Musings on the Many Moods of Motherhood: From magnificent moments to meltdowns, and much in between.
Mother’s Day, a day to celebrate and honour mothers, seems to be a fitting day for a discussion of motherhood. On Mother’s Day I am usually blessed with a delightful assortment of handmade cards, and if I am lucky, an undisturbed breakfast in bed, without my children trying to steal the froth off my homemade latte (as they often try to). And a friend and I have started a tradition of going out for ‘Yum Char’ (chinese brunch) to celebrate Mother’s Day. We have called our outing ‘Mum-Char’.
Motherhood isn’t just a job, it’a a calling. A noble calling at that. And no calling is more fulfilling than that of parenting. But it’s not sainthood. It’s a priviledge to be a mother, but it’s a painful priviledge at times. And sadly however, the role of motherhood has been disinfranchised today. Being a mother is a challenging calling and an invisible profession. I’ve found since becoming a mother, that I have something in common with other women that I may not have had before – shared motherhood. Whether you are a working mother, a stay at home mother, a first time mother of one or a veteran mother of five, we all have something in common – love for our children. Mothers keep the family together. You might be a mother of little ones or a mother of teenagers, or perhaps your kids have flown the nest. But we all have a mother’s heart. Your’e the earth mother, the military mother, or the crunchy mother. You might be the crafty mum, the pragmatic mother, th executive mother, or a go with the flow mum. However you may describe your mothering style, what we all have in common a desire to do our best. And we all need more grace because our best is really all we can do at the end of the day.
Unveiling the Mystery of Motherhood
One thing that has surprised me about becoming a parent is the extremes that one can experience – it can be wonderful and yet sometimes challenging, all in the same day. That you could cherish your child so much and love them more than anything in the world, yet simultaneously want to courier them up to their grandparents, is the mystery of motherhood. To have children is a miraculous gift from God. Our children are a blessing, and our time with them is to be savoured. There is beauty and immense joy, but there can also be pain and heartache. Every mother has a unique story. And there are many facets or dimensions to the journey of motherhood, and these are just some.
In 2 Kings 2: 11-15 tells the story of the prophet and Elijah and how when, he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha picked up his mantle and used it. Motherhood is a mantle. Motherhood is not one’s identity, nor are our children our identity. But until the day we die we are always a mother, and the outcome of the next generation is in our hands as mothers. The age old saying ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’ has alot of truth to it. And just like Elisha who had a mantle of power come on him when he was chosen to become God’s prophet, every woman that becomes a mother has a mantle of power come upon her. She is equipped by God to mother and mentor her children. ‘Sometimes our mantle has been tattered, by the pain of life, the disappointments, heartache even. But there is hope that God can mend our mantle.
Motherhood is a ministry and if one is a mother, it is the most important ministry one will ever have. It is not our only calling or ministry. We may enjoy a fulfilling career or other ministry outside the home, but I’d like to suggest that our first and foremost minisry is our family. I am yet to read the book ‘The Ministry of Motherhood’ by Sally Clarkson, it is on my ‘must read’ list. But she highlights that on becoming a mother one is called to a big ministry. Modelling on the example of Jesus, he discipled twelve, and they changed the world. We are raising the next generation. Parenting is the most sanctifying work – it is humbling. Motherhood builds our character and exposes our faults, frailties and limitations. Our buttons get pushed. We are moulding our children, but they are moulding us too. We have to press into God and receive His wisdom and strength – daily.
I often use the term ‘mission’ to describe what I have to do in a day. Whether it is ferrying the kids to soccer, taxi-ing them to school and kindergarten, washing, meals, homework, and that’s just the basics. ‘Mission’ is a good way to describe it. And with little ones, just getting out of the house can be a mission! And it’s a marathon. I’m not really a runner, but many days I do feel as it I am running a marathon. But it’s much bigger than that. Another book that I would like to read is ‘The Mission of Motherhood – Touching your Child’s Heart for Eternity’, also by Sally Clarkson and in this book she discusses that the way God sees the role of the mother is more than how our society views the role. She asserts that fulfillment and empowerment can come to mothers when they understand God’s design for motherhood. And another of her books that I would very much like to read is ‘Spirit-Led Parenting.’
There are so many magnificent, magical moments in mothering. For all the hard work, I wouldn’t change it for anything. When you meet your child for the first time in the delivery room. Their milestones, the funny things they say and do. There are the precious, lovely moments that go by so fleetingly but need to be cherished. The small things. The shared joint attention on a task. The opportunity to be a kid again and do fun kid stuff. The sweet photo opportunities.
And amid the many magnificent moments are many more mundane moments. I don’t want to romanticize motherhood, which is easy to do when we look at photos of our sweet smiling children. A significant part of mothering is mundane. The repetitive tasks. Managing Mt Washmore and conquering Mt Foldmore. Reading the same (rather boring) book for the fiftieth time. Listening to their recorder practice and fishing lego out of the loo. Attending for the sixth time today the little someone yelling from the bathroom ‘Wipe my bottom!’
And then there are the less lovely moments. The ‘not my best moment’ moments. If we are honest we all have them. When you’ve been parenting on your own since 7 am and it’s 6 pm, one is tantruming and the other is whining, the ‘these kids are driving me bananas’ moments. Meltdowns, and not just from the children. Whether it’s over lost libary books, or kids that won’t go to bed, or sneaky sneakers that sneak away just as we are about to leave the house. Yes I am the mum who lost a school library book before my son even started school – at the first visit! The teacher just laughed and said that it would turn up eventually, and it did, a few days later. Yes some moments in mothering are not so pretty. I had one such ‘mummy meltdown‘ the other week, when putting all three children into the car to get to school and who happened to walk past but someone I knew. And what was I more concerned about? That I lost it with my children, or that someone saw? Thankfully she was gracious. She understood. She had been there. It’s hard to think of savouring motherhood when in the midst of a toddler meltdown at the checkout with one child screaming blue murder and the other doing cartwheels in the trolley (yes that is my three year old!). But when we are little old ladies, we will look back on it nostalgically as a blissful time. We need to be gentle on ourselves on the hard days or difficult moments. His grace is sufficient.
And we need to give each other more grace. To know that we can measure ourselves from a standard of grace and not from a standard of perfection. I’m working on lowering my voice when I am angry or frustrated, rather than raising it. And following through. I know I should. I completed years of psychological training and so should know to follow through. But knowing the theory and putting it into practice are two different things. Sometimes I just get so busy that it slides. Again, His grace is sufficient. There are those times when mothers need a little space to breathe. I’ve heard it said before that breathing is not just for labour. Childbirth is only the beginning of breathing. There are many moments in one’s mothering journey where one will need to just breathe. And secret stashes of chocolate are always helpful too (except that my children have discovered my hiding place, so I need to find a more sophisticated hiding place). Self care is really crucial for mothers too. Times when a night out or a break to refresh one’s soul is required. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the recently released film ‘Mom’s Night Out’.
And the mess. Real life is messy. Mess is a theme in our home. It seems that whatever I do, and however hard I try, there is always mess. It is my constant companion. I am learning to embrace it. Thankfully my identity is not in keeping a clean house, nor is my security found in the four walls of my home.
I like to think of a musical analogy when describing motherhood. I’m not a poet, but here goes…
‘Motherhood is like a beautiful melody. There are highs and there are lows.
The dynamics may vary and the tempo may too.
There are majors and there are minors,
There is repetition and sometimes improvisation.
But whatever the style, phrasing, contours and colours, it is always melodious’.