Sunday, January 18, 2009

Making peace with motherhood

In the early days of this blog, I wrote some posts trying to the address some of the baggage that we bring with being a mom, specifically the concepts of being a good mom, as well as the higher calling myth (especially among Christian circles). I really didn't know how to address the issue to do it justice. But this week I heard a radio interview with two moms who also have been addressing some of these issues. For a few weeks now, I've been wanting to write about my own experiences, so what started out as a simple blog post about the broadcast I heard, has turned into a piece of my story.

My first child changed my world. From the moment my son was born, not only was I in love with my son, I was in love with being a mom. Even up to the day he was born, we had no idea how we would be able to make it without me going back to work. I was so enthusiastic about being able to stay home with him that someone told me I was an advertisement for motherhood (it took me a few seconds to realize she didn't mean I was a model for Motherhood Maternity store. lol!). Being a mother was a blessing and privilege. Sure enough, the trying toddler years came along, and I was faced with my own issues with anger and frustration. Honestly, if my second child weren't already born at that time, I would probably have bought into the idea that someone else could take care of him better than me and looked for a job where I could make a bigger difference. I wondered if our relationship would probably be better that way, you know... if we had some space from one another. One day, I was talking to a friend, telling her of my struggle and saying how I wished I could be more loving toward my child, how I wanted to have joy in raising him, how I wanted us to live peaceably, and how I wish I were more patient with him...
And then it occurred to me that I was listing off the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25

At that moment, I realized that all that I desired was available to me through God's Holy Spirit. God Himself was the solution to my struggles. The next challenge was to learn to live and walk in the Spirit. As time progressed, I started to understand what it was like to rely on my flesh vs. God's Spirit. I still don't think I could articulate it well enough, but any good thing can easily lead to frustration when you are doing it all in the flesh. This doesn't just apply to the parenting dynamic either, like when we are frustrated with people because they don't understand an important spiritual truth, or when we get the overwhelming sense of there being so many great causes to support, but not knowing which one to choose. This very frustration and sense of being overwhelmed is living in the flesh, masked in our best intentions. It is at those times that we need to pause and ask for the Spirit's guidance, and let Him do the work. Not us. Not others. Remember, against such things (i.e. the fruit of the Spirit) there is no law. And where there is no law, there is no condemnation. A good book on this issue is Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver. Her book helped me further tease out these differences. So now family life is pure bliss! No more yelling and losing patience!

Yes, I am kidding.

But life is much better now. We're not perfect, but it is bliss to see and know that God is working in our lives. That He is ever faithful, and that I, who fail my own standards, have been made responsible for raising three children. And He has made it possible!

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

As I have mentioned before, this is my first year of homeschooling. My husband and I had always considered homeschooling as our first option. Honestly, I didn't know how I could do it. Had I not faced the issue that my son and I clashed a lot, and questioned many, many times how this was going to work, I would not have learned so much about my son and how to get along with him. We still clash in several ways, but homeschooling (which is a part of parenting) isn't half as challenging as I thought it would be. It took some time for us to get used to one another, and that time also allowed us to mature in many ways. I also must say that having another son within 2 years helped me see where I was taking things too personally. My second child's personality is so different, and much easier for me to get along with, but I noticed he was just as crafty as the first (if you know what I mean). The more I was able to identify the problem was caused more by my personality, I was able to let God make the necessary changes in me. I'm not all done with the changes, but it is happening. This is not to say one needs to have more kids to get to this point, but it is one example that having more kids doesn't necessarily make life more difficult. I'm really glad I did not delegate the responsibility of caring for my child simply because I felt incapable of it.

We go into life carrying the baggage of "shoulds" and "oughts". I often have to remind myself that Christ was very patient with his disciples, and often would shake his head and say "how little faith you have". He continued to patiently teach and guide them. Even poor Thomas gets a bad rep for not believing the accounts of Christ's ressurection. Yet, that didn't keep Christ from going up to Thomas to show him the scars in His his hands. Christ met Thomas as he was, not as he "should" be.

If you are struggling with being a mom, hang in there. We all go through stages in life where we face struggles of all kinds. Being honest about it can be a good thing, but be watchful to make sure that honest statement doesn't turn into an occasion for whining. But even if it does turn into whining and even depression, take it to the Lord in prayer. Ask for strength, wisdom (James 1:5), not to mention forgiveness. God will not despise a broken spirit and a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Stay in His word. Although you may feel lonely, you are not alone.

And for moms who have overcome struggles, share it with a newer mom. Don't make anyone your "project", but be there for the newer moms.

Well, that's all I have the energy to write about now. Below are some reads that have encouraged me along the way.

Psalm 51:17
Psalm 139 (especially before they start sleeping through the night, which took forever with my kids)
Psalm 139:23-24
I John 3:18-24
Romans 8
2 Corinthians 5:7
Matthew 11:28-30
John 15
Galatians 5:22-25
Galatians 6:9
Ephesians 5:15-21
2 Corinthians 4:7
James 1:5

Relevant posts I didn't realize I had written so much about:
O, for grace to trust Him more. I didn't write this specifically to parenting, but definitely applies.
His life in my life. Again not just for parenting.
Settling in.
Unconditional love.
This Day.
Is motherhood a higher calling?
How do you define a good mother?
Some Life
What does God want from us anyway?

Other reads, podcasts, etc:
Keep a Quiet Heart - Elizabeth Elliott
Feminine Appeal - Carolyn Mahaney
Having a Mary Spirit. Joanna Weaver/Midday Connection
The Mommy Revolution. Midday Connection
This I believe - The things worth doing in life is hard. The Lactivist
Sucking it up and admitting you are not wonder woman. The Lactivist
Proof that I am not a supermom The Lactivist (the gem of this article is in Jennifer's comments)


  1. What a great post! I love the name of the one blogpost you mention, "The Things Worth Doing in Life Are Hard." I've found myself saying that to a few people lately, because it's so true. Anything worth doing in life is going to be difficult at times. I think this is one tenet that's helped me with raising our son, is that I assumed it would have its difficulties but it is so worthwhile! And what a witness you are showing to your children as you rely on God.

  2. Renata,
    Thanks for this post! It was a great reminder to me. I absolutely love being a Mom but I sometimes forget and try to do it in my own strength, which doesn't work at all. I just had a new baby last week and my toddler is an emotional wreck from me being gone and distracted with the baby and she has been acting up so much in ways she never has before. The new baby has been so easy; its my toddler that has me worried. But your post was a great reminder to rely on God's strength instead of my own. thanks so much,
    Meagan DeLong

  3. Lorelei, I appreciate your encouraging remarks. I look forward to hearing all that God is doing in your life as you start your new stage of motherhood.

    Meg, Congratulations on your new baby! I'll be praying for you guys. These are stages and with God's help, we get through them. One of the best advice I got was from my father-in-law. Once he called to see how we were doing right after one of those hard moments with my son. Given that I admire how Stan turned out, I asked him for some wisdom. He told me that he just prayed. He would tell God how he was trying to apply His word and asked God to do His work in his kids. The verse about not growing weary in doing good is one that I often remind myself during those tough stages.

  4. Your post was an answer to my prayer. I had an awful day and I thought I was the only mom who went through this. I am grateful to tears for this great experience of finding your words. May you be blessed.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    I'm glad this post was encouraging to you and thanks for encouraging me in turn.
    Nope, you are not alone. I also pray that you will find other moms to strengthen you. Especially the experienced ones.

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