I am a mother of four kids, all of them surprises. Philip came along while Dan was going through seminary. We didn’t plan on starting a family until Dan was done, but there he was. Katie came shortly after.
A year later we debated having more kids. We already had two: a boy and a girl. Perfect, right? But it felt like our family wasn’t quite complete. I wanted one more. Dan finally agreed. I should have known another would sneak in. Instead of one, we got two. Twins!
So now I had four kids under the age of four. Philip had just potty trained, but that left a toddler and two newborns. This meant 25 diapers a day. No way to leave the house without another adult (they don’t make carts that can carry 3 children). No breaks, no sleep, no clean house.
I understand the life of a young mother. I was one. It is a hard job, one done behind the scenes, where no one sees what you are doing. No one thanks you, except maybe once a year on Mother’s Day. No one gives you a raise or pats you on the back. There are no strokes, no immediate rewards, and no bonuses.
As I like to tell people, “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.” (Slogan stolen from the Peace Corp).
So let me encourage you mothers (and fathers) out there:
-You may not be paid in money, but you receive an abundance of kisses and hugs. My youngest daughter we nicknamed Makissers (her real name is Makayla) because she loves to give out kisses. My youngest son likes to randomly grab my hand and hold it. Lots of hugs, tickles, and giggles happen around our house.
-They will be potty trained someday. It may take a long time, and through lots of messes (all my kids were over 3 before they finally caught on, and one in particular liked to play in her stuff, what a mess!). But we are finally out of that phase, and you will be too.
-You will have a clean house. Well, not really. I saw this on facebook: “Please excuse the mess, my children are making memories.” I should have that framed and placed on my door. A clean house is good, and I try to clean each room once a week. And with older kids, I can now assign rooms for them to clean too.
But I never wanted my children growing up thinking a clean house was more important than them. There will always be laundry to do, dishes to wash, and floors to vacuum, but my kids will be gone someday. I want to spend time with them now. For example, we cleaned the living room last night. Then we watched a movie and drew pictures. There are now pictures of unicorns, pegasus, and guinea pigs hanging around my living room. Is it clean? No. Is it fun? Yes. Will my kids remember it? Yes.
-You are not alone. It may seem like that, when you are the only one in a house full of babies and toddlers and no adult conversation for eight or more hours a day. When you live far away from family and can’t leave the house to visit friends. When you want to go to a Bible study, but there is no childcare. I know, I was there.
But God is still with you. It was hard for me to figure out how to stay connected to God with my sporadic and time intensive lifestyle. You would think a mom could find a moment to read her bible, but it seems kids know when you are sitting down with a plan to do something quiet. It would frustrate me. Until one day, I realized God understood.
He knows I’m a mother and that I will have interruptions. A weight lifted from my shoulders. When a kid would come to me with a question while I was reading my Bible, instead of feeling stressed and upset because my quiet time had been interrupted, I would ask God to excuse me.
Sounds weird, but it actually made my relationship with God feel more like a relationship. After all, when I have friends over and need to take care of my kids, I ask them to excuse me for a moment.
Also, long prayers went out the window. Kids just know if you are quiet for too long. But I found out what praying without ceasing really meant. I prayed all day long. Granted, many times my prayers were desperate pleas for patience and wisdom. But I would also send up quick prayers for people who I knew were struggling, for the church my husband was serving at, thanks for what I had, and awe for the beauty God gives all around me.
I had never prayed like that before. Prayer had become a conversation from my heart, flowing throughout the day, rather than an item to check off my list of Christian duties.
Being a mother changed my relationship with God. I came to understand God’s love for me, because I love my children.
I am still a mother, but my children are older now. I do not have the same struggles and time constraints that I once did. They can actually hold a conversation now, sit for hours in a car, and go to the bathroom by themselves (hurrah!).
Take courage, my friends. The days are long (boy are they ever!), but the years are short. God will grant you patience and love during this time of diaper changing, snot wiping, and mess cleaning. You will survive, and actually come out a better person.
I know I did.