3 Things to Consider When Parenthood Shocks or Surprises You

Written by Tracy Steel
Published on February 11, 2020

I can still remember how their voices giggled as they talked about the babies growing inside of them. I faked a smile as I listened to my friends discuss the pros and cons of store-bought versus homemade baby food. 

I was single at the time—the thought of having a baby made me anxious. My friends wanted to marry and have families of their own. Having a career outside of the home was not the desire of their hearts. 

In contrast, I dreamed of owning an interior design firm and making it big in the corporate world. A husband and kids would have to wait. 

But then I met and fell in love with Jesus Christ, and he changed everything, calling me into a different kind of interior design. His call resulted in me working full-time in the youth and women’s ministries at my local church. My plans did not involve me wearing stretchy, pregnancy pants but slim, hipster jeans instead. 

However, I am glad I ended up hanging out with my pregnant buddies. Years later, I met and married my best friend. I moved away from the church and ministries I led, becoming a stay-at-home wife and new mama as a little boy started growing inside of me. God continued to redesign my life, using motherhood and the resulting contrast that came with it to change me for his good.

The reality of contrast within parenthood

When I worked as a corporate interior designer, I would use the principle of contrast to help me create interest, drama, or variety within whatever space I redesigned for my client. I would use furniture pieces or fabrics and paint colors of opposing sizes, shapes, scale, textures, or color to achieve contrast. The greater the difference between two things, the larger the contrast.

Today, I am a mother of two energetic children who are my world. I’ve come to discover that motherhood is indeed for me, even though there is a contrast between what I thought motherhood was going to be like and how motherhood has actually been. Like the physical, interior spaces I’ve designed for my clients, contrast in motherhood has created some variety and drama within the interior spaces of my heart. 

For example, I always pictured myself as a very patient, happy-all-of-the-time type of mother. Being in ministry, I’ve bumped shoulders with many types of people but was able to maintain an air of grace and patience toward them. But, on some days, my precious toddlers pushed my buttons in about .0002 seconds, resulting in a not-so-calm or gracious mommy. How they did this and continue to do this as budding tweens baffles me.

Similarly, I used to look down on mothers who couldn’t console their crying babies on airplane rides. Or parents who put their toddlers on a leash at the mall. 

Guess what? 

I’ve been that mom on the plane with the inconsolable baby. I hooked my adventurous son to a plush, stuffed monkey leash because he had no fear of the unknown, wanting to explore every inch of large, public spaces as a toddler. 

I’ve also noticed a whole lot of worry, impatience, fear, and guilt take up residence in my mama’s heart resulting from things I’ve done, or as a result of what my children have done. I had in mind what my children would be like or act like only to find that some of what they’ve said and done has been directly opposite of what I thought they would do or say.

My kids are contrast, and so am I as a parent. 

God’s purpose for allowing contrast within us and within our children 

Second Corinthians 5:17 teaches that those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ are new creations in him. 

In other words, there should be contrast in who we used to be before we came to faith and who we are becoming as moms and dads living out our faith. As we mature in our faith, the level of contrast within us should increase, and the same is hopefully true of our children as they mature. 

I believe God changes us into a “new creation” via contrast since he uses it to catch our attention and cause drama within us, prompting us to grow and mature. Some of the divine vehicles he uses to deliver contrast to us is parenthood and those precious children we’re raising. Which again, will probably turn out looking like nothing we may have hoped or planned for.

I’ve shared elsewhere that:

…the hard-to-love person… or unmet expectations [pertaining to ourselves or our children] may be the divine set of glasses that God is asking us to look through for a while. They may be the very thing we need to help us see better—and in turn, help others around us see better too.

Fellow spectacle wearer, we are in the world, but not forever dwellers of it. We were once blinded by the things that matter to the world but clearly see now the things that matter in heaven. We grieve but do so with hope. We have the power to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating and fighting back. And we have the ability to overcome sin while choosing not to indulge in it. This is what contrast produces within us. I dig it and want it for the both of us big-time. Why?

You and I are designed to stand out… People should see the difference in us the longer we live out God’s designs for us, causing them to wonder why we believe and live the way that we do. (A Redesigned Life)

How parents can harness contrast for the good of their family

Is parenthood turning out the way you planned for it to go? 

Are you the type of mom or dad you thought you’d be? 

Are your kids turning out to be different than what you thought they’d be? 

If so, I pray the following encourages you. For contrast creates drama within us in order to catch our attention, just like it does in interior spaces around us. This is by design. God’s design, that it is. 

God desires for us to become a new creation in Christ, and he desires the same of our children. Doing so will cause our families to stand out in contrast to the community where God has placed us. So, if you are realizing there’s contrast within you or your kids, utilize it for good and allow contrast to help you see yourself, your kids, and your God more clearly. 

In A Redesigned Life, I wrote, “The truth is, we will never find healing or joy when life doesn’t go as planned if we deceive or cover up or pretend that all is well when it is not and we are not… Be real. There is contrast in us all. This is by design.”

Here are some questions to consider whenever you notice contrast occurring within you or your children that will allow you to harness it for good: 

Does the contrast illuminate any sin (such as pride, impatience, or anger) that has taken up residence in your heart?

If so, work to confess it to God and help your children to do the same if they are struggling. Figure out how to overcome and move forward together.

Does the contrast illuminate any unattainable expectations of yourself, of your children, or of God?

We’d like to be perfect and raise perfect children, wouldn’t we? Allow contrast to help you adjust or remove expectations where needed for they may be too high or unfair. 

Also, examine what you believe about God when parenthood doesn’t go as planned. Consider if your answer(s) agree or disagree with the teachings of Scripture. What we believe about God is what we will knowingly or unknowingly pass onto our children whenever life doesn’t go as we planned.

Does the contrast illuminate any tendency to fake out those around you whether they are part of your in-person or online community?

It’s tempting to cover up who we really are individually or as a family. I know it’s scary to admit that we, and those we are raising within our homes, aren’t as perfect as we’d like everyone else to believe. But God has created us for community. 

Fight the temptation to falsely promote yourself or your kids to those around you. Being vulnerable allows others to speak into your family’s lives and to give them the chance to give you further counsel or accountability as needed. 

Plus, it will also help you to see that others have contrast in their lives too. 

And you just may encourage and minister to another family who needs to discover the beauty and purpose behind the contrast they are experiencing too.

Live perfectly imperfect

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Tracy Steel

Tracy Steel graduated from Kansas State University with a BS in interior design in 1998 and has a master’s degree in biblical and theological studies from Phoenix Seminary. Moving from one type of interior design to another, Tracy worked in full-time youth ministry, serving as the director of female students at Scottsdale Bible Church. God’s true design for Tracy involves improving the interior space of the hearts and minds of women around her. Currently stationed in Washington, DC, this military wife and mother of two enjoys linking up with other bloggers, leading Bible studies at her local church, and speaking at various moms’ groups and women’s ministries events nationwide. She is also the author of A Redesigned Life: Uncovering God’s Purpose When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned and Images of His Beauty. To read more of her book, blog posts, or to connect with her on social media, visit www.tracymsteel.com.

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