Moms, you’re doing so much better than you think.
No one, except maybe you, expected you to be perfect.
The truth is, motherhood is messy. Very little of it is tidy. Not the birth, the innumerable diapers, or the soaked-through nursing pads. Not the scattered toys, countless crumbs, or the endless piles of laundry. Not the tears—oh the tears!—the meltdowns, or the sibling squabbles.
Nope, hardly perfect at all.
Of course, the illustrations on the baby cards alongside your anticipation may beguile you into believing that your rosy-cheeked infant will arrive a full-fledged angel. Or, like me, you prepped yourself by reading parenting material in advance, studying how to do this perfectly to ensure parenting success. But the moment those babies are born, you realize that all the books in the world could never fully prepare you for the lifelong journey of motherhood.
The awe you feel the moment your baby is tucked in your arms is immeasurable. Your heart soars with a love you never knew existed. You delight in every expression, melt with every sigh or coo, and applaud every milestone, until one day—so much sooner than you think—they are forging a life of their own. The truth is, the days until that day (some of which feel exhausting and long) take every ounce of our will to beat back selfishness and set aside our own desires. It takes self-control to exercise patience and gentleness. It takes superhuman strength to hold our emotions in check when we’re on the brink of losing our cool. It takes discernment to balance kindness and firmness in discipline, to be wise enough for each moment.
At times, especially when they are little, the days feel so long, but in reality, the years are incredibly short. Other times, discouragement, like thunder clouds, sets in and covers the light. We wonder if we have enough of whatever it takes for this mission. We bemoan all that we could have done better, and we wrestle with our doubts. When we grow weary and are about to give in to the berating voice that tells us we’re not capable enough, we discover GRACE.
Like a salve to a scraped knee, Grace permeates the not-good-enoughs, the messes, and the mistakes. Like a kiss to a child’s forehead, Grace soothes our aching hearts and weary spirits. It brushes away the clouds, and offers a lighted path, and strength to walk it. Grace tucks us in at the end of a draining day whispering to our spent souls, “Perfection is not required.”
And there’s LOVE. Like a warm hug to soothe and settle our souls, love saturates our spirit enough to pour out patience, kindness, and unselfishness. Love enables us to grow in humility. It looks for the good and builds our kids up. It slows down our impulse to grow angry and helps us be quick to forgive. It turns us away from darkness and helps us delight in the truth. It protects, trusts, never quits, and never loses hope. (see 1 Cor 13:4-7) Love is what every mother needs and what she freely gives.
And there’s JOY. It pins wings to our hearts and sets them alight in a breeze of laughter. It doesn’t clean up the messes but allows us to dance on tip-toe in between them. It splashes barefoot through the rain puddles alongside the child. It sings the song for the hundredth time as though the first, and plays on the floor until our jeans grow threadbare at the knees. Joy fills our hearts with wonder at the very sight of our child’s impish smile.
And there’s PEACE that flows through our being like gentle the ebb and flow of waves upon the shore. Soothing, constant, ever-present. We need only to dip in a toe and are touched. It’s there in the chubby-cheeked sleep of our infant, the squishy, squeezy hug from our toddler, and the bedtime books with our child nestled on our lap. It’s in the quiet nights when they didn’t wake up but we lay awake praising God that he entrusted us with their precious lives. It resides even in the chaos because the peace God gives isn’t dependent on circumstances.
There will be a multitude of messes throughout motherhood, but only one who is qualified to fully clean them up. Without God’s help, I might have squandered the treasure of motherhood by being too busy. As it was, I came perilously close and stuffed our schedules by saying yes too often and racing to all sorts of activities. I might have exchanged motherhood for the perpetually perfect house—ours was full of homeschool books, science projects, shoes, and toys! Worst of all, I may have tried to create perfect, cookie-cutter kids. All I needed to do was to rest in God’s grace, love, joy, and peace, available on a moment-by-moment basis. I needed to continue to trust the One who made our kids and gave them to us to raise. Who knew that all along it was that simple?
Once a mother, always a mother, they say. Even in the messes and mayhem, I wouldn’t have it any other way! As much as I wanted to be perfect, I reflect that despite my imperfections, and maybe even because of them, my kids are thoughtful and compassionate, beautifully unique and creative, and treat others with kindness and respect. But like me, and their upbringing, they aren’t perfect.
By God’s grace and love, we raise our kids as well as we can, with the tools at our disposal. We raise them alongside the messes and the broken and bright bits. If I could change anything, I would have trusted God more and worried less. Two of our four children remain under our roof for now, and Ralph and I are grandparents (a much easier gig!), so it appears I still have some years to practice!
To you, sweet mom, also doing the best you can, I’m cheering you on while repeating the words I started with: you’re doing so much better than you think.
I leave this list to encourage you in your mothering journey:
- Receive God’s grace.
- Soak in his love.
- Experience his joy.
- Accept his peace.
- Pray continually.
- Listen to His words.
- Move by His strength.
- Live by faith, not by sight.
- Don’t lose hope.
- Trust him with the process.
- Invite him into the messes.
- Love fiercely.
I bless you in your journey through motherhood. May you find the strength you need for every moment through Christ.