Early last week I was listening to the local contemporary Christian station on the radio. They were doing some sort of ad and I was barely paying attention. As if on their own, my ears pricked up and my brain engaged when I heard the voices ask, “Do you think of your children as a blessing or a burden?” Immediately, I felt as though I had been punched in the gut. I realized in that moment that, for a while now, I had been viewing my children as a burden. Realizing that not only made me feel ashamed, more than anything it made me feel selfish and sad.
I know people may think of me as a terrible mom for admitting it, but lately I have been feeling a little resentful toward my children. I feel like I am unable to do the things I want to do, reach for my dreams, attain my goals, make a difference, make my mark in this world because I am too busy being “distracted” by my children. Lately, I’ve been saying to myself, perhaps God made a mistake in making me a mom. Maybe I’m not really cut out for this. I have other dreams and plans and I feel so frustrated that I can’t focus on them.
What “good” mother would think that way? Awful, right? Despicable. Terrible. Shameful. I know.
See, my sister, whom I love more than anything, has been struggling for years to have a baby. She and her husband are now trying to adopt and that process, in and of itself, is such a roller coaster ride. My sister would give her right arm to have her own tiny “burdens.” She would sell her soul to be able to wipe dirty butts, clean runny noses, cut up grapes into a billion tiny pieces and spend her days singing Twinkle, Twinkle and Wheels on the Bus. These are things she longs for, prays for, desires with all of her heart. And here I am feeling irritated and resentful for having to put off my dreams to focus on the needs of my tiny dictators.
Witnessing my best friend go through the pain and frustration of waiting for her own children has helped me put my feelings into perspective. And since the radio people forced me to have a come-to-Jesus moment about my attitude toward my children, I feel even more convinced (I’ve felt this way all along) that God is using motherhood to try to teach me some hard, but important, lessons:
The beauty of self-sacrifice. By nature, I am a pretty selfish person. I think we all are to an extent. But becoming a mother has really opened my eyes to how selfish I can be. Obviously, being a good mom requires one to learn how to put the needs of her babies before her own on a constant basis. For some mamas, learning this lesson is a quick and easy process. For others, like me, it’s a harder pill to swallow.
I think this is why I have such a hard time putting my dreams and plans on hold. To sacrifice the things that I want to accomplish with my life is particularly difficult for me. But then I have to stop and realize that these children will be, in and of themselves, my greatest accomplishment. I have been given the privilege and the duty of raising two human beings to (hopefully) become decent and god-fearing adults. This is not an easy thing to accomplish and it will take a great deal of time and effort on my part.
Knowing that I was chosen, among all people, to successfully raise these two people, to keep them safe and teach them how to be world changers is a task I am slowly realizing I cannot take lightly. In this respect, putting my personal dreams on hold to accomplish this seems like a small sacrifice to make.
The fine art of patience. I’m pretty sure that if there were a contest for the least patient person in the world, I would win it hands down. I am that girl who hates driving because everyone else on the road is “in my way.” I hate crowds because they keep me from walking from point A to point B at a frighteningly alarming rate of speed (I have perfected the art of bobbing and weaving my way through a crowd). If I am unlucky enough to be standing in a check-out line for longer than 5 minutes, my foot automatically starts tapping and my eye starts twitching. I am the epitome of impatience.
As you can imagine, having a toddler who takes 12 years to finish breakfast or put on her right shoe is like torture for me. I have to work very hard not to lose my cool with her or, at the least, do the thing for her to get it over with quicker. Not only is patience a virtue (with which I am not blessed), but it is an art form that I am being schooled in it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
The treasure of simply being in the moment. My son is a snuggler. He loves nothing more to wrap his little arms around my neck, lay his head on my shoulder, and hum with contentment. In most instances, I love our little snuggle sessions, but there have been more times than I care to admit in which I feel irritated by them.
Some days, it seems, I spend most of my time snuggling with him because he refuses to be put down or cries when I move more than two feet from him. On those days I feel annoyed because I am unable to do all 4,365 things on my to-do list because I am being delayed by a fussy snuggle vampire. On those days, I have had to remind myself that in a very, very short time, this little boy will no longer want to wrap his little arms around my neck. This little boy will soon become a big, smelly teenager who wouldn’t be caught dead hugging his mama. This tiny boy will soon be a grown man, too big to sit in my lap and rest his head on my shoulder.
On these days I have to stop and force myself to simply be in the moment that my son is giving me. I have to remember to treasure these moments in my heart for the days ahead when he won’t want to be my snuggle monster anymore. I have to savor these moments because I know that very soon they will be gone and I don’t want to look back and realize that I missed them by being too busy tackling my insignificant to-do lists.
That children are, in fact, a blessing. When it comes right down to it, I know in my heart of hearts that my children are a great blessing. I know it because I see women like my sister who would give anything to be in my shoes. I know it also because my children bring me great joy and happiness, the kind that you can’t find by doing anything else. There is no feeling in the world like looking into the eyes of a tiny human being that you have created and seeing that they think you are the best thing in the world. Having a child love you is knowing what it is like to be loved completely and unconditionally.
It is truly a gift and it is a gift that, unfortunately, many women wait very long to have, or never have the opportunity to experience. My children are a blessing, in every sense of the word.
My attitude can only be changed by me. This is the hardest lesson I am in the midst of learning. My feelings of resentment, irritation, impatience, and selfishness can only be overcome by an active change in my attitude. And I can’t do it alone.
I have to continually and consistently ask God to change my heart, to help me be the mother He has made me to be. I have to pray daily that God would fill me with patience and grace toward my children, help me speak words of kindness and love instead of anger and irritation, and give me the humility to stop and ask Him for help every time I feel myself slipping.
I have to remember that there will be time, sooner than I realize, for me to pick up my dreams, dust them off, and continue chasing after them. I must remind myself daily that my babies will only be my tiny dictators for a short period of time, that they will not need me to much in just a few years time, and that I will miss these days once they are only memories seared on my heart.
These lessons I am learning are hard and humbling. But when you are being refined by fire, it usually isn’t an easy experience. I am trying to remember to embrace this period in my life, to savor the moments, to breathe the air, taste the fruit, and to fully live in this season before it inevitably passes.