Motherhood is the most wonderful, fulfilling thing in the world. . . and other myths

First, I want to say that motherhood IS wonderful. And at times, incredibly fulfilling. It is one of the most precious things this side of heaven. But let’s be honest. It’s hard. REALLY hard.

REALLY . . .

REALLY . . .

REALLY . . .

HARD.

I used to pride myself in being an emotionally stable, competent, confident, godly woman. Since Shepherd came into my life, I break down into tears at least once a week, have a constantly nagging sense that I know nothing at all, fear I’m the most incapable woman on the planet for this job, and am routinely amazed (not in a good way) at the sinful thoughts and attitudes that are present in my heart. For me, motherhood has been a much more agonizing journey to Christ-like selflessness that I ever imagined. It’s been good. But did I mention that it’s also been hard? (Note: Not looking for sympathy or advice here – just keepin’ it real!)

I had one of “those days” last week. You know, when the only word you can think of to describe your child is “annoying”; when it feels like your house will NEVER be clean and organized; when all of your friends and potential play-dates have other plans; when your husband unexpectantly has to work late (again); when you look in the mirror and find 4,789 things you’d like to change about yourself (but can’t even find the time or energy  to tend to your severely neglected toenails); when you look in the pantry and [gasp!] you are out of coffee (oh the pain, the misery!!!); etc.. Ever had one of “those days?” If not, can I come live with you?

When I was done with my emotional breakdown that night, I looked at Greg and said, “I wish I was one of those women who found motherhood more fulfilling.  What am I doing wrong? What am I missing?”

My husband is smart enough to know that I didn’t want an answer to that question – I just wanted to be heard. And I’m sure he was more-than-happy not to give one.  But it’s something I think about a lot. A question I actually would like to solve. One that I’ve been seeking the Lord about lately. I don’t claim to have found an answer, but I have been reminded of some really important truths that I pray will encourage you as much as they encourage me:

  • No earthly thing is supposed to fulfill us completely.

No human being has arms long enough to reach our deepest needs. No relationship can satisfy our hearts entirely. Those days when motherhood feels utterly unfulfilling are days that point to the reality that there is only one relationship that truly satisfies and fulfills. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst” (John. 6:35). No one or nothing else can make that claim! To look to my role as a mom to fill me to overflowing with an abiding sense of joy and satisfaction is to seek from it that which can only be found in Christ. And last time I checked, that is pretty much the definition of idolatry. Perhaps the simplest explanation as to why I don’t always feel fulfilled by motherhood is that I’m not supposed to.

  • Our holiness is of much greater value than our happiness.

Shepherd is not just my love, my little dude, my buddy, my first-born – he’s a tool in the hands of the Master Sculptor who is shaping, molding, and (at times) violently chiseling me into a more beautiful reflection of Jesus. The temper tantrums, humiliating public meltdowns, stubborn disobedience, entire bowls of cereal and milk dumped on the floor, refusals to use the potty, teething-related demon possession grumpiness, ridiculous pleadings for independence (“No mom! I do it myself!), beads stuck in the nose at the worst possible time, poop rubbed in the carpet, and all the other stuff that can turn an ordinary day into one of “those days” . . .  it’s all good-old-fashioned sanctification girlfriend!

By “sanctification,” I mean that process of God changing us into who He desires for us to be. Sometimes He uses major life events to cultivate character, but more-often-than-not He uses the little things (such as “those days”) to make us more and more like Jesus. You and I can rejoice in knowing that if it doesn’t kill us (haha!), it truly will make us stronger, more dependent on the Lord, and more surrendered to His will.

I once heard that ANYTHING that makes us more aware of our need for Jesus is a blessing. “Those days” of motherhood sure do that for me, and so I will choose to count them all joy even when I’m not feelin’ it (James 1:2-4). A happy mommy is great, but a holy mommy is far greater. They often co-exist, but once-in-a-while you have to sacrifice one to get the other.

  • Sin hinders our capacity to enjoy motherhood to the fullest.

At the root of almost every one of “those days” I’ve had as a mom is an ugly combo-pack of selfishness, ingratitude, and laziness. (Which happens to be a great recipe for a full-blown pity party.) Why? Well, since Shep has come along I have more play dates than date-dates; the Food Network and HGTV have been replaced with Barney and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; leisurely lunching with girlfriends is a distant memory; I now pick a mall based on the quality of the play area rather than the quality of the Macy’s; the restaurant choice is now more determined by the presence of macaroni and cheese on the kid’s menu than the taste of the food; and “sleeping in” has no relevance in my life anymore. Sometimes I flat out don’t want to spend my morning at the park or my afternoon “playing trucks.” And to be really honest, I rather sit and watch paint dry than rehearse (for the millionth time) the difference between a triangle and a square, count to twenty, or review the primary colors.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Motherhood is a journey to selflessness like no other. It requires us to demote (and at times even put to death) our own desires and interests for the sake of a child or children who are not yet able and may never be willing to sincerely thank or applaud our sacrifice. And we do this not just once, but over and over again, day after day, year after year. And let me tell ya – as long as sin abides in us, that will be a LOOOONNNNGGGG, hard road to walk. If we aren’t diligent to weed it out, sin can make motherhood absolutely miserable.

Um, Aprile, I thought this was supposed to be encouraging!?” Oh, it is! You see, God has provided the perfect remedy for our sin. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can confess the contents of our sin-laden hearts and rest in knowing that He forgives ; that His mercies are new each day (praise God for do-overs!); and that through His Spirit we can possess selfless, grateful, servant attitudes even when another one of “those days” comes along ( 1 John 1:9, Lam. 3:23; Gal. 5:16). There is great hope for weary, grumpy, self-centered mommies in the transforming message of the gospel! And for that, I am DEEPLY grateful!

So, the next time you have one of “those days” and start beating yourself up for not being the “Super-mom” who loves to spend every waking moment with her children and never, ever fanaticizes about running away to a remote, kid-free island where she can watch endless hours of HGTV, eat at fancy restaurants, and read an ENTIRE book without interruption – STOP IT!

First of all, “super-mom” is a figment of your imagination. (Unless, of course, you know any moms who have achieved sinless perfection. NOT!)

Second, that kid-free island fantasy is ENTIRELY normal. (Right? Please tell me it’s normal!)

And third, motherhood – as amazing and wonderful as it can be – isn’t supposed to fill you up. That’s Jesus’ job.

So pull the plug on that pity party, open your heart before the Lord, and soak in some truth!

And don’t forget – “those days” don’t last forever!

Comments

  1. Ashley Smith says:

    Thank you for the encouragement!

    • You are such a faithful commenter (is that a word?), Ashley! It’s a little thing, but means a lot. Perhaps I will get to see you soon, if Jaime gets some of her girls together? Hope so!!!

  2. Amen!!!!!

  3. Um…..even with adult children 🙂

  4. Us Adult children probably contribute to the craziness more than we should 🙂

  5. Wow, Aprile. Thanks so much for reminding me of all of this on a day that has been one of those days. It’s encouraging to know that I am not the only mommy that struggles with motherhood on a daily basis. I love my girls and God is definitely using them to cultivate His holiness in my life.

  6. Cindy Levy says:

    I am here to vouch those days don’t last forever. My last just left the nest, and what I wouldn’t do sometimes to have all that craziness back. I’m here to say enjoy it as much as you can, because they grow up in a blink of an eye. I remember having those days though and can relate to all that you are feeling.

  7. Christina Ragan says:

    Lots of insight here! Love it!

  8. I don’t know you, but my friend shared this on FB, and I LOVE this entry. Thanks! I’m sharing, as well!

  9. True words, Aprile! No matter what age-“those days” happen. Thank you for putting in the emotions and struggles into words we can appreciate and reflect upon. Your words are encouraging and a blessing!

  10. I think we shoudl run away to the kid-free island together!! Sounds fun to me 🙂 Thanks for being honest about this topic–so agree & so needed to hear this! Love you tons & so proud of you!

    • Yes, let’s go . . .packing now! Although, I think we should choose a place with a colder climate so that we don’t have to wear bathing suits. 🙂 Love you so much friend. Thanks for being a faithful cheerleader for me.

  11. Kara Farr says:

    Katie definitely tests my patience when she ALWAYS wants to play. It’s like, come on! Abby constantly challenges me because no one else has caused more stress in my life than her! God is definitely using her to grow me stronger! Thanks for letting me know other moms feel the same way! 🙂

  12. Sherre Ungar says:

    This was so good and so true! I am always amazed at the mothers that have 6,7,8,9,10,11 kids and you look at them and they are calm and usually well put together, very organized, and don’t seem to have a stressed out bone in their body! I’m twitching with two! LoL!!! I guess He knows how many to give you to teach and grow you and not push you over a cliff! Ha! He knew I needed to stop at two so He gave me an emergency hysterectomy the same day my youngest was born! 🙂

  13. It IS really hard. It’s like you say, a blessing, whose demand of forsaking our self, brings us closer to Christ.
    The following is a passage from the book “The Secret of Childhood”
    I thought I’d share, since it was a life-changing moment for me when I read:

    “It is a terrible nuisance when a child goes in to wake up his father and mother in the morning. But what drives a child to go in search of his parents as soon as he gets up if it is not love? When a child bounces from his bed early, at the break of day, he goes to find his still sleeping parents as if to say:- Learn to live holily! It is already light! It is morning!- But a child goes to his parents not to teach them but only to see again those whom he loves. The child comes and touches his parents; the father and mother grumble:- How many times have we told you not to come early in the morning to wake us up?-
    …The dramatic pages of the Gospel bear witness to the fact that adults should console Christ hidden in the poor, in the condemned, and in the suffering. And if we apply this stirring scene to children we can see that Christ appears to men also under the guise of a child.
    I loved you. I came to wake you in the morning, and you rejected me!
    But when, Lord, did you come to my house in the morning to wake me, and I rejected you?
    When your child came to call you, it was I. When he begged you not to leave him, it was I!
    Fools! It was Christ who came to waken us and to teach us love! But we thought that it was only a childish whim and thus lost our hearts!”

  14. Oh man, “an ugly combo-pack of selfishness, ingratitude, and laziness”–that went right to the heart! Just knowing that I’m not alone in the feelings I have at times (hah, ok, regularly. Daily. Many times a day!) is such a comfort…thank you for your honest writing!!

  15. Hahahahaha! The hilarious, honest, as-real-as-it-gets truth (that I COMPLETELY relate to), once again. Thank you for saying what we all were thinking… and then saying what we all so desperately to be reminded of 🙂

    • Honesty on it’s own is just depressing. Honesty that points us to Jesus, our desperate need for Him, and His perfect suffienciency in every area of our lives is so refreshing. At least that’s been my experience, so that’s what I try really hard to offer when I write. Thanks for the affirmation. Glad we are becoming bloggy friends. 🙂

  16. Sue Thomas says:

    Hi Aprile! Oh man…your honesty brought back such memories for me! We have now 4 grown children who were all born close together…when I brought home my youngest from the hospital…a set of identical twin baby girls….I had a 3 1/2 yr old daughter and a 2 1/2 year old son waiting for me at home! I was so scared!! How was I going to do this?? My husband worked many nights late and I was alone with the kids so much..and I look back now on thier childhood with horror sometimes! lol I tried so hard to be like the mother on the Waltons tv show..I also wanted to be like Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show…hmmm..oh yeah…throw in the mom from the Brady Bunch..she was cool too…I missed the mark I think! lol But I know one thing for sure..I gave my kids all I had to give and then some…I raised them to know the Lord and to know that no matter what..God loved them and that me and their daddy did too. I wasn’t the perfect mom..but I sure wanted to be! I now have 5 grandsons and one grandbaby on way( a grand daughter maybe?? doesnt matter! lol) It’ll be ok Aprile..God is seeing you thru it all..and you are touching so many with your honesty! I wish I had had someone to talk with like you when my children were little. I am so blessed by you!

    • Sue, I think I got a little tired just reading your story! 🙂 Wow – what picture of the sufficiency and grace of God, of Him taking our feeble (but sincere) efforts and mulitplying them far beyond anything we could imagine. Thanks for sharing. Us moms who are “in the trenchs” can’t get enough reminders to take a step back, see the bigger picture, and rest in God’s provision – even when life is C-R-A-Z-Y!

  17. This is dead on and I wrote a blog similar to it -as I have a newborn and two 4 year old boys. I’m constantly asking God why he trusts me with them, as I mess up daily and cry in the shower a lot… I agree about coffee being out! I can barely make that day 😉 thanks for this post it is encouraging that other moms feel this way and know we need Jesus. Check out my blog above.

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