Monday, January 23, 2012

The Marks of Motherhood

“It is the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done.”
“You have no time in the day.”
“It’s the busiest job you’ll ever have.”
“It’ll change your life.” (with a sigh after said statement)

One guess as to what these phrases refer to…  Yep, motherhood.  I heard each of these at least a jillion times before getting pregnant, while pregnant, and after having a baby.  I’ve probably even said some of them, though I hope not in the context that I often hear them. I’ve been reading lately about my role as a mother. I do believe it is a calling that has been placed on my life from God as I believe He is the one who gave me my child, but I often feel/have felt a disconnect between myself and other mothers, even other mothers who share this same view of motherhood as a calling. I do not mean all mothers or women by any means;  but the feeling of “I don’t fit in here” normally comes after I’ve heard one of these statements.  Ever felt like that? If you have, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on the way I feel without feeling like or sounding like I view myself as a superior mom. Trust me, I am not superior. I repeat- I. Am. Not.  Pop into my house randomly at any given hour during the week and you’ll see how "unsuperior" I am.

I stumbled across this statement and idea in my reading recently. It was so profound to me, and I sat there and reread it and thought, “That’s it. That’s the disconnect I’m feeling.”

 All mothers love their children, but not all mothers love motherhood.

I know it sounds a bit harsh, but I think it’s truth. I think women can full heartedly love their children but not flourish and enjoy actual mothering. It explains the martyrdom, the negativity, and the overwhelming sense I get from some women when they speak about mothering. I’m definitely not saying that there aren’t bad days or times where you feel overwhelmed as a mother. Who hasn’t felt like that?!  Like those days where someone is knocking at your door, you haven’t gotten dressed yet, your child just spit up in your hair, you actually have no clean towels anywhere in your house because the laundry is so backed up, and bonus- you have no bra on. Yep, had those. Or those days where the baby that you love and adore so much just has one melt down after another and nothing you do seems to help. Those days happen here, too. I’ve been tired from lack of sleep and busy from too many commitments and unfinished housework while attempting to be a mom 24/7 in the midst of that. That’s not what I’m talking about. Of course those days happen and of course we feel defeated on those days. Crazy, insane, busy days where everything goes wrong happen in any line of work. You don’t have to be a mom to experience that.

I love motherhood. I do. Honest to goodness love it. I went back and forth for years about what I wanted my career path to be, so much so that I changed my major my junior year of college.(Not exactly ideal timing on my part....) You’d have received a different answer to what I wanted to do when I grew up depending on my age at the time. But one thing I never wavered from was my desire to be a wife and a mother.  One of my best friends has always said I’d be on kid 3 by the time she was ready for kid 1. ;) I love children. I love the child I share with my husband. I love parenting with him. In fact, I was talking with one of my friends the other day and I told her I wasn’t expecting it, but parenting with your husband is romantic- she agreed (9 kids later, I’m sure that doesn’t come as a shock to anyone!). I think God birthed this desire in me at an early age. Because of that, I think it has been easy for me to love this new role I’ve been placed in, and I think a large portion of that was credited to my mom’s example. 

     Everybody thinks their mom is the best. I’m no exception to that rule. And after being a mom, I realize now how indebted  I am to her influence in my life. My sister and I are 24 months apart. I have a feeling there were a lot of chaotic days for my mom when we were little. Two kids age 2 and under-- busy times were had, no doubt. She stayed home with us, and I’m pretty positive she was exhausted and overwhelmed at times like anyone would be. But I’m not kidding when I say that the first time I heard my mom talk about having rough days at home with us as young children was this past summer. I am 25 years old. It took me 25 years to hear her speak of motherhood in that way; and even when she did, she was actually speaking to encourage another mother. She and Dad had gone out to dinner while we were on vacation and she saw a young family with two little children that looked to be about two years apart. She said that on her way out, she stopped and asked the mother their ages who confirmed that there was a two year age difference. Mom said she looked at the woman and told her she remembered those times, remembered that there could be very trying, busy days; but my mother offered that younger mother encouragement, telling her that she also remembered lots of sweet moments and to know that a lot of things get easier as they get older. And all I could think about here lately is how that resembles exactly what scripture is talking about in Titus 2-- older women who teach “what is good…urge[ing] younger women to love their husbands and children.” I don’t know why I never stopped to think about what it must’ve been like for my mom at home with us, that she experienced the realities of mothering young children. I guess it just never crossed my mind that she would struggle like any other mother. I think it never crossed my mind because she has never dwelled on the difficult days, on the things she gave up, or the sense of being overwhelmed. She embraced motherhood. She didn’t just love her children with great devotion, she accepted and welcomed her role as mother and all that it entails. She did not fight against it, but considered it a role from the Creator, prayed for His direction, and she loved it. I think that’s the problem-- it’s easy to embrace our children, but not always so easy to embrace  motherhood. It means accepting that chaos happens, putting aside your “to do” list and moving your children to the top of that list instead. It means a giving up of self-- going without sleep sometimes, having to make 1000 decisions in an hour. And it means doing that joyfully, taking great delight in the task ahead. It means acknowledging our own weaknesses and staking claim to the promises that Christ will uphold us. In Colossians 4:17, Paul’s instructs another to “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”  My child, my husband, my home-- this is my first ministry. I think when we understand and believe that this is a role we’ve received from the Lord, the vain striving can stop. Any task that echoes in eternity has never been an easy one in my experience. Has it been rewarding? Yes. Has it been easy? Occassionally. Have there been difficult days? Absolutely. Motherhood is no different-- but the first thing I hear out of a believer’s mouth usually isn’t about how rough it is to be a believer, how hard the days are, how exhausting it is… What I do hear a lot of is the mercy offered to us, the undeserved blessings that are poured out in abundance, and faithfulness of a divine Savior who gives us aid in all circumstances. Why should we say anything different about motherhood? Why aren’t the blessings of motherhood usually the first things on our lips? Why does the laundry list of difficulties get poured out first and “but my kids are precious” come last? If we believe we’re called to mothering as we are called to walk faithfully with Christ, then what’s the difference? It doesn’t mean that we don’t speak about the realities and trying times of motherhood. It’s foolishness to pretend like they don’t exist, to feel like we have to keep them to ourselves. I’m not suggesting that at all, just like I’d never suggest that we hide our struggles as believers. It’s important to share our hearts and to be transparent. But what about sharing the rewards coupled with some realities, not just tossing in how great kids are as a final statement or afterthought? I think we often forget about the power of our words and of our attitudes. I’m guilty time and time again of that in a variety of topics.

I hear all the time right now that I will learn when I have more than one child. (You know, when you’re pregnant everyone says “you’ll learn” once you have that baby. And then once that baby arrives, you can’t learn until you have another one….I must be missing something…) Sometimes it’s just an attitude in things said to me-- that I know a little bit less because I only have one child, that suddenly by giving birth to another life I will be awakened and enlightened to what motherhood really is (because you can’t know anything about mothering after only having 1 child), and I can just pack away my current notions of happiness with mothering because they will never return. I should get ready to buckle down and do the hardest thing in the world where my days at home will be impossible… with a few pleasant moments thrown in. Goodbye happy, intentional moments spent with my daughter. (There’s a lot of sarcasm here on my part-- are you grasping it?!?) It only makes sense that more children equates to greater busyness, more chaos, more fatigue. I have no doubt that more children will mean much more learning for me and therefore changing ideas and many new challenges, but I surely hope it doesn’t make me cynical. I guess the years will tell. Maybe some of this has to do with expectations. I didn’t enter into motherhood expecting it to be easy, so I haven’t been taken completely off guard. I don’t expect having more children to be easier, but I do believe that Christ will equip me as He calls me.

 Sometimes discussion of motherhood reminds me of “husband bashing” (nope, I’m not a fan of that either.) It’s one thing to share openly where you’re struggling in your marriage or to laugh together about the difficulties of sharing life with another. It’s an entirely separate thing to drip a pessimistic view of marriage every time you speak. I feel the same way about mothering. I’m not sure if it comes from a need to validate one’s own work since many people think mothers (especially those at home) are doing a whole lot of nothing, if it comes from a need to bolster oneself higher than another, or if it’s just the typical picture of a woman rambling on and sharing excessively (I’ve definitely done my fair share of that last one). Maybe it’s  from none of the things I’ve mentioned or think. Either way, it breeds discouragement, and I have personally felt it from others. I hope we all have women that we can go to as friends and share frustrations with or vent to.  I’m so grateful for those friends- who I can shoot a text to in the middle of the day that reads something like, “What is going on in my house?! What happened to my sweet angel baby?!” And they get it. They laugh with me and assure me they’ve been there, too. I hope that there are women who hold us accountable and offer discipleship in each of our lives.  I have those, too. They are priceless. To me, this is one of the most important reasons to surround yourself with other Christian women and mothers. But my momentary frustrations or struggles shouldn’t pour over into my explanations of motherhood, they shouldn’t outshine the fulfillment that comes from raising my daughter and investing myself in her completely. That only serves to perpetuate the cultural idea of children-- that they are difficult time suckers, inconvenient, change- your- life- in- the- worst- kind- of- way beings. That’s not a biblical view of children, it’s not a view I embrace, and one that I hope I never emulate to others.      

In a few days, I will officially have a full year of mothering under my belt. It’s not much in comparison to others, but I have learned a lot in this brief time. I think in this last year I’ve had more than enough discouragement offered to me in my new role. I am choosing not to receive that. I hope that others would look at my life and view motherhood differently than what society portrays. I hope I speak of motherhood in truth, uplifting others, sharing its great gifts, its hardships, and the satisfaction that comes from training up children in the knowledge of Christ. More than that, I hope I live it. Most of all, I hope that my children would have that view of me, that they would hear me offer encouragement to other women about mothering. Our words are powerful. They are transformative. So is motherhood. It is a life-altering, call you on the carpet, get right with Jesus kind of experience. And I love it. Even when it’s hard and days are crazy and when I’m unsure if I’ve made the right decisions. Even when God uses my child to correct my behavior, when He to draws me closer to Himself, when He uses her to refine me and the refining hurts… I love it then, too. It is purposeful. He has fashioned me for these moments, for this child, and for this role. So even if I mess up and suck, He doesn’t and neither does His strength within me. I love the nurturing and the learning, the service and even the selflessness that is required. I love being a mother.

1 comment:

  1. Your words are more than I deserve. However, I did feel the way you do, so much in love with my children and parenting. Never felt like I was missing anything by having children. Always loved that role. And God was so incredibly faithful to lead me to wise counsel through parents, others, and even Christian books. (I feel like Dr. Dobson helped raise you & Rachel!) The legacy continues. Thank you does not express my true feelings of gratitude. Just know I love my children more than myself and wouldn't change it for the world. Mom