MOTHERHOOD – VISION = MISERY

I was never really the type to get depressed.

Until I became a mom.

Since then, sadness and an overall sense of “blah-ness” is something I fight on a fairly regular basis. Not every day. Not every week. But often enough to be annoying . . .often enough to affect my life . . . often enough to make me ask the question, “What in the heck is wrong with me?” more than I ever thought I would.

My husband recently had blood drawn to test for anything that might be causing some fatigue and sluggishness. After I expressed to him that I feel the same way most of the time, he suggested I have some tests run too. My response:

Oh, I don’t need tests. I know what’s wrong with me. I have a really severe case of – “Overwhelmed and exhausted mom–itis.”

It’s actually a very common condition affecting 99% of moms. Symptoms include strong urges to sleep any time/anywhere, routine fantasies about running away to remote tropical islands, a strange affinity for anything chocolate, an intense desire to lock oneself in the bathroom, and regular attempts to cope with life by walking around Target with Starbucks in hand.

One of the first posts I ever wrote was on the “misery factor” which I defined as the gap between our expectations and our reality. Never is that gap so wide than in the area of parenting. You bring that first baby home from the hospital looking all cute and cuddly, thinking about how “complete” you are now and how fulfilling the days ahead are going to be.  Then you have your first night of sleeping in 2-3 hour stretches. Followed by another night of that. And another. And another. Until you start to feel like a zombie who might need to be committed to a mental hospital if the sleep situation doesn’t improve . . .like. . . NOW.  Then, that sweet bundle of joy sleeps for a whole 6 hours straight.

Hallelujah!!!!!!!!!!

You text it, Facebook it, Tweet it, and tell everyone you see. You feel like a new woman! But, alas, it’s just a joke. A cruel, cruel joke. It doesn’t happen again for weeks. All the while, those island fantasies of yours get more and more vivid by the hour . . .

I never thought that motherhood would be easy, but I had no idea how challenging it could be. How mundane. How exhausting. How humbling. How monotonous. How frustrating.

It’s not always like that, of course. Please don’t think that I don’t like being a mom. I wouldn’t trade it for the world! My son has enriched my life more than words can even express. We have a lot of fun around here! My heart is wide open to God blessing us with another child.

But I’d be lying if I said that I always like it. Most days I have to fight for joy in my role as a mom. I know that motherhood is vital ministry, but if I’m not careful it can lead to misery. I can get depressed. I can start to long for a “bigger” life. I can get sick and tired of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and crawling around on the floor pushing matchbox cars.

When that happens, there’s one thing I know for sure: I’ve somehow lost my biblical vision for motherhood. Because here’s the thing:

MOTHERHOOD – VISION = MISERY

It’s a proven fact. It’s a sure as 1+1=2. If we don’t choose to see beyond bottles, diapers, car pools, homework, time outs, laundry, and all the other stuff that makes up our mommy lives, we’re in trouble. We’re headed straight for “blah-ville.” Before we know it we’ll be sitting on the floor in our bathrooms, stuffing our faces with chocolate, and trying to figure out why in the world we’re crying so hard when we have so much to be thankful for. In those moments we have to choose to see the bigger picture. We have to trade our “in the trenches” perspective for God’s “I’m working all this for your good and My glory” perspective.

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” That is so true in my life. More specifically, where there is no vision, my emotions are unrestrained. When it comes my role as a mom, the only way to move from self-centered misery to Christ-centered ministry is to renew my mind with the truth of God’s Word. I have to regularly “marinate” in what God says about parenting and motherhood. I have to ask for new eyes to see the majesty in my mundane, the big in my small, the order in my chaos. Here are the core truths that make up my vision from motherhood:

  • My child is a blessing, not a burden.

I am fully convinced that one of the most subtle ways that worldliness creeps into our lives is in our perspective on children. Though some really great things came out of the feminist movement (I’m glad I can vote, for instance), it has propagated a lot more lies than it has truths. One of those lies is that children are a burden. They are living, breathing speed bumps that keep us from using our talents and honing our passions to the best of our abilities. They are seen as life-choice menu items that one selects whenever it’s convenient and financially feasible to do so.  Motherhood is something you squeeze into your life if or when there’s a little extra space. Don’t believe me? Just walk through a store wrangling more than one kid and take note of all the “pity stares” you get.

God’s has a very different perspective on children. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Scripture does not sugar-coat parenting nor does it glamorize family life. But from cover to cover it practically shouts at us that children are to be treasured and seen as precious blessings, not burdens.

When it takes me 2 hours to run 1 hour worth of errands; when I have to say “no” to the fun ladies lunch date because I can’t find or afford a babysitter; when I have to go for a walk around the block in 98 degree weather when I’d rather be blogging; when I have to leave my favorite store in the mall to deal with a tantrum; when I am awakened from a much-needed nap by a toddler who doesn’t feel like sleeping anymore; when I have to exchange my beautiful coffee table centerpiece for a train track; when I look in the mirror realize that my stomach (among other things) will never, ever look the same; when I have to say “no” to the speaking engagement or teaching opportunity . . . when motherhood feels so incredibly burdensome; I have to remind myself again and again that my son is a gift. He is a reward. He is a blessing from a good God who delights to give good things to His children. I don’t have to wait until my kids are grown and the “mommy fog” has lifted to believe and act on that truth! I choose to do it now!

  • Motherhood is missional.

I can hear you asking, “What in the heck to you mean by ‘missional’?” The word is defined as “relating or connected to a religious mission.” The “religious mission” we undertake as moms is HUGE! It’s the shaping of our children’s souls; the preparing of their hearts for the seeds of the gospel; the cultivation of their appetites for what is good and right; the imprinting of their consciences with the truth of God’s Word; the exposing of their need for a Savior; the formation of their identity and sense of purpose; the protecting of their impressionable little minds from the filth of this world; the fostering of an all-consuming desire for the world-wide proclamation of the gospel . . . and that’s just the short list!

When I yearn to be on a platform teaching the Bible . . .when I look longingly at the list of short-term mission trips my church is offering . . .when I wish I had the time to do more with this blog . . .when I get envious of other female Bible teachers who are really “doing ministry” . . . when I start to wonder when it will be my turn to make a “big” impact for the kingdom . . . I have to remind myself that motherhood is not a hindrance to ministry – it is ministry. It is not a hindrance to doing missions – it is missions. It is not keeping me from kingdom building – it is kingdom building.

The body of Christ has hundreds and hundreds of Bible teachers, but my son has one mommy. I’m the one and only woman who God has appointed with the primary task of shaping his soul and shepherding his heart. Though it doesn’t always feel like a high and holy calling (like, when I’m covered in throw-up for instance), it is a high and holy calling.

  • My son is making me more like Jesus.

Every single believer has been predestined by God to “become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29)  In other words, at any given moment – whether you feel it or not – God is as work to make you more and more like Jesus. This lifelong process is called sanctification. And nothing, I mean nothing works us over quite like motherhood. It is a journey to selflessness and sacrifice like no other. We can go kicking and screaming, or we can go in willing submission, but go we must. The second that stick turns pink, it ceases to be an option.

As we engage in the journey we can be certain of one thing – God is using every diaper, every tantrum, every spilled glass of milk, every disastrous trip to the mall, every act of rebellion, every sink full of dishes, every crayon-marked wall, every sleepless night, every mountain of laundry, and every “can I please just ship them off to grandma’s” moment to empty us of us so that we can be filled with Him.

This “daily grind” of mine is not just about Shepherd. And it’s not about me. It’s about making God known and bringing Him glory. Motherhood increases my capacity to do that. And no matter how bad a “mommy day” I am having, that precious fact is a wellspring of joy.

The next time you get depressed, start running for the chocolate stash, escape to the bathroom for a good cry, or fanaticize about being anywhere but your house with anyone but your kids – check your vision. Chances are, it’s way too small.

It shouldn’t be that way.

Because what you do as a mom is really, really big.

“Who can measure motherhood? Who can measure the long-term effects of nurturing helpless infants, supervising wandering toddlers, discipling self-willed children, and counseling self-absorbed adolescents? Of family outings planned, traditions built, memories made, books read, songs sung, Scripture taught? That’s why motherhood belongs under the heading, ‘Engage the World’; no one shapes generations or fashions cultures more than mothers.”(Jeff Purswell)

Comments

  1. Kara Farr says:

    Perfect. You say it just like it is. Parenting is hard. I feel everything you said. I feel bad that some days I just want to get the heck out. Some days I don’t want to always put Abby on her feeds or change the g-tube bag but hopefully someday I will show her Jesus. I pray that she knows Him infinitely more than I could ever ask. I pray I can teach Katie to give God glory. Well said.

  2. Dawn Robinson says:

    Thank you April
    I needed to hear that this morning.

  3. Amazing insight. Love it. I am a grandma now, but how well I remember these days and now I delight in new rules…for grandchildren. 🙂
    Blessings~

  4. Rebecca says:

    Loved loved this today! As I watch my ten month old playing with her toys, it brought a smile to my face and reminded me of my mission field for this time of my life. Thank you!

  5. Thank you for this great reminder! I’ve felt myself slipping into blah-ville this last week and a friend sent me this link. What an encouragement! I waited to be a mommy for a long time and when we adopted our little guy it was the most incredible thing in the whole world…he’s two now and I love him so much and love being a mom but sometimes I feel like my “desire to be a mommy” has lost some of it’s steam. Can’t tell you how the Lord has used you today to get me back on track to what He desires for me. Thank you!

    • Tara, I am so thankful that the Lord used this to enourage you! There’s not a mom out there that doesn’t understand how that mommy desire can lose it’s steam from time to time. It’s not that we love that sweet child any less or even want anything to be different – we just get tired sometimes. The 24/7/365 nature of our job, even if we have awesome family support, can wear on any girl. I love that God is always faithful to meet us right in the middle of those moments, grant us the fresh perspective we need, and energize us to remain faithful (and selfless!) in the work He has assigned to us. I also like to think that God is the one who, when things just aren’t going our way, causes that two year old to do something over-the-top cute that melts our hearts and reminds us why we love our job so much. 🙂

  6. Caroline S says:

    Every time I read this post, it’s like arrows straight to the heart (and straight to the problem). (And I always seem to “re-find” the post at just the moment when I need to read it!) “The body of Christ has hundreds and hundreds of Bible teachers, but my son has one mommy. I’m the one and only woman who God has appointed with the primary task of shaping his soul and shepherding his heart.”–Oh man, how that spoke to me! And I can’t forget–“God is using every diaper, every tantrum, every spilled glass of milk, every disastrous trip to the mall,..moment to empty us of us so that we can be filled with Him”. I knew that God was using motherhood for sanctification, but somehow it made it hit home that every. single. mundane. task. was for that purpose. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Needed this today!

    • Caroline, I lose sight of these things too and need reminders OFTEN. If God didn’t use the mundane, my life would be so . . . depressing! Like you, I’m seeking to be more and more aware of His work even when I have the most insignificant, boring, challenging, and/or mind-numbing day imaginable. Thanks for sharing. You encouraged my heart today.

  7. I love this blog. I’m struggling with my son who is almost 5. Both of my children are very strong willed, which I love (most of the time). I feel like if given the proper direction they can really use that to their advantage. I believe that it is a God given gift (not sure where they inherited it…) I find myself so frustrated with him in particular. He is in a VPK program but he struggles to go to class without making a scene, he’s become defiant and screams when he doesn’t get his way. I try to keep my cool and all the while saying Lord help me!! Although my husband has recently started attending church with me, he is not saved so that presents it’s own problems raising children. I do not like to feel like my son is always in trouble and I try to give positive reinforcement. I’m at a loss for how to handle these situations as I do not want to add fuel to the fire but also do not want to allow the behavior to continue. I will be praying for new eyes in this situation as I want to raise a Godly son who is on fire for his Savior. Thank you for this blog!

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