The Life of Mothering
I’ll never forget sitting in the optometrist office with our first daughter and newborn, Jenny. Next to me sat a mother with a beautiful curly blonde-haired girl who must have been about two years old. This little gal was a chatterbox. She went on and on about the cutest topics. Over twenty years later, I vividly remember this experience because it was the moment I realized the potential, along with the responsibility, that I held in my arms. Being a mother was exhilarating! I couldn’t wait until I could talk to Jenny like I had this little two-year-old.
Fast-forward more than two decades. Mothering has been quite the adventure. We have had many conversations, tears, laughs, angry words, heart-warming hugs, and beautiful, quiet moments.
Becoming a mother meant I birthed new life through this little being created by God, but that is only where it started. The life of mothering is just that: bringing life to our children. It doesn’t end when we bring our little bundles home from the hospital, but rather, life is given each day.
Words of Life
The single most powerful tool in my mothering toolbox has to be my tongue. Ouch. I know, that is a sobering thought, but stay with me. It can also be the most encouraging!
Scripture tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). As I reflect over the years of raising little ones, tweens, teenagers, and now young adults, I have definitely had moments of failure. But with each day, there was an opportunity for me to learn and improve my verbal skills.
With a bit of humility, prayer, and thoughtfulness, I would spend my mornings praying for the right attitude and the words that would bring life to our day. When I failed, I acknowledged this through apologizing. I was surprised by the incredible opportunity to take the words of death and convert them to words of life through a heart-felt apology. Children love to forgive and apologies are words of life.
On the other hand, there were days when, by God’s grace, I did it well. I wrapped an arm around a struggling reader and whispered, “You can do it!” I hugged a child with a hurting heart and repeated over and over, “It will be OK.”
Each day, as I used my words for teaching, reprimanding, and instructing, I either made these productive words by choosing the right ones, or I failed, but still had an opportunity to redeem them.
From changing diapers, nursing, potty training, discipline, teaching, and setting boundaries, the life of mothering travels through many seasons. Throughout each I learned that investing time in my children brought life to them. I’m not talking about quality time over quantity because each time I invested required either one or both of them.
When a young child scrapes a knee, a few minutes with a Band-Aid and a kiss quickly remedies the situation. On the other hand, a ten-year-old girl who has been hurt by her friends with unkind words requires an evening of popcorn, movie time, and cuddling to reassure her.
Today is a fast-paced world. We microwave leftovers for lunch in under two minutes, we drive a mile in under a minute, and we find information on the most insignificant level in seconds. Yet bringing life into our children requires us to stop, listen, pray, and determine the quality and the quantity of time that is needed to heal, encourage, and instruct these precious children to life.
Finding a Schedule
The major investment of time I have had with our children has been homeschooling. Each year, my challenge in bringing an educational life to these little ones was finding a schedule that allowed for home and homeschool to coincide.
I vividly remember the difficulty of having a nursing baby, toddler, a preschooler, and a first grader when I began homeschooling our first. I was frustrated in my attempts to get it all done, especially as I noticed our children displaying attitudes and behavior that were uncharacteristic. I soon realized that each child simply needed a bit of “mommy” time throughout the day to reassure them. This was an invaluable bit of intel that helped me navigate the last fifteen years of homeschooling.
At the beginning of the morning, after each child had been fed, clothed, and prepared for the day, I would read out loud to them in the living room, waiting for that strategic moment when I could utilize the nursing baby’s naptime to start homeschooling. The preschooler and first grader would sit at the dining room table, while I trained the toddler to play quietly in a separate room.
This routine didn’t work the first day, nor the first week, but with consistent training, within a few weeks, the toddler had grown from five minutes of play to almost a full thirty minutes of uninterrupted time where I could get through phonics with the first grader while the preschooler colored.
We took an hour of playtime, where I could juggle changing clothes from the washer to the dryer and prepare lunch. Later, when the toddler was napping, we would conquer math while the nursing baby cuddled in my arms.
Many times, it was a day-to-day adjustment, but finding a routine that worked for us in each season helped our children maintain security while I maintained sanity!
Evaluating the Rhythms
Setting aside a time each week or month to evaluate the pulse of our family greatly helped me. It gave me an opportunity to thank God for the health and goodness he had brought, to pray for the areas that seemed sticky and problematic, and to ask for wisdom for things I was dealing with or unaware of.
I also have a few questions that act as barometers to help me measure the climate of our home. How many times a week are we eating together as a family, without guests? How many hours a day am I on social media? How many hours a day is the TV on? How often are the kids gaming? How often do I do special things for my children? Am I too busy? Is someone in our lives taking my time or crossing boundaries?
In our family journey, I learned that many of the problematic situations were due to a needed adjustment in priorities. When a child began displaying aggression, we replaced part of his gaming time with read-aloud time with mom. When a friend was crossing boundaries and overstepping reach into our home, we had a loving and firm conversation.
Just like having a job evaluation from time to time, having questions that measure quantifiable results can also be a handy way to evaluate the life you are bringing to your children.
Time passes so quickly, and before you know it, your daughter (or son) is getting married, and you wonder if you did all you could do. As my daughter walked down the aisle, I tearfully remembered the many moments of life that God allowed me to give to my daughter. Then I whispered a prayer for wisdom as a new phase of bringing life to her begins.