By Steph Thurling
God's Brave Women - Steph's Story
My fingers flew across the keypad on my phone as I excitedly texted my friends, “I am going to train to become a doula! So, if you need a doula or have any pregnant friends, let me know!”
Over the next few months I attended the in-person training and read all the required materials. In the most miraculous moments of my life, I watched three different mothers welcome their babies into the world. Through tear-filled and tired eyes, I fell in love with birth and the strength of women.
But slowly, and after each of those births, the conversations I had with my husband started to change. The doula life, as much as I loved it, was not working for our family. My husband increased his travel for work and our kids are young, so the on-call life was too stressful for everyone. The work was a passion but it didn’t allow me to focus on other things I consider important. I just couldn’t do it anymore. After a lot of prayer and consideration, I had to say some of the most difficult words a person can say:
Because I love birth and I love being a doula, I decided I could take a few special clients a year, and who knows, maybe I will pick it up again as my kids get older. But for the time being, when people ask about how my doula work is going, I respond, “I just don’t have the capacity for that right now.” This story is not about being brave enough to try something new. This story is about being brave enough to let go.
"This story is not about being brave enough to try something new. This story is about being brave enough to let go."
I am an enneagram 2 and a born people pleaser, so my natural inclination is to accept every dinner invite and then add a few more to the calendar. I thrive when I am sitting in a tiny chair cutting construction paper into strips of paper that will one day become a rainbow in a classroom full of wiggly five-year-olds and one brave teacher. I love to sit across from people in a coffee shop, listen to their stories and dreams, and respond with a heartfelt, “How can I help?” All that being said, no has become one of my favorite words. A purposeful no can hold so much power and open many doors that we didn’t even know existed.
"A purposeful no can hold so much power and open many doors that we didn’t even know existed."
We live in a culture that thrives on busyness and quantifies success by amount accomplished. It’s a fast-paced world where we have been falsely led to believe that we can have and do it all if we work hard enough. The very idea of quitting something burns our faces hot with shame. Will people think less of me? Will people think I’m a failure? Will people realize that I don’t actually have it all together? In general, we equate bravery with doing, but bravery can also be equated with releasing.
With time, I have let go of the shame of quitting doula work. Quitting doesn’t mean I’m going to quit everything I try. It doesn’t mean I can’t commit to anything. It doesn’t mean I’m not successful. It means I’m being true to who I am and re-evaluating my priorities to work for my family.
As much as I want to do it all, I’ve learned that sometimes those activities I love fill up my tank so high that there is no room left for me or my family when the day is done. In reality, I have found that the more I pare down my life, the richer it becomes. The more purposeful I am with my time, the more purposeful I can be with my people. When I do less, I can enjoy more.
"In reality, I have found that the more I pare down my life, the richer it becomes. The more purposeful I am with my time, the more purposeful I can be with my people. When I do less, I can enjoy more."
Letting go of one dream gave me space for another as I now have more time and energy to devote to writing, another dream I started to actively pursue around the same time as doula work. My family life has more freedom because I can accept an invitation to an event and plan a family vacation without considering if it will conflict with being on-call. Creating a monthly calendar does not mean arranging child-care 24 hours a day and my husband does not stress about when to schedule business trips. Additionally, I have confidence knowing in my heart and my head that I am capable of being ambitious and achieving a goal. Sadly, this is something that was pushed aside when I became a mother and it felt good to focus on myself professionally.
Above all, quitting has helped me to understand this essential truth: my identity is in Christ. My identity is not in my job. My identity is not in how often I volunteer in my child’s classroom. My identity is not in how perfect my family looks or how much fun we have. My identity is not in my ability to balance an on-call life with family life. I don’t want to be so prideful that I continue to do things that don’t serve me well just for the glory – when instead, I can use my time and energy to serve God and bring Him glory. Maybe it involves doing a little less so I can make room for what matters.
"I don’t want to be so prideful that I continue to do things that don’t serve me well just for the glory – when instead, I can use my time and energy to serve God and bring Him glory."
It is brave to try new things, and it is also brave to admit when those things don’t work out. There isn’t much that we can control in this world, and maybe the bravest thing that we can do is take control of the few things we actually can and decide what we really want to prioritize, even if that involves quitting a few things.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
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Steph Thurling is a co-founder of Raising Prayerful Kids, a ministry that equips and encourages parents to be praying with their kids in a meaningful way. She is passionate about faith formation at home, almond milk lattes, deep friendships, and beagles. She lives in Minnesota (even though she hates the cold) with her husband and three kids. You can connect with Steph on their website raisingprayerfulkids.com as well as Instagram and Facebook.