“Enjoy them while they’re little!”
I gritted my teeth, smiled, and nodded at the elderly lady in the grocery store. I wasn’t feeling much enjoyment at that particular moment—the baby was colicky and screaming, the toddler (sitting uncomfortably in the basket of the grocery cart so I could keep her from running around) whining and unhappy with the few groceries I’d piled around her, and the five- and seven-year-olds rotated between bickering and begging for frosted-sugar-everything.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, I had only braved the grocery store because we needed food and diapers, and my husband was out of town on military service. If I was being honest, what I really wanted to do was park them all in a corner of the store and flee, weeping.
Of course, not all days were like that. But the “Play-doh Years” were an extremely busy, exhausting phase. Precious little fingers and toes, nursing babies, potty-training toddlers, teaching young ones to read, experiencing nature and the world together…this filled my days for many years and it felt like it would always be that way.
Then I blinked.
The downy-headed baby I tucked so carefully into his stroller all those years ago is now married, in the military, and has a baby of his own. The sleepless years with lots of littles are a blurry memory. The years of active parenting and homeschooling are winding down.
The day I realized that I had more years of kids at home behind me than I did in front of me was sobering indeed.
And while I know that motherhood is probably the most important job I’ll ever do, it’s also a shaky place to stake my entire identity. Ditto to my identity as a wife. The only sure identity I own is my identity in Christ, as a child of God.
In the words of Carol Barnier, I had to find my “core,” a place that could not be unsettled, regardless of circumstances.
Nothing was safe. If you’ve never had your life shaken, count your blessings. But for most of us in this world, bad things happen. Jobs are lost. Children are hurt. Spouses die. Spouses leave. Car accidents happen. Families grow apart. People dear to us become estranged…
So after I took all these things away, I looked in my heart, I looked at my core, and way off in the back, sitting in the shadows, waiting quietly with a patient smile on His face, sat Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. He met me right where I was…not where I should have been. (1)
When I speak with young moms, I give them much more grace then I ever was willing to give myself. I’m begging you not to do that to yourself. Some things to consider on this journey of motherhood:
Where will you be in a decade?
Fast forward ten years mentally. What will your life look like? Will some of your kids be out of the house? Will they all be grown? What is your plan for that time? What are you doing to cultivate your future, now? This is not meant to be a scare tactic, but reality. The reality is that your life will not always be this. And it’s not healthy to completely neglect every talent, calling, and interest you have while in the throes of young motherhood. Your children will grow up and begin their own lives, which is as it should be. So, yes—treasure your time with them, savor every moment, love those little ones. But if you haven’t yet, begin now to cultivate your talents, too.
What can only YOU do?
My pastor recently spoke on life priorities.(2) According to him, 10% of what we do, anyone can do. 85% of what we do—anyone with similar training and skills could accomplish (chauffeuring, cooking, etc). That leaves the 5% that ONLY WE CAN DO.
Things like: only I can be a wife to my husband, mother to my children, and take care of myself spiritually, mentally, physically. Think about it. No one else can do those things for you. Seeing it that clearly helps me cut to the chase when I make decisions.
Build some grace into your schedule.
What you need is not another “how-to” on organizing or guilt because you’re not doing enough.
Sure, maybe some organizing tips will help. Time in God’s Word, discipline, and flow-of-the-day are important. I’m with you there. But don’t take on burdens that aren’t yours to shoulder. Don’t become so wedded to a “method” of parenting or homeschooling that you completely miss God’s unique calling for your family. Take time to kiss your baby’s toes, talk a walk with your toddler, have a tea party with your preschooler, stay awake for a late night chat with your teen.
Trust me, those are the things that will matter most in years to come.
And guess what? When I see young moms, I remind them to “enjoy them while they’re little!”
Originally published in Home Educating Family Magazine.
1. Carol Barnier, Engaging Today’s Prodigal (Moody Publishers, 2012).