Parenting four boys means being surrounded by noise, energy, dirt, gas, burps, noise, physical activity, video games, toys, noise, competition, bugs, frogs, oh, and did I mention noise? That is the beautiful and chaotic motherhood life that I have been given. Many times I have wished for girls, but I quickly settle back into gratitude for the small tribe of males the Lord has loaned my husband and I. We are raising men for His Kingdom.
My main parenting struggle enters with the whole “raising” scenario. Who knew that training and parenting children could be so draining? Motherhood didn’t come with an “off” switch. There is only a recharging session while they sleep.
The constancy and exhaustion of raising small humans is the context in which I want to share a story which occurred this week. As a family, we decided to take an impromptu road trip for a few days. It was fun to take off on a mostly unplanned trip: four days carved out to adventure together. We visited state parks and a science museum, went on a cave tour, and even happened upon a fair. We made fun memories as a family, and for that I am very grateful.
During our trip, we stayed in a hotel. As one might imagine, trying to sleep in one big room was not conducive to falling asleep each night. The boys wanted to talk, joke, touch each other, throw stuffed animals at each other, and generally keep each other awake. Our early-rising child woke everyone up before daybreak each morning. Additionally, the boys seemed blissfully unaware of their volume or how that volume might affect the people staying on either side of us.
The last morning of our trip, I felt particularly annoyed with their loud behavior. It didn’t seem to matter that I had politely, then kindly, then firmly told them to tone it down. The volume continued. I sat them down and had a stern “talk” with them about how their behavior might be affecting the other people in the hotel and how they needed to behave when we went down for breakfast. They all solemnly nodded and did their best to contain their energy all the way down the hall and into the elevator.
When we got to the continental breakfast, I spent 10 minutes pouring juice, finding seating, getting utensils and condiments, and situating the boys before I could eat my own meal. Finally, I sat down with my food and coffee and looked up at my husband. He casually stated, “I don’t think you’re the only one who is struggling with parenting this morning.” He glanced to his right, and my gaze followed his. There stood a mom with three elementary-aged children. She was refilling plates, getting utensils, answering questions, admonishing her children’s behavior, and looking incredibly exhausted. I observed her over the following moments. Unlike myself, she was there without a husband. Although I saw her take a few deep breaths in her obvious frustration, she maintained calm for her kids, finishing the meal, and finally blissfully, took a sip of her coffee.
I passed her while refilling my coffee cup. Quietly, I touched her on the shoulder and declared, “Mom solidarity! You are doing a really good job.”
She blinked at me in surprise and then smiled and said, “Thank you.”
Each mother has been given a different set up: unique children with unique personalities. Some of us are married and some are single. Some of us have girls, and some of us have boys. Some of us have one child, and some of us have eight. What remains the same is the load of blessings and exhaustion that come with the motherhood journey. Some days are great, and others are really hard. Sweet moments of cuddles and kisses are often followed by a sibling fight and spilled milk. If you have lived serving those who can not yet serve themselves, then you are a member of a tribe of women who are changing the world one day at a time. Knowing this, we can have compassion for others we see in the trenches.
We all worry that we’re messing up, and mom guilt is the worst! It feels incredibly reassuring when someone else “gets it.” After seeing my son have an utter meltdown one day last year, I received a text from a mom friend of mine telling me what a good mother I was for my son. It only took her a moment, but the message I received was: “You’re not alone. I see what you’re doing. You’re not screwing this up. Keep up the good work.”
As helpful as it is to be encouraged by other moms, it is even more reassuring to know that the Lord has grace for us mothers as well. One of the verses that has encouraged me most in mothering is:
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.Isaiah 40:11
Picturing the Lord as my shepherd is a comforting image. That last line though, just about undoes me: He “gently leads those that are with young.”
God doesn’t run ahead without us mothers. He doesn’t even wait for us to keep up with His plans. He leads us. He leads us gently. He knows that we are not equipped to do this job perfectly. He knows what it costs us. He knows the joys and the tears, and He promises to gently lead us.
What a relief! I can trust that as I follow my Shepherd, He will lead me as I lead my children. They will follow my voice as I follow His. Then, by His grace, they will one day know His voice and follow Him for themselves. I am not in this motherhood thing alone.
In the meantime: Solidarity, sisters. The road is tiring, but it is good work we are doing. The best work.
Pause: Find a moment to be still. (In the bathroom with the door locked if need be.) Breathe deeply, and exhale slowly. Read and meditate on Isaiah 40:11.
Renew: What images come to your mind as you read this verse? If you are a mother, reflect on times that you can bear witness to how the Lord led you in your motherhood journey.
Next: This week, ask the Lord to bring a Mom in your life to mind. As the Lord brings this person to your mind, pray for her. Then, make it a point to speak encouragement to her or give her a gift that reminds her that she is seen and appreciated.
May we be reminded of our Good Shepherd’s faithfulness and gentleness in leading us.
Pause, Renew, Next!