not a “women” issue. Guys all feel the same thing.

    Fact is, we’re embroiled in a culture that promises everything and delivers little. Leaving one faded/ jaded and tired.

    Once again, Rene Girard has hit the nail on the head with respect to why this kind of life provides desires which are never satiated.

  • Diane

    I agree this is a human issue, not a female issue, but also that, given differences in socialization, it sometimes strikes at women more acutely. I have been reading Lisa Dahill on Bonhoeffer and Lisa reiterates the point that from the traditionally female social location (surbordinate, living to support the goals of others) sin–as Peggy alludes to with entropy–is not developing our own gifts fully.

  • Diane

    In other words, if domination is the great sin of the traditionally “male,” then submission is the great sin of the “female”–to anything but God.

  • Fish

    Society is shifting toward the strengths of women. Traditionally masculine jobs that end to involve manual labor are disappearing, being replaced by jobs that involve networking and relationship building.

    The majority of advanced degrees are now awarded to women.

    75% of couples who use special procedures to influence the sex of their child do it in order to have girls.

    I was a stay-at-home dad for many years while my wife earned the bulk of our income (and I loved it, except for those “you might be a child molester” glances I got from the moms on the playground when I was the only dad there). And the number of stay-at-home dads is growing.

    Women are the new men, except in the parts of Christendom that try to apply 1st century societal practices and roles to the 21st century.

    My daughter can do everything a man can do, plus she’s very pretty in her homecoming dress 🙂

    I’ve told her that she may indeed marry a man who stays at home with the kids while she pursues her career.

  • I suspect much of the stress has to do with valuing yourself based on what you do or accomplish instead of on who you are. I’d much rather be present in this moment, than worry about the fact that I cannot manage to juggle a job in on top of all the other things I do as a mom. Maybe it’s because I got a late start as a mom, but I never found much fulfillment in working and I can’t imagine how anyone has enough energy to do both. Try being thankful for the season you are in now. God will likely lead you into other challenges later.

  • Diane


    As one who tried to juggle work and children, I couldn’t agree more whole-heartedly that trying to do it all is the wrong idea for many people.

  • MatthewS

    I cannot say enough about my wife’s wonderfully supportive husband in this regard…

    Seriously, though, the scene in “What Women Want” where Mel Gibson panics as the whole crowd of female joggers run past him, all of their mental voices creating a cacophony of worry about lunches being packed and kids being properly dressed and the oven being turned off – it was eye-opening for me when my wife said she can’t turn that off. I get exhausted enough as it is without having to do that all day. I don’t mean to be stereotypical or sexist or any of the rest of it. I think men are much more complex than we get credit for in popular culture today, and there are nights we lie awake as well, but my gut feeling is that there is something about what this piece describes that is, as a generalization (with all due caveats) felt more acutely by many women than by many men.

  • Michael Teston

    Almost 24 years to the day my wife would deliver our 3rd child. Having a 9 year old and 5 year old at the time, she and I would begin to ask, “What would the rest of her life look like? What would she do with the gift of (her) life given to her?” Her highschool and college, university pursuits indicated she was indeed blessed beyond the average intellectually. I suggested she should not waste the brilliance she most certainly had and I would not permit her to do so. That day we decided that she would pursue a degree in medicine. The rest is history. In her wildest dreams she would have never imagined she would be serving and living out her God given vocation as she does this day. I want to believe that I believed in her, maybe more so than anyone else to that point in her life. I saw in her the capacities that would allow her to serve and unleash what could have been wasted had she only succumbed to the profiles that the writer aches over. I thank God I married someone smarter than I everyday and I don’t mind telling others that story. But all those gifts are wasted if they are not recognized and supported and encouraged. Oh, our three adult children are great, despite my nurturing them. LOL As a dad and father I have as good a relationship as I could ever want with each.