Sometimes motherhood looks like the greatest joy I’ve ever experienced, like seeing my son smile for the first time or watching my husband rock our newborn in the hospital and sing our favorite hymns to him at 3am… And sometimes it looks like getting peed on, pooped on, and spit up on all in one day, and shedding tears in the grocery aisle at the same time as my little one screams. In my humble opinion, there is no job more difficult than being a parent—but no job more rewarding.
Being a mom takes strength I don’t have. It is only by the special grace of God that women are even able to grow another human in their body, give birth, and then give the perfect food that their own body makes. It’s a miracle! There is no other way I would be functioning without that grace. (And praise God He also provides an occasional Starbucks when I haven’t slept a wink!)
What I’ve realized in the first few months is that motherhood in its essence is the Christian life. It is a stretching process, challenging us to care for someone else more than we care about ourselves, shedding pieces of our selfishness everyday.
It is saying, “I am weak, but He is strong.”
It is giving drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, and taking care of the sick. (Matthew 25:34-40)
It is sanctifying and it is saving.
It is a glimpse into how much the God of the Universe loves us and laid down His life for us, and it is opening my heart to a deeper love.
And while I am giving of myself to this little human whom I love so much, I am trying to figure out who I am as a new mother and full-time homemaker, after leaving a job that I also loved so much.
When our little guy was around 8 weeks, I hit a weird slump. Before that, I think I was running on pure adrenaline and love. But now I was starting to become stressed about a lot of parenting decisions, and anxious to get into a routine to start incorporating things into my life that I thought would make life like it used to be or more of what it was “supposed” to be.
Maybe I needed to join an exercise group, join a mom’s group, find my volunteer project, do creative meal planning each week, start home improvement projects, have a cleaning schedule, a laundry schedule, a grocery schedule, an Eat-Awake-Sleep schedule, a quiet-time Bible study schedule, and visiting or skyping with friends and family schedule… Talk about me putting pressure on myself!
I started to find myself basing how my day went on how much I could accomplish on my to-do list. I wasn’t recognizing all of the soothing, changing diapers, feeding, rocking, and cuddling I was doing for the baby! But these things are a big deal, especially in the early months, and take a lot of time and energy on top of making sure my husband and I are fed too.
After I had a few emotional breakdowns, I was reminded that my top priorities right now in this early adjustment phase were filling myself spiritually each day by praying throughout my day and maybe doing some sort of reading or studying, keeping our little one alive and giving him all the love and attention he needs, and making sure we have some food in the house for dinner. Anything else that gets done or incorporated is icing on the cake, and every little decision or accomplishment along the way deserves to be celebrated! All or some of the above-mentioned schedules are important and can assist in helping me create a happy, healthy home, but they are not ultimately where my happiness lies, and do not dictate who I am.
What I needed to hear from my husband (being a parent with him makes me love and appreciate him even more 🙂 ) and what I’m now telling you if you’re a new mom is– go easy on yourself, get back to the basics, and don’t feel guilty for not being society’s definition of super mom.
Also, don’t be afraid to give yourself completely to your family. It’s okay to accept this as your entire vocation and let your life change when you have a kid. Love requires sacrifice and love changes us. I’m once again learning that I can’t do everything in the same season, or at least that adjusting to this new life takes time before I put those extra items back into the mix. It takes time to grow into parenthood! I needed to process that my life will look very different than it did a few months ago and this change is very good 🙂
Over the years, before I was even pregnant, I was often given the advice to be careful not to lose myself when I started a family. I needed to make sure I kept all of the activities and hobbies in my life that make me happy, and maybe (if staying home) keep a part-time job to make sure I’m staying interesting for my spouse, and to still have skills when my kids grow up. In theory, these are good intentions! A mom does need outlets and does need to prioritize a few things in her life that help fill her up so she can be the best mom she can be!
But in this short amount of time (and I have SO much more to understand!) I’ve realized that it’s okay to lose myself for a little while in taking care of our family. And maybe the “me” that I’m losing isn’t what actually makes me, me. It feels uncomfortable to change. It’s hard sometimes to be satisfied with “just” taking care of a baby and creating a God-centered home, when in reality that is an absolute privilege to be able to do. I’m not saying to abandon everything you enjoy, but I came to see that things like keeping up with the news, or posting on social media, or being in a book club, aren’t actually YOU, they’re just ways you choose to spend your time.
Motherhood forces us to answer the questions, “Who am I, really?”, and “What parts of my day and what parts of me matter most to the Lord?” When you become a parent, you learn new things about yourself every day. It has already begun to teach me that it is enough to simply be a child of God first, then a wife and mother, then a sister, a daughter, and a friend.
Sure, mom and homemaker carry certain important job responsibilities that need to be fulfilled, but the most important part of those is the heart and attitude I have while carrying out these roles. I am the first to admit I do not live this out daily! But it is my hope to so. I’ll need this reminder over and over as the days and months get harder and bring new challenges with hopefully more children to come.
I know when we let go of pursuing what we think will make us happy, there is a freedom in taking this time in life for what it is and letting it change you…Letting God change you… Accepting the hard work of being a parent as if doing it for Jesus Himself…Laying down your to-do list, laying down your expectations, laying down your worries, laying down your desires, and laying down your life.
The beauty of motherhood is found in pouring ourselves out with love. I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to do so for the world. Thank you, God, for making me a mama.
Then Jesus told His disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
“Since the Cross of Christ is the sign of love and salvation, we should not be surprised that all true love requires sacrifice.
Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands.
Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice. Do not be afraid of the Cross of Christ. The Cross is the Tree of Life. It is the source of all joy and peace. It was the only way for Jesus to reach resurrection and triumph. It is the only way for us to share in his life, now and forever.”
Saint John Paul II