So, I had the chance to speak at a moms' group in Tennessee last week and while it was kind of intimidating to be talking to other mamas about being a mama, it was also kind of freeing. I told them about the time our kids flooded the bathroom just as company was coming over for dinner and about the time Sam brought one-week old Mae to me, dangling by one arm, after having just pulled her out of her crib (insert large-eyed emoji face here). I also shared about how we drug Sam all over Dollywood last week while he had an escalating fever, which we didn't know about yet, and instead kept telling him to stop being "so grumpy." (I apologized 500 times to him afterwards). Basically, I laid it all out there so they'd know that I am in no way some ideal version of a perfect mom who never burns dinner and only instructs her children with straight scripture verses.
Now that you know that I am totally in the trenches with you, I'll share a few of the things I shared with those sweet mamas in Big Orange country last week...
Firstly, have you read the article "Your Child Is Your Neighbor" at the Gospel Coalition's website yet? If not, go print that out for yourself and read it out loud every morning before commencing parenting. I'm considering having it tattooed on my forehead so that I see it every time I spend 23 minutes applying all my anti-aging products every morning and evening. It's that good.
OK, so along the lines of our children being our closest neighbors and all that that means biblically for us as parents, here's a verse that reiterates that same idea:
John 15:13 "Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends."
If you have small friends (a.k.a. children) in your home, eating, sleeping, playing, doing somersaults on your dining room table, then you get this verse in a particularly personal way. Laying down your life for your small people is just what you do. It's like breathing and sleeping and riding a bike at this point.
Some days it feels like too much, like too big of a sacrifice. And those are the days where I daydream about running away to the mountains or the beach or to Tar-jay.
But, what you and I are doing when we hang in there and keep offering our whole selves, when we keep showing up, when we keep laying down our lives for the crazy little people who live in our houses, this is a valuable thing.
Every sticky, peanut butter-scented, dirty-diapered, Lego-covered, crayon-graffiti-ed moment matters. And I don't mean that in an, "Enjoy every minute because it's over so quickly"/grandma-in-the-grocery-store" kind of way. I mean it in a Kingdom of God kind of way. In a Larger Story kind of way. In a God is using you in his Redemptive Plan for the World kind of way.
You and I are participating in the redemption story that God is writing when we faithfully do the hard work of motherhood.
Everywhere you look in our culture today, the idea of mothering children is being devalued. It's an inconvenience, it's a drudgery, it's less important that a million other things.
I was listening to NPR the other day and on a humorous show called "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," they discussed how, in a new scientific study, German scientists had concluded that "having children is the worst thing that can happen to you." Worse than a divorce, than a spouse dying, than losing your job. They laughed about it, but I couldn't help feeling sad.
It reminded me that that mentality is backed up by the almost 58 million terminated pregnancies that have taken place over the last forty-two years.
Every day a child's value is placed lower than: a job, an education, a busy exam schedule, personal freedom, relationships, etc.
But, as one author has so wisely put it, "Children are not a distraction from the important work. They are the important work."
Right now, for me, as a mama of two little people entirely dependent on Matt and I, that important work includes:
- cleaning the rug on my hands and knees after someone has had the stomach flu
- taking care of the accidents of potty-training small people
- cooking dinner during the time of day when I am the most tired and am also wielding sharp knives while my children wrestle around my ankles (I like to call this my "recipe for disaster").
- buying my child a new coat instead of the pair of boots I've been dreaming about for five years.
- getting up fourteen times during the night to comfort a sick or frightened child
And the list could go on. This is all included in the good work of motherhood and all of it has value.
There are so many children who don't make it out of the womb because they were deemed less valuable than something else. And there are so many children who make it out and then spend their childhood being neglected and abused and unloved. YOUR children have been given the gift of being yours, which means they are loved and wanted and treasured.
Don't underestimate your value in being their mama.
In our little mama communities, it's so important that we remind each other that this season of little people is valuable, that mothering is valuable, even when it feels so mundane and isolating.
Let's choose not to use terms like "mom fail" or "bad mom" to describe our mothering. Because that's not the story that God is writing for you and for me. He's using mamas like us in his big, huge story of redemption as we sacrificially love our children. Let's not waste any of our precious energy tearing ourselves or other mamas down.
Let's speak life over each other. Let's SEE each other as valuable and say it out loud.
As you daily lay your life down for your little ones, God's redemption is being worked out in your home and that will absolutely have repercussions in the world outside the walls of your little house, whether you ever see it or not.
Don't underestimate your value as you do this beautifully hard work of motherhood.
You have value. Your work matters.
Go forth boldly, mamas.