Keeping the Joy in Mothering – Part 1

A young mother of three little ones recently asked me, “How do you keep the joy in mothering?” Ah yes… such a question.
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Those days when you go from changing a dirty diaper, to breaking up an argument between the toddler and the four-year-old, to nursing, to looking for shoes, to getting a snack, to nursing again, to wondering where your little boy found those knee-length pink socks he is wearing, to trying in vain to find a clean kitchen towel, to helping the kids do something creative and then wondering why you did it because it only entertained the kids for about 3.25 minutes and the mess it left behind is enormous, to trying to clean the mess up with one arm because the baby is so fussy and won’t be set down, to breaking up another argument, to buckling carseats, to unbuckling carseats, to realizing it’s 4:30 PM and you are supposed to have supper on the table in the near future, but you can’t even think about making supper because the children are having meltdowns all around you, because in spite of your best efforts, nap time was a fiasco.

I know that was a run-on sentence. And that’s exactly what our days can feel like.  A run-on sentence with no pauses, no stopping points, no chances to think straight or gather our wits or have our devotions. Hardly a chance for things to even make sense or to be mentally processed.  Often those days are not just scattered throughout the year. When you are in the trenches of mothering, those days can be day after day, turning into months, then becoming a whole year, and then another.

toby and Olivia edit

We know the Bible talks about being a joyful mother of children (Psalm 113:9), but sometimes we wonder if such a thing is even possible. We love our little ones, and we know motherhood is our calling from God. But especially when we have several children, and many of them are needy little people who don’t have an ounce of self-control yet, we can become just so tired. So worn down from all the needs and all the demands. How do we keep the joy?

I’ve been thinking this over for a few months now, and have made a list of things that have helped me over the years. I will say at the outset that there is no immediate or instant solution. There is not a “do-this-one-thing” fix. God takes us through the process, in order that we may learn and become what He wants us to be. It’s in this process that we must learn to be more joyful. We can see a little more of God’s heart as we travel this road of motherhood. I have spent far too many days without the joy in motherhood. I have spent days in desperation and in tears. I can also happily tell you that I have spent days filled with joy. It is possible, even in the trenches of mothering, to experience the joy the Bible talks about.

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1) Let go of any and all perfectionism. An inner drive for perfection can cause us to so strongly desire a perfect house, a perfect body, perfectly clean kids, a perfectly spotless vehicle, perfectly empty laundry hampers and perfectly behaved children that it will rob the joy right out of us. We have to let it all go. We aren’t going to have perfection– definitely not right now, probably never. It’s okay. Breathe. Embrace the fact that life with little people is imperfect. Let go of the control, the pride, the idealism, the social media, or whatever it is that is making us crazy by putting forth a goal that cannot and will not be reached. Ever. If we merely tolerate the glaring imperfections, we will be frustrated. If we accept them, we will be at peace, and much more joyful.

2) Spend time outside. We need a break from the chores constantly calling. Go for a nature walk in your own backyard. Tell the children they all have to find at least two interesting things to show dad when he gets home. The children will respond so well to simple games invented by mom. Give yourself permission to soak up some sun and to relax a little bit. Set up a kiddie pool for the kids and park for a couple hours. Nothing entertains them like water play, and the vitamin D will do wonders for your disposition.

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3) Sing your heart out to the Lord. Fussy day for the littles? Feeling self-pity swallowing you up? Sing to the Lord and don’t allow those selfish feelings a foothold in your mind. Put on some happy praise-ful music and sing and dance with your little ones all around you. I recommend the music of Abigail Miller. She is a lady who knows the Lord deeply and, as a mother of eleven, knows motherhood deeply as well. Her songs show that she has, indeed, been there.

4) Take care of yourself. I don’t mean pamper yourself or spoil yourself in any sense. I simply mean this: eat properly, get your rest, take your vitamins, and occasionally take time for a nice haircut or buy a new lipgloss (or whatever makes you feel refreshed!). If we run ourselves ragged we won’t be able to take care of anyone else at all. If our bodies are totally depleted, we will eventually have to have someone else take care of us! So in this exhausting season of motherhood, remember that you are not invincible. Rest on the couch when your body says, “Enough. I’m done.” Sometimes even half an hour of getting off your feet can give you strength to go on.

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5) Recognize when you are just plain exhausted. When you’ve been up every night for a week because the flu bug has swept through your family, don’t try to solve any big problems or figure out why you are not joyful. Just simply recognize if you can (and my brain has a hard time with this!)— I’m worn out. I need rest. Everything will seem better after some rest. I love the verse in Isaiah that says that God “will gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11) God gently leads us as mothers, with all our young ones coming along behind. He knows we can become so weary in this season. Give yourself permission to move slowly and to rest.

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Sunday afternoon romp, June 2017

To be continued… press on dear mommas!

4 thoughts on “Keeping the Joy in Mothering – Part 1

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