Mothering can be the best, and the hardest work you may ever do, but it’s easy to make it even harder than it should be. I’m concerned that in the midst of the daily grind that it’s easy to forget some of the foundational pieces.
It can almost be like a Jenga tower, you know, the game where you remove small blocks from a tower, trying to leave the foundational blocks in place. As you remove the blocks the tower looses more and more integrity, until finally someone takes out a key block that just shouldn’t be removed and the whole thing collapses. Following are a few of the mothering foundation blocks that I think can be easy for us to pull out of our tower without even knowing it.
- We get caught up in moving task to task, crisis to crisis and don’t look at the larger picture. Regularly take a minute to step back and think through what’s going on. What are your parenting goals for this phase of life? Are you stuck on just trying to keep everyone from killing themselves and each other or do you have the larger picture in mind? Spend some time thinking through parenting goals (as a couple if possible). Pick no more than five. Ours would have looked like this; that our children would recognize their need for God and love Him, that they would be respectful of authority, that they would be kind, that they would be honest, and that we would work to help them become creative individuals. With your goals in mind look at your day with new eyes, what are you actively doing to help you and your children meet your goals.
- Be careful not to abdicate your parental authority. Are your children disrespectful? Do they refuse to do what you say when they are first asked, requiring you to escalate the situation? Do they shout at you and call you names? These can all be symptoms of a problem with your children not understanding authority. I’ve seen several incidents lately like this and I’m concerned that parents either don’t seem to understand that their authority, welded properly, can be a great blessing to their families or they seem to think that it is better to be their child’s buddy than their parent. No matter how much children test authority, or how upset they seem to be by having restrictions and rules enforced, they need you to be their parent and not their buddy. You do not lose their love and respect by loving discipline, you lose it by fearing to discipline, being inconsistent, being unduly harsh, or by frequently waiting until you are angry to discipline.
- For the last fifty or sixty years there has been a lie circulating that mothering is a mindless activity that anyone can do. It’s true that you don’t need a high IQ to mother effectively, but I do believe that by careful engaging your intellect and using it to study your children, your marriage and your life you can be a better mother. “Why” shouldn’t only be a question that your two year old repeatedly asks, it should be a question you frequently ask too. Why is your three year old suddenly afraid of the dark, why are you feeding your children the same three or four foods over and over, why are your older children at each other throats? I’m not promising you’ll easily find the answers, but by asking the questions and also asking if your problem has a spiritual component, you’ve made a good beginning. Do you need wisdom? Pray about it. God says in James 1:5 that “If you need wisdom ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. NLT” Why not try this out, ask God to give you wisdom in an area of your parenting and then wait on Him to answer. Keep your eyes open, He doesn’t always answer in a way that we expect, it could be that you fall into conversation with a friend and she just happens to have a resource you need or you open a new parenting book and see a chapter on just the question you’ve been asking. It could even be answered when one of the parenting blogs you read just happens to have a new post dealing with your exact challenge.
- I’ve left what I consider the most important foundational block to good mothering for last. The most important building block, in my opinion, is the state of your own spirit and soul. What are you doing to feed yourself? Your mothering will only be as healthy as you are (and I don’t mean physically – lots of women who are hugely challenged physically are great moms). We can be challenged by hard life circumstances, but through choosing to have thankful hearts (Phil. 4:6), seeking God (Matthew 6:33), and choosing forgiveness over bitterness (Hebrews 12:15) we can still be at peace in our souls. Another factor in our spiritual and soul health is finding good positive support and mentoring. We were never meant to do mothering alone. It really is a group sport. Find a good “team” to be on and get the support you need to flourish and keep on keeping on.