Marriage & Family

Imperfect Mothering

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mothers Day has me thinking…

I sometimes wonder how I might have mothered differently if we had waited to have children.

I was young.

On my twenty-first birthday, barely a month after my wedding, I stared down at two pink positive lines.  Elated and overwhelmed tears mingled.

It was no surprise to anyone else….everyone knew I wanted babies.  But I hadn’t even figured out the being-a-wife thing.  The “honeymoon” phase was short lived.  By our first anniversary, we had 2 month old twins!  I began the year “playing house” as the young blushing bride, and soon felt the gravity of this new life when the cumulative sleep depravation set in from all night cluster-feedings with our double-trouble first borns.  What followed were foggy consecutive years of pregnancy, breastfeeding, baby wearing, trans-Atlantic moves, and sleepless nights for two naively happy but tired parents.  Having babies may be the most selfless thing any of us choose to do.  It rattles your sanity, shakes out your selfishness and annihilates your independence.  When Evie arrived, we knew the blessing and burden of 5 children 5-years-old and under.  Thats a cumulative 3 years of pregnancy and many months of breastfeeding!!  Hormones took a toll and tears were often unexplainable.  Our marriage struggled under the weight of responsibility and I found that some unresolved hurt in my heart came percolating to the top with the pressure of parenting.

I have many happy memories of the early years, but I was young and emotionally ill-equipped.  I look back at times with waves of regret over not doing things perfectly and introspective refection of how Id do it differently all over.  I know the things Id change.  I think Id slow down and be a more fun mom for my kids.  Its easy to convince myself Id do it better if I was starting now.  Part of me wishes Id “gotten my act together” before bringing babies into my mess.  Would I have done it all right, made fewer mistakes, been a healthier individual and shepherded their hearts more intentionally if Id been older, wiser, more mature?  It strikes me tho that having kids is much like the decision to marry….you’re never really “ready”.  Waiting for that mark of distinction and certainty of preparedness can be a dangerous dabbling and would likely result in none of us ever procreating.  12 years into parenting I realize yes, there are things I could have done better, but you never actually arrive.  Motherhood is not a position we are qualified for, but a calling He equips us for as we go.

As is so often true of the biblical examples we have of those God calls for a special purpose, we don’t have a blueprint for where we are going and what is expected.  Those He calls He often doesn’t tell where they are going or for what He is going to use them.  He simply asks them to follow.  The bible has a rich history of women and men who are used for special purposes for which they have precious little training and ability for.  Motherhood is that; a calling!  A high calling.  A rewarding calling.  Being called doesn’t necessarily equate to preparedness, but willing, imperfect instruments who acknowledge their reliance on Him are those He chooses to use.  I tell myself that maybe if Id read more books or attended a different seminar, then I could have avoided imperfect mothering.

But my heart knows better.

My heart tells me that Im coming at this all the wrong way.  God doesn’t need me to produce perfect children. Im not even guaranteed that if I do everything right, the result will be healthy, happy, wise, independent, selfless, contributing, godly kids.  If only it were as simple as a vending machine  – put in a quarter, push a button, get what you paid for.    Perhaps my perspective on what God intends to accomplish through mothering is all backwards…….What if God is using my kids to refine in me that which needs the grace of Christ to pervade in my heart because I can’t muster up the strength on my own to “do it right”.  God is using this high calling of motherhood to graciously reveal my need for his saving grace….daily!

And in regards to qualification…..pfft…..who of us are actually really “qualified”?  Do you know any mothers with degrees in nursing, entertainment, nutrition, psychology and culinary arts?  Waiting for the right credentials to be a mom would mean putting off parenting for a long time.

Talking to a couple whom I attended a birth for recently gave me some perspective.  They were a month out from delivery, and dealing with the same insecurities and emotions I vividly remember from our early days as parents.  The difference was, they had waited until they were “ready”.  They’d meticulously calculated when a baby would fit into their lives and plans and moves and careers.  And they emphasized the added strain of reacquainting themselves with each other.  Even after several years of marriage, their relationship had changed so drastically with the arrival of a baby.  The dynamics in their relationship they found was having to change.  They were working hard….and loved each other dearly….but growing pains hurt!  It was validating to know that even the best laid plans still produce the same result….moms who need a lot of grace and a lot of coffee.

And for that Im grateful….C and I never had the luxury of leisure to overcome.  Having babies while we were young meant we never did get set in a routine of sleeping in on the weekends and personal time wasn’t something we’d developed a huge appetite for.  The pressure of parenting and the strain it puts on any marriage gave us the opportunity to deal with a lot that could have lied dormant if we’d waited until we were “ready” to have kids.


So Im grateful.  Even as I try to suppress the doubts that crop up at times about how I could have been a better mom and made fewer mistakes, Im so thankful for the 12 blessedly-imperfect years Ive been honored to have them call me mommy.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  My kids haven’t read any parenting books so they don’t know (yet) what a “perfect” mom is supposed to look like.  They graciously forgive my shortcoming, cut me more slack than I cut myself, and love me unconditionally.  Grateful for this messy, taxing, beautiful, rewarding, grace-led calling of imperfect mothering.


"Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye"

Thursday, February 6, 2014
Posting this quickly before I loose my nerve and go and scoop her up and put her back in her crib.
Look who is in a big girl bed!!
For the first time in 11 years!! we are going to bed tonight without a “baby” in a crib in our room.

Yes.  I know how ridiculous that will sound to some of you.
What can I say? I love the baby stage and have hung onto it as long as I can!
Granted, I am 100% sure that she will wander into our room sometime between 11:00pm and 2:00am dragging all her paraphanalia and wedge herself between C and I (she’s rotten!).  
So this shouldn’t be a big deal.
But it is…..

Today I was having a particularly difficult Mommy day.
3 kids home sick (hand foot & month disease + a stomach virus = no fun!)
Tired mommy.
Needy kids.
One of those where I just felt like none of my kids were getting what they needed from me.  I was spread thin and feeling inadequate to meet the incessant needs of many small children.
I was feeling like a failure.  
So when Gigi decided to gather her lovies and march herself to the big girls room all on her own tonight, I gulped over the lump in my throat and let her call the shots.
Last week she decided she was done with diapers and potty trained in a day.
Today she ditched the crib and climbed into a big girl bed.
And my heart sings….and cries at the same time!
I have relished every, single, precious moment of her “baby-hood”.  Gigi has been such a redeeming gift and blessing to get to “do a baby” one more time with a sense of “normalcy” that was lacking with our last baby.  With great joy I watch her growing and thriving and maturing.  But its also with a welling sense of “empty nest syndrome”, I watch her stepping out in independence.  
Ive grown so accustom to having a baby on my hip and a toddler tugging at my hem…this is new territory, and Im not sure I know my place.  Feeling a little lost.  Sure I still have littles who need their mommy, but this is a new stage for me with more freedom….that Im not sure I like.
(goodness….Im going to be a mess when its time to let them go to college!) 

Needing fresh grace today for the unique challenges that are arising with children entering a new stage of life.  I have pre-teens now (when did that happen!?)  Determined to embrace the demeanor of the Proverbs 31 woman who is “clothed with strength and dignity and can laugh at the days to come“.
Don’t want to loose sight of the joy of today because I am looking back and wishing it could be so again.  Falling on grace to equip me for a new season…a new chapter of mothering.  Blessed beyond measure to take part in this high-calling of nurturing these precious 6 lives Im blessed to have call me “Mom”!

Clearly, she doesn’t share any of my inhibitions!!  

Special thanks to my sweet friend Kathleen for making and sending Gigi her lovely “memory quilt” pieced together from all her outfits from her first year!  What a special gift!!

To The Baby Daddies

Friday, November 8, 2013
Im well aware that the sweet friends who read this blog are predominately female.  My heart goes out to the young mommas especially….those in the same boat with me.But maybe there is a very scarce handful of men (my grandpa….a couple college friends…and maybe one or two others) who keep up with our daily goings-on.
This post is for the guys….My husband just did something relatively out of character for him..
He took my two-year-old and my five-year-old with him on a short business trip.
Its not that he is incapable of caring for them.  Heck, my house is usually cleaner when I leave him home with the kids than when I try and keep it clean myself.  He’s calm, cool and collected and great at  managing kids and chaos.  He can juggle just about anything, so that wasn’t the issue.  But he’s much more likely to keep the kids at home for me to get away, then to take them off my hands.  When I told Abi he was taking them, she replied, aghast “you’re kidding!  Dad doesn’t even take Gigi to the grocery store“!!

Slight exaggeration, but….he would be the first to say he’s not really a “baby” person and is enjoying our kids immensely more now that the older can talk and take care of basic needs on their own.  He’s going to be the awesome teen dad when Im pining away wanting another baby!

But this selfless act was a gift I didn’t even know I needed.  With the 4 other kids in school for several hours a day, I found myself with a commodity I have not had access to in longer than I can remember – uninterrupted time!

Men, your wives need a break from being a mom sometimes!

1) Because she deserves it.
And Im not talking about a feminist, womens-lib, equality, burn-the-bras, soapbox “deserves it”.  Im just saying, its a thankless job that she needs to be commended for from time to time.  You men face tremendous pressure often as the “breadwinner” for the family.  You carry the weight of physical provision, mouths to feed, school tuition to pay for and never-ending projects around the house that need your handyman expertise….and that is a lot to shoulder.  But your days look very different than your wife’s days.  When you organize your desk, it stays in nice, neat stacks until you mess it up.
When she is cleaning the bathroom, there is a child spilling milk in the kitchen.
When you type up a presentation, you arrange your points and work until every detail is “just so”.
When she tries to respond to the email about the PTO meeting, little Jr. is on her lap pounding keyboard buttons with his fists.
Even at its worst, most days you get to drive home from the office, in a car, all alone.  There are times that sitting in a car in rush hour traffic sounds like a vacation if it means Im alone!  The women who choose a career as a house wife get none of the following….bonuses….raises…..vacation days….sick days….expense accounts….or trips to the ladies room without an entourage accompanying her!  Our bonuses come in the forms of sweet sticky peanut butter kisses, which I wouldn’t trade for the world.   But when days on end pass with no adult conversation and a steady diet of nursery rhymes, play dough, homework and incessant “why’s” from the cranky toddler, you just need a break sometimes!

You’ve probably seen the comic strip with kids pictured in each frame with their mom asking,
“Mom, where’s the remote?”
“Mom, whats for dinner?”
“Mom, why is the sky blue?”
“Mom, I need help with homework!”
“Mom, I need my soccer shorts”
Then in the last frame with their dad,
“Dad……….where’s mom?”

My life feels like that comic strip somedays.  The questions do. not. stop!  Im so mentally fried by bedtime that I find myself sprinting for the door after tucking them in before another question pops into their drowsy minds.

2) Because she’s not a bad mom for taking a break.
You know this.
Everyone knows this.
But she might not know this, and may need some convincing.
We can tend to be martyrs at times and believe we need to be everything to everyone all the time…but then we develop resentment and feel inadequate and grow weary.  We mommas can be so in tune with the needs of our family, that we neglect our own.  Im not talking about taking off for weeks at a time to go snorkeling in Bali.
But Im talking about windows that refresh her soul.

C had to persuasively convince me that I needed to relax and let the girls go with him.  Frankly, I don’t like having them gone.  I consider myself pretty capable and insisted he didn’t need to take them.  I feel guilty for not being all things to all people sometimes.  I was certainly not going to admit that I needed some concentrated hours to get caught up. C, in his wisdom, knew Ive been feeling a bit overwhelmed and behind on some projects and insisted they’d be fine without me for 48 hours.
And they were.

And the even more amazing part….so was I!

We mommas desperately need to quiet our hearts.  To think completed thoughts.  To finish projects.    With little ones always filling our days and hours and sink with dirty dishes, we can feel pretty unproductive.  It was therapy to me to check some things off my list and have the mental capacity to process some thoughts that have been swirling around in my tired, overloaded brain!

3) Because it will pay dividends.
Men suffer too when their wives are burnt out, strung out, put out.  You feel neglected when your wife never returns from putting the kids to bed because…..she fell asleep too.
Do yourselves a favor.  Take bath time after dinner and let your wife do the dishes without little people underfoot.  Or bring her coffee on a Saturday morning and whisk the kids away to run errands with you.  Even small gestures like this give us moms a chance to think completed thoughts and to get a mental break.  When your wives have time to spend with the Lord and have Him fill their empty cups, they are likely to be less-needy and have more to offer.  She wants to share your life, to hear about your stresses at work, to connect and engage, but unfortunately for you, you are usually getting her at the end of a very taxing day when you walk in at 6:00pm asking whats for dinner – she’s ready to pull her hair out.
You giving her time should not be with strings attached, but Im guessing she will be much more eager to connect, and feeling much more amorous toward you if she’s had a break from the daily grind.  You won’t regret giving her 20 minutes peace and quiet!

A big shout-out to my “baby daddy” for knowing me better than I know myself sometimes.
Im refreshed.  Sane again.  And eager to have him home tonight!

(Remind me of this blessed moment of consciousness when Gigi is pitching a full blown 2-year-old fit tomorrow.  Silence did, if only briefly, exist in this home!)