Mother! The most important person in a young child’s life, indispensable to her husband, focal point of the home, and the one who makes everything right. Big job.
Also, the most exciting job: my first choice! I wouldn’t want any other. The joy of being with my children, the diversity of their personalities, the thrill of learning together daily, and helping them learn about life and how to live uprightly– these things make me feel devoted to motherhood! There isn’t a job that holds such rewards!
But there are times for all mothers when we are worn out… the well runs dry, the serving platter feels empty and the tears start to flow uninvited.
I knew a mother who had recently come to the mothering lifestyle. Leaving her high paying career behind, she had come to the trenches of mothering (the place we live, right?) and was drowning fast! She hung her framed graduation certificate and her career awards on the wall above her diaper changing table. When asked why, she replied, “If I could accomplish that, surely I can accomplish this!”
My little Louisa won’t keep a thing in her hair, but discards her well-fashioned pig tails with all their trimmings all over the house. I was in the bathroom, putting her abandoned ponytails bands and bows into the drawer, when the thought occurred to me that it wouldn’t be long until the house would “finally be clean, once and for all!” Right along with that thought came the awful realization that the job of mothering these children would be done, but I wouldn’t want it to be. Yes, I’d like a clean house, but no, I wouldn’t want all my precious children (who make the messes) to be grown and gone as well. It will be quiet one day, but I want to enjoy the whole journey today, even though it is accompanied by stress, strain and overload at times.
So how does a mom keep herself from feeling overwhelmed and worn out when there are so many needs and demands on her energy? Years ago, I read this question in a church magazine. A reader had asked, “How can I be a more loving mother?” Then she went on to describe how the demands of the children often pushed her over the edge and made her yell at her children or be impatient. The author had responded to her question with an answer that I found to be very curious! He told her to read her scriptures! What a strange and inappropriate answer, I thought! At that time, I was the young mother of my first son Daniel and had a toddler and a newborn as well. Most days, I felt like I was losing my grip. I wondered why the author didn’t reply to her question with some practical organization schedule or discipline plan or even menus plans! I would have liked that. Now, two decades later, I marvel that he was so inspired! I have pondered that answer countless times over the years, and it was so appropriate.
The answer to the question of how to be the loving mother you want to be, is to realize that everything from your minivan to your cuckoo clock needs refueling, rewinding, renewing. It must be. You can’t just go and go and go and never refuel. You cannot serve from an empty platter or get water from a dry well. You are an individual, a child of God, a unique person first and foremost. Even though the title and role of “Mother” overshadows that fact most hours of the day, it is still a fact. Your soul needs renewal so that you can go back to the job with renewed vigor and perspective.
For years I have walked every morning in the river bottoms across from my home. I would walk as far as my time allotment allowed and then I would turn around and look at my house, far off and up on the ridge. I would raise my thumb and cover the distant image of my house with my thumb. Then I would talk to myself, “See, it isn’t so hard! It isn’t so big and overcoming. I can blot it out with my thumb! I can cope with this and handle this!” I prayed while I walked, and by the time I returned home, I felt boosted and refueled and able to do my job patiently and lovingly, having taken care of my soul’s needs.
God has the fuel we need. You must carve out time to read your scriptures, pray, write a few lines in your journal. There seems to be no time to fit these things in, when mothering demands are high. But, there is actually no time to leave these things out, because the quality of your mothering—and your life—suffers drastically if you omit them from your life.
Yes, there will be days and sometimes weeks of illness or other demands that make it almost impossible to get a snatch of time to refuel. But that must be the exception, not the rule.
You need time for physical renewal as well, when you are a mother in demand. Exercising, a hot bubble bath (hopefully without a child at the bathroom door, begging to get in too!), a walk alone in the sunshine, a new dress (even it is comes from a thrift store)–these things can give you the renewing and refreshment you need to be a happier mother.
Your emotional well being is key. Plan on a date out every Friday night with your husband. Make it a standing date. If you don’t have a child old enough to babysit, arrange for a babysitter that will come every Friday night, not matter what. Having some time out with your husband renews your love and connection, and gives you verve for your plan to raise a family together.
If you are the mother of small children, I know that it sounds impossible to fit one more thing into your life, but the dividends for taking some time to renew yourself are tremendous. A little goes a long way to making you feel more able to serve and give to your children. Another benefit we often neglect to realize is that we are teaching our children a healthy pattern of self-care that will help them be a happier adult. We all know mothers who sacrifice themselves and become fatigued, frowny-faced women with no spark left in them. That isn’t what God wants for us, nor what we want to model to our daughters.
So, next time it feels as if you are serving from an empty platter, take the time to fill it up! Your whole family will be happier!
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