Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dear New Mama,

I heard you say the other day something to this effect, "I can't even get my laundry done, and I only have one baby ... I have no idea how you do it with six children!"  You said it with a defeated, shame-filled tone and my heart hurt for you because I remember feeling the same exact way 5 children ago.

First of all, who says I get my laundry done? Laundry is never done... not when you have 1 or 2 children and definitely not when you have 6! Now that that is cleared up, we can move on.

I get what you are saying, however, I use to say the same thing to my friends who had more children. Then I had 3 children, and then 5 and then 6, and I realized a simple fact of life...

Life as a mama always has its challenges... but it also always has its beauty and joys!

You see, it doesn't work like we'd assume... that once you've had 3 or 4 or 6 that one day it just gets easier and you've got it made, you'll figure out the secrets of mothering, managing a home or doing all things related to this season of life. On the other hand, it also doesn't work (as some might assume) that the more children you have the harder it gets. It's based less on numbers and more on personal capacities growing and changing...

We all start somewhere.
For starters, when I had our 1st baby it was even more challenging to me than it has been to add our 6th baby. It was more challenging because my perception and the level of my capabilities were being radically changed in life-altering ways! You know how it is, life literally changed overnight! Motherhood has a initial steep learning curve.

As each of our children joined our family it wasn't that steep of a curve, but with each and every addition I was pushed to a new maximum functioning capacity. I was able to have 2 children because I had had 1 previously. I was able to have 3 because I had had 2, and so on. Basically, our current abilities are to some degree built upon our previous experiences.

Today, I am very much at the same emotional and functional capacity level I was at 10 years ago when I had my 1st child in that I am still functioning at my own maximum capacity. While it has broadened in scope and capacity, it is still the farthest my scope has ever reached ... just like you are with your one or two. We are very much in the same place, you and I.

For sure, since then, I've learned a whole lot!

I've learned that if you let Cream of Wheat dry on a high chair tray it will be there the day Jesus returns for us, so scrub it off immediately after breakfast!

I've learned that you can just flat out ignore that drawer under you oven... it doesn't exist and no one will open it (not even your husband) and you can worry about other more important things like finding all the possible hidden choking hazards in your home or if your baby's head is the correct size or not.

I've learned that sometimes it is better to spend your day holding a fussy or sick baby than doing anything else, because that day is only given to you once and babies grow far too quickly!

I even have managed to learn how to not let our laundry literally bury us alive ... unless: a) we have the stomach flu or any other illness,  b) we've returned from a trip, or c) it is a national holiday. I hope one day to learn to manage it even under those variables.

Perhaps most importantly, I've learned that this whole mothering gig isn't entirely up to me. My days as a mother are crafted by One who knows my abilities, seeks to grow me into someone more like Christ and also hand picked all my children for me specifically to mother. And while I am still at my farthest scope of abilities after a while I have begun to see the fruit of my labor... little by little.

Mama of 2 with #3 on the way ...
Three littles in 3 and a half years was challenging!
Additionally, I've discovered that no matter how much I learn given my previous experiences, children are always growing, enter new phases, changing and things are always new and contain challenges of their own. Life as a mama isn't formulaic. What worked with one child may not with the next. What use to work with one child will fail to work as they grow and mature. We must grow and change right along side our children. We don't "get it all figured out" one magical day just because we've tried really hard to crack the parenting code by reading enough books, feeding them the right food, training them the prefect way. It just doesn't work like that.

Realize when you feel tempted to think, "I should be doing better because, that other mom is doing better than me with her 5 or 6 children..."  kind of thoughts, that that doesn't serve either of us well. When we make comparisons like this, we do so by giving ourselves the short end of the stick and bestowing much more grace on others than is realistic.

What I try to remember is that the struggles I face today are just part of this particular season as a mother. Seasons change, with them we grow, they grow and things mercifully change. It won't always be "this hard" or even "like this". Things will change and when they do things will simply be different.

Our short (4 week) period of time as a family with 4 children!
When I struggle the most it is usually because my expectations and desires are incongruent with the reality around me.

My messy house grates on my expectations of order, beauty and perfect functioning.
My crabby, sassy, disobedient children expose my irritable, snarky and sinful self.
My plan for today, to accomplish x, y and z, is derailed and exposed as unrealistic by the reality of the urgent that unfolds around me.

Expectations (particularly unrealistic ones) don't help us mamas.
In fact, they can be our true nemesis! They tend to wear us down. They make us feel defeated and incompetent.
Much like "worry" they don't accomplish anything of true worth. They tempt us to look at the 10 things we have to do in a given day with defeat and irritation instead of doing the one next thing well and with love.
They most often simply deceive us from our real God-given purposes and they rob us of the joy of participating in the beauty that is present in the reality around us!

Much of motherhood is about surrender. Giving up and laying down of self.
In laying down of my personally imposed expectations I've found I feel a whole lot lighter, more free and able to do the things that have been placed before me with more grace and love.

My meditation of mothering has become, 

"Do the next thing and do it with love."

Wow, that mama sure looks like she's got it all together...
Sometimes I wish I could be that lady.

I fail most days, many times a day at this, but going to God in my brokenness and asking for help makes it not only possible, but beautiful!

I remember this verse when I feel defeat creeping up on me, 

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, 
for in due season we will reap, 
if we do not give up.
So then, as we have opportunity, 
let us do good to everyone..." ~ Galatians 6:9-10

So, new mama ... know that we are so very much alike!

We are both doing big things, working hard and loving the people God has given us.
We are pushed to our own maximum every single day.
We need God's help and we need each other.

Thanks for walking this road with me!

1 comment:

AJ said...

I love this so much and am going to share it!! I love your blog and check for updates regularly! My BFF moved to Colorado last year and her husband works at a camp out there. I think reading your blog reminds of her and her moving there has really made me appreciate your blog!