Today I'm leaving you in the capable hands of my friend Ali, who wrote this wonderful piece about motherhood (it's based on a talk she gave for Mothers Day last Sunday).
I had always lived most of my life in my head. I was very cerebral. It was easy for me to skip meals because I was caught up in a book or work. Now all of a sudden my body was taken over by this little baby and the physicality of motherhood became a bigger and bigger reality. The kids have earthed me. My needs were given the lowest priority. My life now revolved around this little person who was dependent on me every moment of every day (and every night!). And that has now stretched into four little people who are jumping all over my body (from within and without) and relying on me to look after their physical and emotional needs. I've had to embrace so much more of life than I once did. I can't be a spectator anymore. I've had to get my hands dirty in the mess of life.
I remember one of the first lessons I learnt from motherhood was how selfish I was. Eden was not a great sleeper and I was inexperienced and unsure of myself. I was prepared and happy to get up to him once or twice during the night, but I resented being on call all the time. This was not the docile baby I had imagined! He kept crying for me and I felt this internal struggle between his needs and my needs. I knew I could project a loving mother image on the outside but here was my baby crying for me and in my heart I just didn't want to go to him.
It made me realize how frail and human I was. How much I needed to depend on something or someone stronger than me to be able to pour myself out into these children. Otherwise I would grow in resentment and be living on empty. I was not capable of unconditional love on my own.
Today, motherhood is either spurned or idolized. There are the celebrity mothers with their well dressed kids, eating organic food and saying their kids are their first priority. Or there are the career women who see children as an impediment to happiness and self fulfillment. And of course there are all sorts of shades in between. Motherhood is not as clear cut as people would like to have you believe.
Motherhood is confused. The mummy wars happen in every mothers group or blog space. There are fights over the best ways to raise kids. Over sleeping, feeding, schooling...any thing you can think of. The Time's front cover just highlighted this recently.
Motherhood doesn't just bring out our most tender and nurturing side. It brings out our judgmentalism and self centredness. I never knew becoming a mum was stepping into a battlefield of opinions and rights and wrongs about how to be the 'perfect mother'.
But what does God think? God created it. He values families. He values mothers. He holds mothers in high esteem. But families aren't the be all and end all. He is. Being a mother hasn't completed me. It is an amazing privilege and a joy but it's another way that God shows me that he is who truly completes me. It is God who gives me worth.
The kids are my gifts of sanctification. They know how to push my buttons; how to embarrass me and expose my idols. God uses them regularly to show me my need for him and my pathetic attempts to gain glory in my own strength. They parrot back to me wisdom from God I'd taught them when I don't want to hear it. They tell me I'm yelling all the time when I'm pushing them because I've crammed my days too full and I don't want to look bad. But they are also gifts of healing and grace. They see when I am sad and know when to give me a cuddle at just the right time. They tell me I look beautiful when I've just put on a dress or lipstick. They say I should go on master chef if I've cooked them toast and eggs. They tell me they love me and forgive me even though I've been harsh with them all day.
I have been profoundly blessed by having my four children and I love them beyond words. But I know that the love we share is only a glimpse of the amazing love that is found in God.
Becoming a mother has made it all the more clear to me the very best and worst of being human. It's shown me that we are a broken image of God and that by connecting with him we find our completeness and our hope for redemption.
He is my refuge when I fail my family yet again, or when they fail me.
When motherhood undoes me; it is God who remakes me.
image is by Gerald Yuvallos at flickr