On Motherhood and the Burdens We Place Upon Ourselves

I read two posts last week that had been linked so many times by so many friends I thought I was probably the only person on the planet to have not read them. They were both on motherhood. One was a humorous rant. The other was supposed to be uplifting and encouraging and supporting for women in the season of life I currently inhabit.

The “rant” contained the following quote:

I want to tell people to SHUT UP sometimes when they mention how their kid is 2 grades ahead in math. SO WHAT. BRAGGART. My kid is behind in math. I could care less about them getting into Harvard. As for standardized testing – hate it. And Latin – why?

I laughed out loud. I don’t home school and I happen to see value in teaching Latin, but the sentiment resonated with me. I feel that pressure. I feel the burden to be the perfect stay at home mother, and to be involved in every activity and be personally discipling younger women. I feel guilty for not wanting another baby after my snickerdoodle, and guilty for being pregnant with my snickerdoodle when I am surrounded with women who would LOVE to have one or two children in their family. I feel guilty when I tell my children that I can’t read to them because I have to clean up the house, and guilty when I do read to them and let the housework stay undone. I feel the pressure. I heard Tonya’s words in my gut. I was encouraged, and my burden was lightened for a moment and I gained some perspective.

The second article was cited by numerous friends as being uplifting, encouraging and instructive. I began to read it with eager anticipation of being encouraged in my pursuit to be the mother the Lord would have me be. I was predisposed to agree with her premise, and was open to hear what she had to offer in the way of advice. Unfortunately, I stopped reading half way through the article, because the weight of expectation and the pressure of perfection was beginning to make me feel like climbing under a rock and declaring myself unfit as a mother.

This quote was the final straw:

When babies are touched and loved and sung to and talked to and have regular routines and regular, healthy diets, they are much more happy all the time and responsive to instruction. However, when a child has not received these basic needs, the only means of a child letting his parents know he is not happy or comfortable with his life is to whine or cry. When I am around generally healthy children whose needs have been met, it is obvious because they seem more content with life. All children are immature and will misbehave, and pages and pages could be written about the subject, but these are just a few of my thoughts.

It settled like a lead weight around my heart and stayed there for almost a week. When my three and a half year old, who has lately developed a serious case of “whine-itis” would whine, I would hear these words. When my son would cry for apparently no reason I would hear these words. When they weren’t obedient or “responsive to instruction” I would hear these words echoing like condemnation in my heart. “I’m not loving them enough. I’m not singing, and talking and hugging enough. I don’t have enough routine, I’m not feeding them well, I’m not . . . ”

This morning I just had to preach the gospel to myself. I had to realize that (a) I am sinful and (b) my children are sinful and (c) I can’t live up to the expectations of anyone else. I have to be faithful to those things directly commanded in scripture.

I had to tell Jesus that I’m not a perfect mother, and I had to admit that I had let this other woman become an idol in my life: I was trying to parent to please HER and all the others like her. I had to tell Jesus that I know I am incapable of parenting my children perfectly, and I had to tell Him that I know my children are incapable of love and obedience and I had to ask Him to make us in His image. Finally, I had to ask him to change my heart, from wanting a smooth day, to desiring to see my children grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus. I asked him to make me more concerned with their spiritual development than their developmental milestones; more concerned with their eternal state than their intelligence and achievement.

After all of that, I went back and reread Tonya’s post and laughed and thanked the Lord for humor.

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About Coralie

After 11 years of infertility, I am now a mother to three, a wife of a Presbyterian (ARP) preacher and a struggling homemaker. Welcome to my little corner of the net. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up and join the conversation. View all posts by Coralie

5 responses to “On Motherhood and the Burdens We Place Upon Ourselves

  • suzanne

    If it makes you feel any better, I had no knowledge of either article. 🙂 And I don’t plan to read the second, at least not at this stage in life. I’ve got enough self-induced guilt, thankyouverymuch.

  • melissa

    Using the same reasoning as article “B” – we would have to assume that it is God’s fault that Adam and Eve sinned, or that we sin, for that matter. If only God had given them a more loving, more stable home, they would have been more receptive to instruction. If only He had parented me more justly and mercifully, I would never whine or have temper tantrums (adult version).

    OR – of course our sinful children are parented by sinful parents so together, in repentance and faith, we plug away, yearning for Heaven, where all of us will be made perfect in HIm – our perfect Father.

    I liked the article I read this morning by my sister. Especially the second last paragraph. Thanks, sister.

  • melissa

    I should also say, in fairness to the person who wrote article “B” that I think your kids would be good examples of what she is saying. You have contented, happy kids who are well adjusted to life, but who do sin. They have sin natures and they act on them, but anyone who knows them knows them as good, sweet, happy kids. Sometimes we read these articles through the lens of the worst day of out week, not through the lens of reality. (I am preaching to myself, not you!). We all also know kids of whom we could not say these things. Kids who have no affection shown them, who have no routines, who are tired, undisciplined and unloved. We would all agree that these kids show their neglect in unhappiness and discontent. So there is a lot of truth in what she says if understood correctly. Always the balance!

    Anyway, just thought I’d add that “other side”.

  • Lollie

    Oh Wow, I totally read that second article I remember that quote. But I took it in a different light. I took it to mean that it’s ok that my children whine or cry, that’s what children do. Especially when they are little. Not to be exasperated with them for it or disipline them for it (unless it’s whining to get what they want because I’ve said no, in that cause the disipline would be not getting it). But rather to consider that they need a nap, they might be teething, they might just be having an off day and playing a video for them might just be the down time we both need.
    In other peoples opinions I often Take what I like and leave the rest.
    My new prayer has been that Christ parent my kids through me like Galatians 2:20. Cause I just can’t do it, and I know He can do a much better job than me! 🙂
    You are doing great Coralie! You are a wonderful mother. I can tell by how you write about them, their happy faces in pictures! Just the fact that you are concerned with being a good mother,,remember that we have seasons too. During a pregnant season I always felt it hard to spread myself over all the kids. God was always good to give them and me enough grace to get through it. You won’t always be tired. You are an awesome Mama!!

    I love this little poem entitled Song for a 5th Child
    “Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth, Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
    Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
    Sew on a button and make up a bed.
    Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
    She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
    Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
    (Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
    Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
    (Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
    The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
    And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
    But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
    Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
    (Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
    The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
    For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
    So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

  • Becky

    I haven’t read either article which means I am obviously a loser. I’m off to read the funny one and will skip the other all together. I don’t need another idol in my life.

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