By guest writer Ashley:
When I recently sat down for lunch with my 5 and 3 year-old while the baby napped, my mind suddenly flashed back to one-child-days. I was trying to remember how I used to imagine my life would be with three kids. Dreaming about motherhood and caring for little ones was constantly on my mind as a young 20-something, and I often watched other moms and try to take note of how I would not do things one day.
But after three kids, a mountain of dishes and laundry, and numerous spills and time-outs, in this moment I realized that my reality is quite messier than I had envisioned when I first felt flutters inside my belly.
I want to write my younger self a letter– tell her how things are different than she thought, and tell her that she doesn’t have it all together like she had envisioned, and that motherhood is one of THE hardest, yet most rewarding roles in her entire life. Here’s what I would say:
1. Every child is different- you can’t prepare for every detail.
I know you think your experience as a teacher, daycare director, youth pastor and children’s minister makes you overqualified to be a mother. And all the books and blog posts you read on parenting and sleep training prepared you to be Super Mom from the day your first baby slipped from your body. But it’s not that simple. You are in for lots of surprises that you can’t plan for!
Each of your children is an individual whose story you haven’t read yet. You get the joy of living as a major role in their novel and opening each day of their time with you as a gift. You can’t plan exactly how you will react in every struggle and trial you come across with each of your kids.
The How To Manual for your little ones, unfortunately, doesn’t exist. But that’s okay! You get to learn about them and trust that the Holy Spirit has prepared you for such a time as this. Plus, a few surprises along the way keeps you humble.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9
2. Motherhood is not just about raising and training your kids. It’s about refining you.
You also think that being a Mom is all about nurturing your kids and training them to be the best adults they can be. Guess what, honey? It is going to change you. Big time. It’s going to bring out your best flaws.
Asking for forgiveness will become a natural part of your days with your kids as you show them that Mommy is not perfect, and that she needs Jesus just as much as their tender, fresh hearts do. You get to grow together with your kids. The moment you don’t freak out when your daughter spills rice on the floor, or your son plays king of the hill with the dirty laundry, you will know that you have changed for the better.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” -Romans 8:29
3. Raising a tiny human is messy– and it takes work.
Your image of your family with 2.5 kids, evenly spaced out by 2.5 years, with clean hair and faces, who follow the perfect chore chart and daily routine, and who never throw tantrums in the grocery store is really only in your fantasies.
Children are messy. Doing life with children is messy. They, after all, are only kids. They come to you frail and bare bottomed and blissfully unaware of the world.
Truth is, you can have kids who are well behaved in public and always wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, but not without hard work. It takes consistency and training, and buckets of patience. The moment you see your son share his treat with his sister without you asking him to is a beautiful thing.
“Her children rise and call her blessed…”
4. But it is all worth it
Please (attempt to) find the balance between training them day in and day out and allowing them to just be kids. Their wonder of the world around them is something they can never get back as they grow older. Get in the dirt with them. Get flour on your face with them. Play in the clean laundry mountain with them. Enjoy the mess God has blessed you with.
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.”- 1 Peter 4:11
5. It’s going to cause you to lean hard into the Lord.
Do you notice how when you think you know how to handle something, you are less likely to rely on the Lord? I think at the beginning of your motherhood journey you looked at your baby, you looked at the Lord, and said, “Hey, I got this,” and shoved him aside.
But the more you get to know about raising a tiny human (who is not a robot and doesn’t do everything you want it to at the touch of a button), THAT’S when you finally run to Jesus.
That’s when you can admit that you haven’t the slightest idea of the best way to parent your kid. And you just might mess it up if you’re not too careful. And you now know that you need the Creator and His infinite wisdom, grace, and more.
The God who created her in your womb knows every hair on her head. He knows the intricacies of her personality and her giftings and her weaknesses. HE can lead you to what is best for her. And best of all, Your Father wants to walk with you as you lead her to Him.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
So, be kind to yourself, enjoy the mess, and enjoy not having it all together.