Confessions of a Former Gatekeeper Mom: The Importance of Zooming Out

My iPhone must hate me.

It’s constantly yelling at me to “free up more storage space” and the battery is always on “low power mode” because I wear it out taking pictures of my children all day. I stay home with my two year old daughter and nine month old son, and a quick scroll through my photo library will show hundreds of snapshots of our daily lives at home – my son’s chubby cheeks and gummy smile filling a frame, edge to edge, my daughter’s cheesy grin, a selfie of my beleaguered face gulping coffee. What do they have in common? Almost 100% of them are close-up pictures.

My first year of motherhood was not fun, I’ll be honest. My daughter is dramatic and sensitive, and now that she’s a toddler I can see how those qualities enhance her personality, but it made her a tough baby. She was constantly needing to be nursed or rocked or worn in a baby carrier. She sobbed if I left the room. I was learning how to be a mom, severely sleep deprived and struggling through the fog of postpartum anxiety. I didn’t know how to ask for help, or even that I needed help.

I was a “gatekeeper mom,” not letting my husband help out because he would do it the “wrong” way. I felt thoroughly enmeshed in the minutia of day-to-day grunt work. I was close-up, zoomed in, like the micro setting on a camera, 24/7. And it was exhausting.

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At my most glamorous – I couldn’t even take the garbage out without my daughter clinging to me!

When my daughter was learning to walk, we spent a ton of time toddling around our backyard. I remember one particular instance letting her meander a stone’s throw away from me, watching her pick weeds and giggle in the sunshine. For once, I could see all of her – not just her runny nose or grubby hands or diaper that needed changing – but all of her, a whole child, who was happy and growing up well, despite that I was always feeling like a failure. Seeing her from a distance, I was overwhelmed with love for her. It almost took my breath away, to zoom out and realize she was her own person and would not need me in this intensive way forever. That “macro” perspective was a real turning point for me in my motherhood journey.

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A picture of that moment

When my son was born last fall, I approached his babyhood with a determination to spend more time in the “macro” setting instead of getting caught up in the “micro”. Instead of hoarding him, I handed him off to my mother-in-law, my husband, the lady at church whose kids are grown and was just dying to snuggle a baby. And do you know what? Nothing bad happened! In fact, it was the opposite – trusting others with the care of my children turned out to be a gift to these people who desperately wanted some “micro” time with them.

This time around, I know that for me to both a good wife and mom, I need some breaks. I need “macro” time away from the daily grind of running a household to read a book, journal, connect with friends, exercise, or spend time with the woman that I still am underneath my mommy facade. 

Friends, I urge you to take some time to “zoom out” now and then, to step away from the all-consuming “micro” of everyday life – because you’re building something wonderful at home, and the picture is beautiful.

What do you do to “zoom out?” Leave a comment below!

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