Thank you to all who shared thoughts on Louella’s post. The diversity of our experience is proof of how difficult – and essential – this conversation is. How else will we learn from each other? I was tempted to step in and arbitrate, but decided to “let the community do its thing,” as my husband says, and I truly enjoyed the ride. About the time things started leaning too much to one side, someone bumped it back on track again.
What was the right track? you might ask.
Primarily, listening to each other with love and respect. That is the right track.
Some of your replies to each other were pretty sharp, I guess you know that? Proof that whatever women feel about motherhood, we feel deeply. We don’t all feel the same. But there was some stellar advice given in the last 24 hours, and my hat is off to all of you, gentle and fierce alike, to be honest. Truth lies in the middle of what you shared, even when you said opposite things: not just about motherhood itself, but about how to find God in busy seasons, and whether to take time away, and how to keep your balance. We pull truth best in pairs, until, taffy-like, it forms itself essential, apprehensible, palatable between our four hands.
We must learn together. We must. And with the women in our own communities most of all. Take a deep breath. Open your eyes to others. Don’t let this point of diversity harm your real life relationships, only forge them stronger.
The response I share below was written before yesterday’s discussion. I have not altered it to please you. #impossible
Thank you again for your thoughts, and your wisdom.
Thank you for your emails and your article, and for sharing what you feel. I hope you found some relief just in saying it and getting it out where you can look at it. Fussy babies will take it right out of you.
Though most days I love my job now, when I first started mothering I felt all thumbs, like I was putting in time until the real mom showed up. For me, the early years involved lots of fear, frustration, and mind-numbing boredom.
At that time, I connected strongly with Rachel Jankovic’s work, Loving the Little Years and Fit to Burst, regarding life with multiple small people. I see she also has a new release, You Who? but I haven’t read it yet.
There is always something to feel mom-guilt about. If it’s not breastfeeding, it is scheduled (or non-scheduled) sleep, or yelling at your kids, or miscarrying them, or giving birth to too many or too few… We can always find something to beat ourselves up about, when comparison strikes again.
The utter dependence of the baby-toddler years, and the lack of reciprocation and mature connection, can be very draining. Some love those years, and are not just faking it either. For me, gaining a little space to breathe as they grow older, while still loving them and investing heavily, feels like an easier fit. But the catch is that if I want the good connection at 8 years old and 12 years old and 18 years old, I must invest deeply at all stages. I don’t have to love it, but I do have to do it – not just the physical work like diapers and healthy meals, but the emotional work of listening when they chatter, being gentle (or repentant) when they are clumsy, and teaching them what relationships should feel like. I have to love them: as people: imperfectly and faultily and as well as I can.
Sometimes it helps the mother feelings to pretend you are more smitten than you are – not to other people, but to yourself. It helps to list in your mind the things you like about them, to take pride in their new accomplishments, to dress them beautifully, to gaze into their faces. Like love in marriage, motherlove doesn’t come naturally all the time. It must be fed and grown.
Don’t give up too quickly: on your children, on yourself, or on those “other moms” who don’t get it, or don’t talk about it. Everyone loves honesty – in others. Much harder is beginning to put out little feelers regarding your own need and inadequacy lest you become a woman who fakes perfection, or shuts down entirely. It may take a few times of saying timidly, “Mothering does not come easily for me,” and “Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning” – it may take a few times of being misunderstood or given blank looks – before you find the people who do get it, and who can help you get through.
Children were precious to Christ, and are precious still. Sink into the mess as well as you can. I believed it would last forever, but it didn’t. Each of my babies I enjoyed more, and by the fourth, I could truly say “She’s growing up waaaayyy too fast.” You don’t have to feel that, ever, but for me it came.
I hope you will hear what I am saying, and know that I care. I hope you will take a deep breath and go on.
This post contains affiliate links.
What a grace full response letter. I know grace can feel over used, but I think we need to be more full of grace to each other. I’m convinced that we as women need constant reassurance that we are going to make it. As a doula almost every woman at some point has said is it almost done, am I going to make it? To which I would reply, I don’t know but all you need to focus on is one contraction at a time, that’s all, just do this one. And I think looking at the bigger picture, that is the kind of reassurance we all need as women no matter the stage!
And no we haven’t walked in the shoes of every other woman but we are all image bearers, and in that sense we can sympathize with all. I don’t have littles anymore, but I live overseas and am in the stage where my adult children live very very far away. I still reach out to others for reassurance, in this stage. We need each other, sisters!!
I like your response to her. I can say that by my fourth I am enjoying my baby so much more than I did my first. I thought I enjoyed my first but it was incredibly hard but I loved the best I knew how. We do need each other. I was telling my sister that we don’t always need to feel the same way about the issues to say, “oh I am so sorry I will pray for you!” Even though we have no clue what the other person is talking about. It seems we always feel the need to say that they are weird to be struggling with that certain thing because we never did.
This is a beautiful response, Shari! Thank you for allowing this conversation to happen. We as moms need it…
Good and gracious words, Shari! And I like that you had the last word here 🙂
Thank you! I wish someone would have spoken those grace full words to me when I was in the middle of raising my littles. That time is past and there is so much regret, mostly over the struggle that was going on in my heart.
Dear L, I can relate to wishing that someone had spoken the exact words Shari spoke to Louella. I wish I could have a “do over” and go back in time and do things differently now that my girls are young adults. Sendingyou hugs!
This is beautiful, thank you for writing it
Shari your response to Louella was wonderful and I’m sure it helped other moms who are in this season of life.
Thank you for the gracious reply, Shari. My first little one should be in our arms in a month or less and I do wonder how I will handle the demands and joys of motherhood. Two thoughts especially I carry away with me from this: “teaching them what relationships should feel like” and “Like love in marriage, mother love doesn’t always come naturally. It must be fed and grown.” So… I want my children to be able to trust in relationships; I must work toward living in relationship with them trustworthily. I can choose to feed and grow my motherlove in the times when it’s weak or tired (rather than feeling terrible about myself or giving up). Thanks for that.
If we can go by the amount of comments on this post and the length of them, we can tell it’s a raw subject for most of us! Shari, your gracious post was a beautiful mercy and truth combination. Thank you. A reminder to all of us to remember that our stories are all different. It’s easy to forget that in the emotions that get stirred up by this subject. My easy mothering years were those first years because I had very content babies and baby care is my most favorite thing this side of heaven… but for someone else thier story might be entirely different. Colic babies, babies every year, or any other combination of factors can make those years very difficult for some. My last child was born premature and she has taken upon herself to up end most anything that I thought about taking care of babies. She’s fussy. She’s demanding. And I lift my hat (um, I mean head covering) to all parents with fussy babies. It’s not a small thing.
An important factor, that I believe can make a huge difference in our experience is how our mother handled these things. What impression did she give us as teen girls? I remember my mother getting up at night with her 9th baby and crying with joy at the delight of getting up at night with a hungry baby. That made a deep impression on my teen heart. And it sobers me as what kind of impression am I giving my girls now?
Personally, my challenge is adjusting to the preteen years. I’m an introvert and the noise, opinions, chatter, and clatter of preteen boys has been a bigger adjustment then the baby stage. Others might laugh at that…but that’s me.
And realistically, we can say a lot of words, but when the rubber meets the road of the ins and outs of our day….that is when it’s tested. And no one, not even the ones that look like they have it all together, really honestly do. We’re all doing this mothering thing as if our children were a batch of guinea pigs… we don’t know how. And it feels like the scariest experiment that we’ve ever done. We need God. And we need each other.
Thank you for getting these discussions started. i love it.
So much of this previous comment is exactly my thoughts! I’ve been thinking very soberly about the impression I am giving my 4 daughter’s about motherhood. With one of them recently married, and the other 3 at relatively impressionable ages, I know my work is far from over. I know from personal experience that the attitude about children in one’s parental home is powerful, but it isn’t necessarily the last word. God’s grace is powerful!
I love what your mother gave to you. That is what my mother gave to me. That is what my daughter-in-law’s mother gave to her. That is a priceless gift.
I came on the scene a little late, but honestly, after reading Louella’s story and the replies that followed…wow! Some of the responses, in particular from ozarkdaughter, cut me to the core. I admit I cried for the better part of an hour. I identified with much of what Louella wrote; I. Am. Tired. Every day I am not reaching the mark. But I also agree with ozarkdaughter. How have we as a generation gotten so soft? Our grandmothers DID have the large families with 8-12 children, they nursed their babies, they cooked and cleaned and helped on the family dairy and had the family laundry done on schedule. They had huge gardens and the canned dozens of jars. They attended church functions and school functions and sewing circles and took pies to fundraisers. Oh and they had sparkling clean windows. We say we’re exhausted, but we’re not getting HALF of that done. We have 3.5 children and we’re stressed and exhausted. Ozarkdaughter reminds me of my own loving and well-meaning mother’s reply when I cried tears over my 2 year old’s tantrums, “Well mine wouldn’t have acted that way’. Thanks a lot, mom. You’re right. But I still don’t know how to fix it. Tell me what to change. Apparently, somehow I have missed something important. How do I become more? Shari, I honestly want to know. I have a vision of “that mother” and I long to be her. Please tell me how.
Dear Rachel, first, I love you. I think you are an amazing woman and I believe your own grandchildren will look back and agree with me: “How did she do it all?!” Business woman, farm girl and farming advocate, five star mama who is teaching her sons to WORK… I feel we are rarely able to recognize our own heroism, or measure up to “that mother” who lives in our minds. My husband came across someone who said, “I am my own hero in ten years” – meaning – if I remember who I was ten years ago, that self would have been overwhelmed by all I have accomplished in Christ since then – and I believe that by His grace, the self I will be in ten years will have made it through more than I can now imagine, and be so much more the person I want to be.
However – I know that you wanted more than a feel-good speech, and I have prayed about your question because I hear your heart’s cry of longing. Rachel, where would we be if we didn’t need Him? If we didn’t have to cry out to Him every day because we are NOT enough? To call out to Him every moment, and then to gird up our loins and wash those windows and tighten up our mothering authority and attend that event and give those hugs and bake those pies: that is my goal. In Him. Of Him and through Him and to Him.
At our school in recent years, the staff have been focusing on “grit and determination” – often-lacking qualities in this age of soft mercy, as you said. I love this emphasis. But what our generation lacks in hardness or authority, we make up in some ways by a relational depth that our grandmothers did not dream of – with our husbands, our friends, and our children. It is not all good. And it is not all bad.
I am trying to learn too. I love you, friend. ❤
Shari, a beautiful reply! Rachel, a good and honest question! I just wanted to add that I – a single woman working overseas in a mission hospital – can face the same questions. Why can’t I work as hard as the previous workers? Why can’t I garden, and work in medicine, and share truth with people and…. etc. God is slowly convicting me of the danger of comparing myself to others – both present and previous others – and let Him do His work in my heart. So I just wanted to encourage you that you are seeking Him and He sees you and your tiredness and He loves you and is working in you!
Thanks friend! Your words mean a lot and were a balm to my soul. The last paragraph especially: “It is not all good. And it is not all bad.” This is true. Thanks for thinking through this with me! =)