I remember the early struggles well... those early days of motherhood, when I'd stepped out of a career I knew and loved and was good at, into the realm of uncertainty. No more clear guidelines, no training and no time to study, no professional development, no line-manager observing, complimenting, making suggestions for improvement.
Just me and that tiny little life.
Thrown in and the deep end, I treaded water for survival. Each day my husband came home to a hot meal and a wife handing over the baby was a success. The threshold was low. Survival was key. There was no thought of 'best practice' or 'reflective thinking' or 'feedback' (if Dave had tried to give it, I'd probably have turned into a sobbing mess on the floor). It was a winning day if I'd managed a shower. I looked at the more seasoned mothers around me and wondered if I'd ever get there.
'There' at the time looked like confident, well-thought-through mothers with well-behaved children and orderly homes... now I've realised 'there' is just mothers who've been in the job long enough to realise that 'perfect' is impossible and honesty and realism is key to success. There are tricks of the trade, of course... moments you learn to steal to make things aesthetically pleasing, training your kids to nap simultaneously, the multiple, wonderful uses of baby wipes (how did we ever survive without them?!). But honestly? 'There' is just Mamas who've learnt on the job, who are still learning every single day, and even if you think they've got it sorted, they are undoubtedly picking the brains of another Mama just that little bit further along the road than they are.
The 'Survival' mode doesn't ever go. Good days and bad days. Ups and downs. Moments where you feel motherhood is just the most wonderful, rewarding job in the world, and moments when you wonder why the Lord saw fit to entrust these particular little characters to your care and instruction. But while the 'Survival' mode never departs, the intensity does. You learn its OK to feel out of control sometimes (and shoot up some arrow prayers thanking the Lord that He always has things firmly in hand!), and you learn how to reflect on your day and how to talk it through with your other half, without feeling every suggestion is a personal attack on your mothering.
And you learn, gradually, to make space to think.
Thinking is becoming a lost art. We are filling every spare moment with activity... running from one play date to another, filling the gaps with the radio or a quick glance at Instagram or a speedy phone call to a friend. We are losing the gift of silence, and with that our greatest and best chance at really growing in the career of motherhood.
When was the last time I really thought about what made each of my children happy? When was the last time I sat down and strategically thought through an action plan for training a child through a repeated negative behaviour? When was the last time I thought through each child's gifts and wondered how I could encourage and develop them? When was the last time I prayed for each child by name and circumstance, and specifically talked through where they were at with God? When was the last time I considered how I could encourage and cultivate positive sibling relationships? When was the last time I came up with some creative ways for us to spend time together as a family?
When was the last time I shifted out of survival mode and into the realm of purposeful parenting?
The answer is, its been a while. There is forever a new avenue to explore, a new behaviour to do battle with, a new struggle of my own which threatens to impact on home life... And yet God has called me to this most noble task...
O that God would give every mother a vision of the glory and splendor of the work that is given to her when a babe is placed in her bosom to be nursed and trained! Could she have but one glimpse into the future of that life as it reaches on into eternity; could she look into its soul to see its possibilities; could she be made to understand her own personal responsibility for the training of this child, for the development of its life, and for its destiny, - she would see that in all God's world there is no other work so noble and so worthy of her best powers...
- J.R.Miller -
It's true. At times, the weight of responsibility feels heavy... the desire for control, and the impossibility of it feel overwhelming. And yet, when I really stop and consider, the beauty of the calling that we, as mothers, have received is utterly staggering.
We are called to reflect Christ... to live lives of sacrifice... to daily put the needs of these little lives ahead of our own... to train and nurture, cultivate and teach.
We are called to so much more than feeding mouths, and washing clothes and tidying rooms... we are called to model Christ day by day, to speak truth to our children, to consciously work through challenges and all the while realise that the school of motherhood is not only where the children learn - its where we are taught as well...
We talk about training our children, but they train us first, teaching us many a sacred lesson, stirring up in us many a slumbering gift and possibility, calling out many a hidden grace and disciplining our wayward powers into strong and harmonious character
- J.R.Miller -
I'm praying for self-discipline, to make more space to think, to pray, and to plan for less of the survival, and more of the purposeful... for his glory.
Will you join me?