Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Motherhood

"Welcome to Motherhood!" a vivacious young sales associate exclaimed as I walked into this new store.  That phrase was jarring to me and caused tears to spring to my eyes.  Then again most anything made me cry as I was expecting our first son, Jeremiah.  Everything was so alien to me...maternity clothes, maternity undergarments, nursing gowns, etc...  I felt so clueless and inept.  But hearing that phrase, "welcome to Motherhood", grabbed my attention.  Somehow I knew I had no idea what wild adventure I had just begun and this young, well-meaning sales associate (who was probably no more than 19 and never had children) had no idea what she was saying.  Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and give my younger self some much needed advice or pep talks.  Instead, I must learn from my mistakes.  Mother's Day is coming up this Sunday and it always causes me to take pause.  Of course I honor my own mother and think back on my childhood, but I also evaluate my own stint in motherhood.  How am I doing?  What am I doing right?  What am I doing wrong?  What are my most favorite memories so far and what are my least?

I had another trip down memory lane yesterday when Eric brought some pictures to me that he had found while cleaning out junk drawer.  It was pictures from when we had just moved to seminary in North Carolina.  Jeremiah was 3, Elijah was 2, and Nathan was 7 months.  Oh the mix of emotions that came and the flood of memories!  Seminary time was not the highlight of my life.  I had 3 little ones 3 and under, all in diapers, and we were sick all of the time.  I can remember the night where all of us, except Eric, were projectile vomiting (among other things) and I was too sick to care for or clean up any of the boys.  Poor Eric thought he had just entered about the worst thing ever and I saw him cry in despair.  We survived. Somehow, we survived.  But looking back I see that I could have handled things differently.  I was not happy when we lived at seminary, not at all.  In a sense it was how God was molding us for full-time ministry, and I get that, but I certainly could have had a better perspective on things.  One thing is for sure- I was not very mature in my walk with Christ, in my role as a mother, or even as a wife.  I wish that I could go back and shake my younger self out the of the sadness and self-pity that I had been feeling at the time.  I will instead resolve to learn from my mistakes.

Maturity has a large part in how we, as mothers, behave and live our lives.  I have by no means arrived to perfection and that will never fully happen this side of heaven, but I feel as though I have gained some wisdom from my experiences.

I would like to share and encourage fellow mommas out there:

*Motherhood is without a doubt THE highest call on a woman's life.  We were created to be life-givers and we, as women, should embrace that.  I am not at all saying that everyone needs to give birth 20 times to find her self worth, I am saying don't put it off until you are 40.  I had Jeremiah when I was 25 and I am so grateful that I did.  I had energy and did not require as much sleep.  If I were to give birth now I would be a hot mess (due to lack of sleep)!  Embrace the ability to have children and savor every moment of it.  Do not make any rash, permanent decisions regarding your fertility until you are older.

*You will make mistakes on a daily basis.  If I was given just one penny for the mistakes I make in my parenting on a daily basis I would not have to fundraise to bring Dima home!  As I mature the mistakes are not as many (maybe).  The difference is now I can pick out the mistakes and rectify the situation or  ask my children for forgiveness.  Making a mistake as a mother is a great teaching moment and it will produce children that are able to show grace and mercy to others with ease.

*Have a sense of humor.  Being a mother will put you in situations you never thought you would ever be in and many of them are embarrassing!  Laugh at yourself and then write it down so you can laugh about it all over again in 20 years.

*Do not be a germ-a-phobe!  O.K., this is a big one for me personally!  Kids are going to get sick no matter how much sanitizer you use on their little hands.  I am not saying don't use it, but if your fear of germs is starting to impede on your happiness and that of your children, then it is probably not a good thing.  When we were at seminary I was a MAJOR germ-a-phobe and I was always fretting and worrying about germs.  It didn't matter because the boys were still always sick all of the time anyway.

*Hug and kiss your little ones as much as possible.  Let them slobber on you.  Hold them close.  Hang onto those little ones and love on them as much as you can.  They get to that age where it is not cool to be loved on by mom much faster than you would think.  And hold your babies!  You cannot "spoil" a baby by holding him or her too much.  It drives me absolutely batty every time I hear someone say that.  If you need your arms then wear your baby and enjoy that precious bonding time.

*On the other hand, however, if your baby is screaming for hours on end it is O.K. to lay them down in the crib or in the swing and walk away for a few minutes.  They won't hurt themselves and it is better for mom to step back and clear her head.  Our Elijah was a screamer and while I wore him in a sling and nursed him on demand, there were moments where I had to put him down in the swing and walk away for a moment.  And he was so loud, too!

*Never say anything negative about being a mother in front of your children, not even in jest.  It will make your children feel unimportant and unloved.  Always say how much you love being a mother (especially if you truly do feel that way!) in front of your children!!  They will love and respect you for it and will always remember that about you (trust me!).

*Make messes with your little ones.  Yes, be messy!!!  Make messes and enjoy yourself!!!  Sure, you will make a mess that will only have to be cleaned, but you are making a memory that lasts forever.

*Do not be your child's friend, be their mother.  That means you will sometimes have to make decisions on their behalf that they will not like.  They may even say that they hate you but it doesn't matter.  In the end they will see that your loving discipline was for their own well being.

*Do not be conformed by this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (through Scripture).  Use God's Word to help you be a mother.  God has so much to say about mothers, children, unconditional love, and discipline.  We joke that children do not come with an instruction manual, but life does.  It's called the Bible!

*Smile!  If your children see you smiling they, too, will have a reason to smile.  If you are frowning at them all of the time they will take it personally.  They will feel that you cannot be bothered and not come to you when they really need you.

*Pray!  Pray as if their little lives depend on it.  Because guess what?  Their little lives DO depend upon their mother's prayers.

*Enjoy it.  Enjoy being a mother.  It is not easy.  It is messy.  It is stressful.  It is heartbreaking.  It is a thankless job.  It is not glamourous.  But the benefits are eternal.

On that note I am going to go enjoy being with my boys now.  Have I mentioned lately just how blessed I am?  Or just how much I love those boys?  Well, in case I haven't, I am so incredibly blessed to be a mother and I love those boys so much I could never adequately write a blog entry about it.  If you are a mother, however, you know exactly what I am talking about.