Motherhood: The Guilt that Keeps on Giving. That’s the title of a book I have peering at me from my shelf. I haven’t read it yet so I have no idea what truth it actually holds on the pages between the two covers, but I feel like after almost 16 years of motherhood, I can relate to whatever it is. Becoming a mother is one of the hardest, and these days, least respected jobs of all. I remember wanting to be a mother while others around me were aspiring for great careers, the kind in which you’re actually contributing to society. I remember feeling like I was failing the entire female population by wanting to be a mom and not a career woman.
I had my first baby the day before I turned 23, we lovingly refer to him as our practice child because I clearly had no idea what it would be like to have a baby. Very quickly my romantic notions of being a mom were squashed. I had envisioned bathing and dressing my tiny one in sweet little outfits, easily and efficiently feeding him, taking him for walks, and for groceries, with no problems. I knew he would sleep through church and visits with friends, and date nights along with us at restaurants. He would sleep soundly, all night, after being rocked to sleep, and I would fall into bed with a spotless house and get my full eight hours. How terribly wrong I was!
After nine months of sleepless nights, refusal to be fed, acid reflux, for both him and I, mountains of laundry (baby diapers don’t really do their job well, another of my ideals down the toilet), many different types of formula, every before bed ritual I could come up with, we finally got a full five hours of sleep. How your hopes and dreams change! It felt like I had emerged from a fog. The only thing was, my house was a mess – all the time, and I was not happy about it. I felt like I was doing everything wrong. My baby wasn’t happy, my husband and I were unhappy, even the cats were coming unglued. Even though I was giving it my all, it didn’t feel like it was enough.
And then we added another baby….I was fully prepared for another stint of no sleep. I was happily surprised when this youngster came out loving the nap time. But the happiness quickly abated when I realized that a new problem was emerging. He wouldn’t stay awake long enough for me to feed him so getting him to gain weight was challenging. Here I was feeling guilty again. Four years later, just when I was finding that homeschooling could bring about a whole new depth to that guilty state (try teaching an unwilling child to read and count while most of the world tells you you’re ruining their social skills) we found out we were expecting bundle number three! And he was colicky. And then number four was found to have a serious heart defect, which we had no idea of the cause.
I could go on for a few more pages but I think I’ve painted the picture: motherhood is tough! And you know what? While I was feeling guilty for ‘only wanting to be a mom’ I failed to realize that it’s a pretty important job. Raising the next generation of leaders, instilling values and morals, encouraging them to go farther than we ever could, that’s as legitimate as any other career. Now I know many moms who are awesome who are also career women, they’ve learned how to balance both, although I’m willing to bet that they also feel incredibly ill equipped at times to nurture these younglings. But if you choose to be a stay at home mom, or domestic engineer, don’t feel bad about that either.
Motherhood looks very different from family to family but one thing is static, the inadequacies we feel, the insecurities we have, the guilt that comes from the opinions of others or the ideals we feel we can’t live up to. I want to challenge each of us to be the mom God created us to be. Allow yourself time each day to sit in His presence as He speaks words of affirmation and encouragement to our hearts, He gifted us this amazing opportunity to mentor and disciple these lives He created with incredible purpose!
I feel now, as I watch my oldest go off to his first job, that while I didn’t do everything perfectly, he’s still a pretty awesome kid. Perfection is impossible but perseverance will get you far.