Friday, May 7, 2010

An Essay on Mothering

When I was a little girl I loved babies. I was fascinated by them. I loved getting to hold them. I played with my own baby dolls, named them, and dressed them in the clothes my mom had sewn for them. I have a great memory of my mom setting my sister and I up with our own little clothesline out back--with little ice cream buckets full of doll clothes--so we could hang out our own wash. We went to a small church and as an elementary student I was helping in the nursery. I couldn't wait for motherhood. In high school I worked with toddlers in a daycare center. I wrote term papers about the importance of reading aloud to kids. I trained to teach Kindermusik. I began college with the desire to teach kindergarten. I worked in a Montessori preschool. I took classes in child development. All of these experiences were wonderful. And all of these experiences in turn created a young woman with a very idealistic view of motherhood.

I had grand plans.

I like to look back on my first 2 years of mommyhood . . . my parenting "honeymoon" so to speak. Marissa was my delight and I poured out all my ideas into that little lady. I laugh at myself when I remember sitting and working with my 9 month old to teach her letter sounds. Not that it was such a bad thing, it just that it was one of those things that went by the wayside as our family grew.

I remember when Isabella joined the family, and the rosy time suddenly came to an end. Being a mother to two was a whole lot different than mothering one. There was a new realm of multitasking that I hadn't explored before. Suddenly feelings of frustration and that of being overwhelmed became my new companions. There has been an adjustment, a need to reconfigure our lives, with the addition of each new baby. Somewhere inside me still lurks the idealist, but along the way I like to think I have become much more real and practical. And here's the truth:

Motherhood is about dying to self.

Over and over and over again, day after day after day. I thought it was about all the fun things I would do with my kids. I was going to teach them so much! It was going to be about activities and excursions and all the special things I would do for them. Instead they have taught me how selfish I really am, and truly, how lazy I can be.

Often these days we mommies are told we need "me time" or "make sure you are taking time to focus on you" or we justify activities because they are "good for me." I enjoy some time by myself as much as the next person, these moments are truly a gift and a time of refreshment, but I start to run into trouble when I think I DESERVE it, or worse yet, start to demand it. All those other things? And most likely they're "good" things? God has called me to mother first. Nobody else can effectively take the place of me in their little lives. I need to be there and be available, no matter what the cost is to myself.

Motherhood is a mission, sometimes quite an intense one. And it is NOT about me. It's ALL about them . . . how can I serve them better? Love them better? It's about doing HARD stuff. And it's not even about happiness. I read a quote in a book on marriage once--I can't remember exactly how it went, but the gist of it was this: God really isn't concerned with us and our "happily ever after" but about us growing in HOLINESS. I think the same can be said of motherhood. Truly is there a better place than within our own families to be working out our salvation?

I am blessed to have the big family I always dreamed of. Often since having Owen I hear, "I don't know how you do it!" The truth is, I don't either. I fall flat on my face quite regularly, and my kids do enough embarrassing things to give me the humility I need. I often long for a dreamy word called "quiet." But I would rather keep my life on the "hard" side. It stretches me daily, reveals my weakest areas, makes me more creative, and most of all points me to the One who is my strength. Without this big beautiful mess of a family I would be a very self-centered and self-indulgent person. It's true. I NEED them to trip me up and exasperate me.
That girl of long ago . . . she didn't have a clue. The mommy of today . . . she wouldn't change a thing. What an incredible blessing it is be entrusted with five little lives to raise for His glory! And what an added bonus that I get to grow and be refined in the process. ;o)
Wishing all the mommies an early "Happy Mother's Day!" Keep on keeping on!


Unknown said...

Beautifully said! Thank you for sharing this!

Anna said...

I LOVE what you wrote here, Janna! What a great encouragement...I've been thinking lately too how selfish I was a few kids ago. Praise the Lord that He created such a fulfilling (and spiritually refining!) work as mothering. Hugs to you! And Happy Mama's day. :)

Judi said...

Have a special Mom's Day!