Intro: A Confession and a Deep Desire
First, a confession. I'm not a mother. But I know a few and I stand in awe. Mothers are amazing examples of devotion and self-sacrifice. As such, the mere role of motherhood is a parable of grace.
Second, I have a deep desire to be a source of encouragement to mothers. To that end, I'm sharing 7 things that I believe every mother needs to hear.
I do hope they resonate as a source of life and grace for you. If you'd like to share what else has encouraged you and other moms, please feel free to comment below.
Also, please know that I am sensitive to how hard this day is for many. To that end, I have written another post, For Those Who Grieve on Mother's Day.
For this post, here are the 7 things that I think every mother needs to know.
1. Being a mother is not a step down from any other career.
Possibly through the influence of contemporary western culture, many women are influenced to think that true "success" as a woman is being a "professional" in the workplace and that motherhood is a secondary, less significant calling. In view of this influence, some women view having kids as an add-on to their primary vocations. Others see having kids as a distraction.
Having a career outside of motherhood certainly is a valid option and sometimes is necessary for "ends to meet" or simply because the mother enjoys the work or is really good at it, finding her job as a way to contribute to the Creation Mandate as she brings her gifts to bear upon a world in need of cultivation and redemption.
I applaud mothers who excel in the workplace.
My concern is not to keep mothers barefoot and in the kitchen. No, no, and again, no. Read Proverbs 31:10-31 for a mother who was super industrious by any modern-day standards.
My concern is that young moms not buy the lie that says that being a mother is something less than being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or any other professional role. It isn't.
Rather than motherhood as interfering with a career, what if moms were given permission to see motherhood as a career? As a high calling. Maybe the highest calling this side of the new heavens and new earth to come.
After all, Jesus could have done just about anything. Yet there was so much he didn't do. He chose to focus on something small -- something small that would grow to have a massive, world-altering influence.
2. The mundane matters.
Changing diapers. Washing and folding clothes. Cooking meals. Applying band-aids. Reading picture books. Cleaning up spilled milk and crushed goldfish crackers. Bathing babies. Tucking in toddlers.
It all adds up to a holistic life.
Individually it may look mundane compared to making sales calls and corporate decisions.
But remember, most of what Jesus did is not recorded in the Bible. Most of his ministry took place in the unrecorded, mundane moments.
The mundane matters.
3. There are seasons in every mother’s life.
Just as seasons of the years change, so do the seasons of motherhood. The baby and toddler years are physically demanding. Lack of sleep and lack of depth conversation can take its toll. Eventually, the kiddos can bathe and dress themselves. That part is not as hard. But as they engage with other kids, the challenges require more finesse than merely feeding on a schedule. They will be teased, hear words you wish they wouldn't, and face circumstances that will require a nuanced worldview.
At this point the tiredness of motherhood shifts from a physical to an emotional exhaustion. Then they drive and spend more time with friends than with you and eventually leave home for college and beyond.
Don't despise the one you are in longing for the next one to come too quickly.
Embrace it, knowing that this, too, will pass, whether we want it to or not.
4. It’s okay to be tired.
I hope it is encouraging for someone to say, "Mothering is not easy." Of course, you already knew that.
As someone has said, if you are not tired, you are not trying. If I had to guess, you are trying plenty hard. 🙂 But you don't have to be totally depleted all the time.
Self-care is important. Spiritual nurture is essential.
As someone else has said, we can only be as good a parent as we are a disciple who is resting in the finished work of Jesus and living by grace.
So be tired, but let that tiredness signal a need to rest and be renewed. Take a nap. Read a Psalm slowly. Watch a favorite show. Sit outside. Buy a new pair of funky and fun shoes at a thrift store. Call a friend just to chat.
Did I mention take a nap? 🙂
5. Lower your expectations.
Because our kids are sinners, too, we may need to lower our expectations, particularly of their compliance to our parental instructions.
Obedience is a blessed and wonderful thing. But let's be honest. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Our kids are the way they are because we are the way we are. They get their sinful nature from us. Just the way it is. This means that they will fall short of expectations.
So will you.
Every parent will blow it. We will let our kids down. If they didn't blow and we didn't blow it, we may fall into the trap of feeling like we don't need a Savior. We may become, God forbid, religious moralists.
The antidote to this deadly disease is to have our lives tied and tethered to the cross of Jesus.
This may be the mother's most important job -- repenting of our failures to our kids. The result is they just might begin to see that it is safe to be a sinner in this house and, like mom, they can find mercy through repentance, too, believing that our Abba, Father is more ready and willing to forgive than we are to sin.
6. You were never meant to be a Jesus-replacement for your kids.
What a relief!
No mother nor father is able to be the Savior of their kids. We just don't have the capacity. After all, we are the ones in need of the Savior.
A mother's failure to maintain her cool or be patient or always be on time or have the pantry full or keep shoes on her kids is not to be despised but embraced as part of human reality--a reality that reveals our need to live by grace... and show our kids that we need Jesus... and so do they.
7. Your children’s success or failure does not define you. Jesus does.
This is the most important of the seven realities.
It is so easy to have the success or apparent failure of our children define our identity.
I fear sometimes we think that children are like predicable machines. What goes in comes out.
But we are not machines. We are humans who live not according to linear mathematical engineering, but according to story--a story that must find its way, often in a circuitous route, to the cross of Jesus.
This is where we discover and must be convinced that our identity not determined by our success or failure (an anything, not just motherhood, which is a lifetime journey) but in view of the success of Jesus as a sin-bearer and righteousness provider.
So, mothers, thank you for what you do. Your devotion. Your sacrifice. And for showing the rest of us who we all are as sinners who need a Savior, the Jesus whose devotion and sacrifice saves us, reclaims us, restores us, and makes us his own.