As many of you know, last month I had the privilege of guest blogging for Sheila Wray Gregoire at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. This was my first foray into the world of guest blogging, so you can imagine my excitement as people read and commented. One of the best parts of writing is seeing how something you shared encouraged another person. So often, we feel alone in our struggles. Being able to tell others “you’re not alone!” is a privilege and a joy.
Unfortunately, I also saw the dark side of putting yourself “out there”—negative criticism. I knew intellectually to be prepared for such feedback, since you can hardly read anything online these days without coming across someone’s negative comments. Even so, it stung to be judged after putting my heart out there. One great piece of advice my mama has always given me, however, is to glean what you can from other’s criticism—no matter how flat, there are two sides to a pancake, as the saying goes.
As I began thinking about this person’s comments, the pressing desire to write this piece emerged. In a nutshell, one commenter felt I portrayed motherhood as horrible and that I took an excessively negative perspective on motherhood. I laughed out loud when I read these words, because I absolutely love and adore being a mother! Of all that I’ve done or accomplished in my life, none of it compares to the joy of mothering my two children—even on the hardest days, I wouldn’t trade motherhood for the world.
But, as I thought about this gal’s perspective—even though it seemed harsh, especially considering that she does not have children of her own yet—I realized that to some extent, I was in that same boat before I had children. And as Aaron and I endured month after painful month of infertility, it was especially difficult to hear mothers vent about how tired they were or how much they wanted a break. It seemed cruel and unreasonable at the time, but oh, how my perspective has changed!
The truth is, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. It’s nearly impossible to explain what it’s like to become a mother, and the only way to truly know is to jump in and experience it for oneself. This got me to reflecting and thinking back on who I was and what I thought before I became a mom—and thus, my “Top 5 Things I Wish I’d Known” list was born.
Nothing about this list is meant to scare you or vilify motherhood, but rather to explain as best I can the reality of having little ones at home. If you’re in the same boat, I hope this will resonate with and encourage you. If you’re not, I pray it sheds new light on what it’s like to take on the role of “mother,” and perhaps give you an extra dose of compassion for your mama friends. Chances are, they (like me) could use it!
1. Motherhood Changes You
Becoming a mother changes you on a fundamental level. I think back to high school science class when we studied the denaturing of proteins—once denatured, they can never go back to what they were before. The whole you can’t un-fry an egg illustration.
In the same way, when that baby arrives, you become a new creature. I always thought it would be me plus a baby—like having a super cute new accessory, if you will. But that isn’t the case. Your makeup as a person changes at the core.
However, so often when we hear this statement, we think of change as a bad thing—but not so! Sure, my hips may always be a little wider, and I may always sleep with one eye and one ear open, but I have changed for the better in several ways since welcoming by babies. I am more selfless, loving, persistent, and patient than I was before. The deeply humbling role of mother is beautifully eye opening, and I’ve seen my need for Jesus in ways I never could beforehand. Change is challenging, but overall I’m much happier with the person I am today than I was a few years ago.
2. It’s Harder & Scarier Than You Think
This one has probably been the most shocking one of all for me. I always thought, how hard can it really be? But the sheer responsibility of caring for and raising another human being is enough to take your breath away sometimes. And as mamas, so much of it naturally falls on us. I’m sure you’ve all seen those funny cards with sayings like “Go me, I kept my kids alive today!” and while those make us laugh, they hold a nugget of truth!
This isn’t meant to scare anyone, because all moms do get the hang of it. Motherhood comes with a steep but not insurmountable learning curve. And the wonderful news is, once you master that learning curve, you are good to go—bring on child #2, #3, and beyond!
The difficult and scary nature of mothering is what spawns so many posts about motherhood, like my guest post and many others. Before you enter the fray, everything seems so clear: you know exactly how you’ll feed your child, exactly how you’ll get your child to sleep, exactly what kind of schedule you’ll keep … but then your sweet bundle arrives, with his or her own personality and will, and suddenly what seemed so clear before is now as clear as mud.
What I know now is that it’s critically important for mothers to share and vent to one another, to be heard and know they are not alone. It’s easy to feel isolated at times, so I love seeing all the blogs and articles addressing those issues we confront but are sometimes too scared to admit (for fear of being criticized!).
Books and baby guides can be great tools, but nothing is as helpful or encouraging as hearing from another mama about what she’s gone through, what worked or didn’t work for her, and knowing that you’re not alone in whatever challenges you’re facing in a particular phase of motherhood.
And above everything, remember that God Himself placed your children under your care. He will equip you with everything you need to parent your babies!
3. You Will Experience Murphy’s Law In Ways You Never Thought Possible
Y’all, seriously. Sometimes it feels like there’s a pint-sized conspiracy going on around my house! Once again, I used to feel frustration with moms who were always running late and didn’t seem capable of arriving somewhere on time. But the truth is, it takes time to catch onto the fact that however long you think it will take you to leave the house, you should add 20 minutes to it. Hopefully that will cover the last minute diaper blowouts, food spills, and tantrums that seem to occur just as you’re trying to load your kiddos into the car.
On more than one occasion, I’ve stood in the middle of my living room and laughed with desperation at the forces opposing my seemingly simple attempt at going to the grocery store. Or to church—you can always count on extra chaos Sunday mornings! Remember that silly game whack-a-mole? I’m convinced that game originated with a mom who was just trying to get her kids fed, dressed, and out the door! (ok, so it was created by engineer Aaron Fechter, but you get the point).
At the end of the day, I’ve made peace with the fact that Murphy’s Law governs in my house—embracing this fact eases some of the frustration and, if nothing else, provides for plenty of writing material!
4. You Will Come to Know God on a Whole New Level
This has been one of my most favorite and humbling aspects of motherhood. While we will never fully be able to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep” the love of Christ is for us, loving a child brings new meaning to God as our Father (Ephesians 3:18 NIV). For me, relating to God as a parent brings many of His promises to life in vividly real ways, as I know how much I love my children and want the best for them. Now that I’ve experienced unconditional love for my children, I better understand and accept God’s unconditional love for me. And to think—our unconditional love as parents is still flawed by human brokenness, but God’s perfect love for us knows no bounds nor defects!
You will also come to appreciate grace in a brand new way. Never have I been in such need of grace as when I’m facing difficulty as a mom—for instance, being trapped on an airplane with a screaming 1-year-old for five hours. Yikes!! In that instance, the kindness and grace extended to me by strangers made me appreciate the lavish grace of our Savior all the more. How kind of our God to give us a small glimpse, a gentle whisper of His amazing grace and unending love for us!
5. The Love is Out of This World
Just as it’s nearly impossible to explain how life-changing motherhood is, it’s equally as difficult to explain the intense, consuming love that envelops you. This is the piece de resistance of motherhood—the thing that makes every hard, messy, draining day worth every second.
And the love encircles every mother—we don’t need to talk about it, because we all know it’s there, providing the rock-solid foundation for every high and low of motherhood. Perhaps this is why moms are sometimes perceived as being overly negative, focusing on only the rough and rocky parts: there’s no need to write flowery posts about the love we feel, because that’s a given. It goes without saying as an unspoken code among moms. It keeps us sane and gives us the strength to endure the tough days—and wings to fly high on the great days.
It is the most beautiful part of motherhood and the most terrifying—realizing that any hurt you feel is nothing compared to the pain of watching your child hurt or struggle. When Isaiah came along, I finally understood my mom and how she seemed to feel my pain a thousand times stronger than I did.
This is why we would never trade motherhood for the world. This is why we can be covered in four different forms of bodily fluids and still want more babies. And this is why we cherish motherhood, even on the days Murphy’s Law is running roughshod over us. This beautiful, consuming, otherworldly love.
Well, there you have it. What would you add to your list? I’d love to hear!
And, to my dear fellow mamas: stay the course. Know that through the good days and bad, you are doing a great work! Your babies need you, and God will equip you with everything you need to mother them as only you can.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
~Galatians 6:9 NIV