Counting from when I first became pregnant with Elijah, I’ve been a mother for over seven years. Looking back at the starry-eyed mommy-wanting-to-be that I was when we were first preparing to start our family, I don’t think I realized how much I would change or all that I would learn once I became a mother.
I’ve been reminded of my own eager mommy naiveté lately, as young female friends, family, and even strangers swoon over my baby belly with their own hopes and dreams of becoming mommies someday. I find myself smiling at their innocence with a “you have no idea” knowing that only comes from experience. I remember well that “Oh, babies are so precious,” and “children are so fun” mindset that painted motherhood and parenting as idealistically as a newborn diaper commercial. Not that babies and children aren’t precious and fun, but parenting isn’t all sweet things and blissful days and nights.
So from my seven years of mothering, here are three things I know about what it means to become a mother. (And most of this applies to becoming a daddy, too, but since I’m a mom, that’s where I write from.)
#1. YOU WILL CHANGE FROM HEAD TO TOE, INSIDE AND OUT
From the moment those two little pink lines show up on the pregnancy test (and even before then), you begin changing, and you’ll never be the same again. Everyone realizes that a pregnant woman’s body changes in multiple ways, and despite our current culture’s pressure for moms to just snap right back to their pre-baby selves, it really isn’t realistic (or fair or necessary). Sure you can lose the extra weight, especially when you breastfeed, and you can exercise and tone up, but it will, and should, take some time. Plus there will still be areas of your body that are changed forever, even if others never see the evidence.
And the physical changes are actually the least drastic of them all.
Yes, mommies-wanting-to-be, there are more dramatic adjustments once you have a child than stretchmarks and maybe a belly pooch.
Motherhood changes EVERYTHING – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially, and financially.
Think you’ve loved someone before? It won’t compare to when you hold that baby for the first time (or even feel his first kicks in your belly). Ever been frustrated? Try going up against a strong-willed toddler in the epic parenting face-offs known at “potty training” or “naptime.” Been proud of someone? Just wait until your mini-me digs deep and determinedly learns to tie her shoes or ride a bike or starts to read or shows compassion and generosity toward others.
And before you have children, let’s face it – You pretty much think about yourself and what you need. Yes, marriage is good at teaching you to put someone else first, and hopefully you consider your spouse’s needs and sacrifice for them. However, from your first seconds of parenthood (and on for basically the rest of your life), so many decisions and choices will be run through the filter of “how will this affect my child?” Don’t believe me? Everything you do when you’re pregnant will prove it – what you eat, how you care for yourself, and what you do. Once that little bundle of joy arrives, you’ll plan your days around their naps or feedings or both (maybe not precisely, but at least roughly), you’ll make grocery lists based on what your preschooler will actually eat this week, and you’ll pick where you live with consideration of the schools in the area.
Every major decision you make will also be even more a matter of prayer. Seriously, I don’t know that any area of your life will be as affected by parenting as your spiritual walk. You’ve only THOUGHT you needed wisdom before. Raising children will take you to your knees like nothing else. Patience, discernment, direction, peace – yep, you’ll need everything God can give. And trusting God hits a whole new level when you place your child in His hands.
While most people know that having children will affect you financially – they do have to eat and be clothed, after all – I’m not sure how many nonparents realize how different your social life will become once Junior is in the picture. Even beyond going out often and easily (either you are taking your children – that’s a whole new ballgame – or you’re arranging for a babysitter), unless all your friends have children or really love kids, there are going to be some that just don’t get your new situation in life. You most likely won’t have as much time or even interest in things you used to do often, and they probably won’t have the same excitement you have over your child’s latest milestones or in seeing all 557 pictures you took of your little one that morning at the park. You will be at different places in your life, and that’s okay. God has His own unique plan for each of us and our families. So be prepared to give them some grace, and do your best to keep in touch, even if you don’t spend as much time together as you used to.
#2. YOU WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH
I know. I KNOW. This isn’t what any of us want to hear. We want to think that we can rock this parenting thing if we just try hard enough, get super organized, stop comparing ourselves to other moms, embrace our own strengths, and so on. In fact, it’s kind of a thing among the mother and women’s community at large right now to loudly and repeatedly tell you that “You are enough!” There are blogs, t-shirts, memes, coffee mugs, and who knows what all else to remind you of your wonderful capabilities and awesome mom potential.
However, all of those well-meaning cheerleaders are setting you up for frustration, disappointment, and no end of discouragement because it’s simply not true.
You, in and of yourself, are not, and will never be, enough for your children. No amount of effort on your part is going to change that.
I’m not sure why we would want to fight so hard to prove we can do it by ourselves. Parenting is HARD, like, REALLY HARD.
I know I’m not the only mother who has those days when I can’t wait for my husband to get home- not because I’ve missed him or have something important to tell him, but simply because I NEED HIS HELP. I need a break from our boys, from their demands for my attention, from their fighting, from the constant giving and caring I’ve been doing since I woke up that morning. Tagging out when Brad is ready to take over can be such a relief.
In those moments, if I believed I was supposed to be enough for them, I would feel like such a complete failure.
Thankfully, I KNOW that I’m not. And I know that Brad’s not enough as their dad. Even together, amazing parents that we are :), we aren’t enough for our precious boys.
And we’re glad about that.
Because we know that God did not design parenting (or much else in life) to be something you could do independent of Him. It’s something you can only do well WHEN you rely on Him.
We are never enough, but He is ALWAYS MORE THAN ENOUGH. We will make mistakes and fail, but He is perfect and always faithful.
2 Corinthians 3:9 reminds us that His “’grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Yes, I “can do all things,” but it’s only “through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Being able to seek God’s guidance, strength, PATIENCE, wisdom, and power instead of relying on my own (very weak) human strength, allows me to be the mom that God called me to be to my children.
God planned for me to be their mother, and God has gifted me with talents and abilities that I can use in that calling, but I can’t do it without Him.
And my kids need to know that, too. I’m not my children’s source. It’s not my job to be their source of joy or of peace, of safety or of health, of goodness or of salvation. They need to rely on God as much as I do. But if I’m trying to be “enough” for them on my own, how will they realize their need for Him?
#3. YOU WILL NEVER WANT TO GO BACK
Parenting is hard, and it changes everything for you, but I can promise you that even despite that, you will NEVER want to go back to life before your children.
Not seriously, anyway.
There may be days that you reminisce about how easy and carefree life was when two or three kids weren’t fighting in the background, or how awesome it was to get a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep once upon a time. But honestly, in your heart of hearts, you will never, ever want to go back to not being a parent.
And perhaps this is the part that longing-to-be-mommies and – daddies see in us that makes them swoon and sigh over our sweet new little ones, our precocious preschoolers, or our growing grade-schoolers. They see that overwhelming, straight-from-heaven love that softens the difficult days and cements the really great ones into our memories forever. They hear the pride and joy in our voices (or read it in our social media posts) when our kids do something adorable or impressive. They may not have faced the struggles of parenting yet, but they see the rewards in our relationship with our children, these amazing, inspiring, precious gifts from God.
When those young, naïve parents-wanting-to-be start talking about how awesome it will be to a mom or dad someday, I find myself smiling at their innocence with a “you have no idea” knowing that only comes from very cherished experience. 🙂
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