The question I’ve been mulling over, which I introduced a few days ago, was: how do I sync up my mothering (doing what’s good for my kids) with my own self (doing what’s good for me)? How do I make time for it all? And does being a really good mom always have to conflict with being good to myself, physically and emotionally?
Click here to read my first post, part 1. You know you wanna!
I am a Christian…so I will be assuming, along the way, that I can excavate the answers I need from the Bible. I started there when I began my motherhood journey, but I had no idea how many specific parenting questions and problems would be solved for me through asking God to help me and doing a lot of studying in the Bible. If you come from some other angle, religion, or philosophy of life/parenting, come back and read anyway. I’ll just be sharing where I’m finding peace with myself and my kids, and what prevents me from it. Don’t we all have that in common?
One of the Bible’s more poignant passages about women and motherhood, in the book of Titus, contains a list of things younger women can learn about family life from outstanding older women. The first item listed is “love your husbands and children.”
All the items in the list are initially tagged by one uniting quality:
“Good.” They are all good.
Good for who?
Good for the husband and children, for sure.
Good for the community.
Good for society at large.
Anybody else left?
Good for you. Me.
It’s good for me to pour out love on my kids. Endless hours of Legos. Endless diapers. Endless hugs. Endless answering of curious questions. Endless new clothes to be purchased. Endless coaching on manners and kindness. Endless help with homework. Endless patience. The key word is endless.
Hmmm…how can this be? If I spend myself on my kids, what will be left of me?
Every mother knows real love will be painful. It will cost her something. She will lose a lot of sleep. She will wash a lot of laundry. She will cry. She will not know how to teach her kids everything she wants them to know about life. She will worry. Real love will demand heavily from her. She will have to sacrifice, even set herself aside. I can give to my kids endlessly at the expense of personal ruin. But by the time I’m done parenting, I’d sure like to have a personality left, and some energy, and maybe even some personal interests!
I guess the other option is to hold back from them selfishly. I could be the mother who always puts what I want to do before my kids. But really, what mother wants to pay the high price of being isolated from her kids, and suffering fragmented relationships with them?
Either way, I lose out.
The secret I think the Bible contains is this: my kids are not the enemy. They cannot rob me of peace and fulfillment because they take my time, or because I now have all these questions, issues, and uncertainties over raising them.
I am the enemy of my own self, because I buy into the idea that generous love and personal peace/joy are at odds. They’re not! They are exactly the same. Knowing you’ve poured yourself out for someone else is total bliss. It’s total fulfillment.* We just don’t believe that’s true…and that makes us unable and unwilling .
I think all mothers have experienced at least one of those rare moments of heightened tenderness. Up at night rocking a sick baby, or talking/hugging through something that made your little girl truly sad. You are soaring with the exhilaration of just being there for your child, in a way no one else could. You don’t lose your identity in those moments. You find it.
Those moments capture the essence of why it’s so “good” for moms to generously, painfully, wholeheartedly love their kids.
The best, most consistent example of that kind of love is Jesus Christ. He went as far as dying…laying down his life as an act of love. That life is what repairs the breach in our thinking and in our hearts, bringing us back to what’s good for us. And he was totally free, at peace, and even full of joy in the process. He found his life in laying it down. Read for yourself.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:10-13
My future posts will hopefully touch on the nitty-gritty of being a mom…come back again and hash out the details with me!
*Please don’t mistake me for saying this mother is the slave of her children, devoting every second of her life to fulfilling all their whims and desires. I’m not at all saying moms should be doormats! Sometimes the most loving - and most difficult - thing about parenting is standing up to your kids…having the wherewithal to set some boundaries and enforce some rules! A good topic for another post.