My first-grader is crying AGAIN (or maybe today she’s whining or hyperventilating) about the same set of math problems that 2 minutes ago were cheerfully proclaimed to be “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!”
Our new foster baby is fussing and needing her bottle RIGHT NOW.
My toddler in the high chair is emitting high-decible, ear-piercing screams for the umpteenth time because my back was turned (getting a bottle for new baby) when he signed for “more.” My hands are full of baby and bottle, so I can’t cut up more strawberries for him this second.
I turn around, and now my first-grader is erupting into a raging meltdown of her own because she can’t stand babies screaming, ever, especially not during school time.
I can’t help them all at once. Why can’t she calm down and figure it out? She’s smart enough. Why won’t he say “more” like I know he can? When will he learn more words so he can stop screaming? What were we thinking, taking a newborn only 15 months younger than our toddler—while homeschooling? I can’t handle this! I hate homeschooling! I can’t give my children the attention and training they need because now I have a new baby to take care of for who knows how long! I don’t have time or energy to keep up with anything. I never have time to blog anymore. And the piles on the counter are about to slide off in an avalanche and I won’t have time to sort through them until summer….I am MISERABLE!
Wait a minute….When did my blessings become burdens?
When Did Motherhood Become a Burden?
What did I expect? As the oldest of 6 children (and the youngest sibling born when I was 18), I had a front row seat to the work it takes to raise children. At 15 I assumed the role of second mother because my mother was so exhausted by an extra fussy baby. Some of my aunts raised even more children.
I never expected motherhood to be easy.
In the past year, in the midst of pandemic, we have celebrated both the adoption of our daughter after years of waiting, and then of our son just seven months later.
There have been difficulties, but we were managing homeschooling our first-grader while caring for a just-learning-to-walk 1-year-old who was into everything.
Literally overnight, our challenges compounded exponentially when we said “yes” to a newborn being placed in our home. Frustration amped up to overwhelm.
Now I’m juggling essentially two babies’ needs while trying–when they are quiet–to meet the ever-changing needs of my school-aged daughter. Instead of loving our expanding family, I found myself complaining to my husband about the children’s behaviors and resentful of the new baby who took attention away from the two who were finally mine.
But I thought I wanted children! When did motherhood—when did children—become such a burden to me?
Don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of families who manage many more children than my current three, or have babies close together.
I even grew up familiar with the teaching that children are blessings, not burdens (so have a lot of them!). And then my husband and I suffered the grief of losing both our babies, in addition to two miscarriages.
Of all people, I should be perpetually grateful for the children God has given us through adoption!
But I am human. A sinful, fallen human, who succumbs to selfishness again and again.
When God’s gracious gifts of healthy, beautiful children—to keep!— end up feeling like heavy burdens, I need to step back and seriously evaluate my own heart.
It’s a Mindset
What is my heart attitude?
Selfish or servant-hearted?
Am I focused on what I want or what they need?
How my children affect my life right now, or how I can impact their lives for eternity?
Discontent or grateful?
Am I constantly thinking in terms of “I wish…” or “I’m thankful for…”?
Victim or problem-solver?
Do I focus on the problems, annoyances, and inconveniences my children cause, or on what what I can do to improve the situations?
When I stop and honestly consider, I am humbled and ashamed.
My children are not the cause of my unhappiness; my own heart is the problem. Focus on self does not lead to happiness.
Blessing or Burden, Spirit or Flesh
I complain that I can’t keep a nice house because of children who get into things. I’m wearied by constant battles with my daughter over morning routines or picking up after herself. My toddler’s ear-piercing screams wear on me (and all of us). I’m frustrated that I can’t get anything done. I chafe at not having time to pour into the children individually, or even get out for a walk.
I grumble and slouch around the house, weary and burdened by the children God has entrusted to my care, frustration and weariness written all over my face rather than joy.
Wait, I wanted children! I was brokenhearted to have to bury my babies. I was overjoyed to finally adopt the two we have.
What kind of loving mother grumbles about her children? What kind of faithful steward is constantly frustrated by others’ needs overruling her own plans? What kind of teacher models a complaining spirit to the same children she is trying to teach NOT to complain?
The Spirit and my flesh wrestle intensely.
Renewing My Mind to See Blessing
Repentant, I know I need cleansing and renewing of my mind.
Therefore, I urge you…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:1-2, NIV
Maybe the challenges of parenting are my “spiritual act of worship,” the offering of my body as a “living sacrifice.”
Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28, NIV). Should I not follow in his steps?
I have become self-focused, losing the ministry-mindset we had when we first started into foster care.
Lord, help me readjust my expectations and accept difficulties and annoyances with joy. The old hymn by Isaac Watts comes to mind: “Must I be carried to the skies/ On flowery beds of ease,/ While others fought to win the prize/ And sailed on bloody seas?”
Maybe mothering these particular children is the most important work God has called me to in this season. I dare not complain or resist, even if my blog—or tackling the piles on my kitchen counter—has to take a back seat.
It would be good to recognize my children’s stages, and then adjust my expectations accordingly. At some point my son will learn to talk and the screaming will stop. Eventually my daughter’s brain will develop to the point she can clean her room without help.
In the meantime, I must show my children by my words, my tone of voice, my attitudes, and my priorities that they are loved and valued, and that their needs matter.
They need to see me modeling joy, not grumbling about everything that doesn’t go my way.
Everything worth anything takes work. Children take work, but they are of great worth! When I allow the Spirit to shake me free of my selfishness, I am freed to enjoy my children and reap the blessing of joy they bring into our lives.