Thursday, August 16, 2018

Motherhood is full of pain

I'm not a natural mother. Perhaps the phenomenon of a “natural mother” does not exist but culturally the idea thrives and makes mothers all around the world feel guilty.

I thought I would love motherhood. Not every second, of course. No one loves everything all the time. But I had the general idea that while the road would be rocky at times, most of the parenting process would be straightforward and rewarding. I thought I would just “know what to do” when my child threw tantrum or peed on the floor. I thought that after birth, when I brought my beautiful child into the world, things would just fall into place and the cogs would turn as they do in well-oiled machinery. In short, I didn't plan.

Instead what I found of motherhood (so far, in my three years) is a lot of work and very little reward. My cogs are broken, if I am supposed to have them.The edges are all worn off and they don't fit together anymore. What God has given me is a puzzle without all the pieces. I don't know what I am doing half the time and I exist in a perpetual state of desperate prayer and half-guesses. I feel always behind and shortchanged. I look about for rest, and find none. I look about for my compensation for the hours of work—and find, usually, a hungry husband awaiting his supper at the table. The rewards of motherhood seem scant, at least the kind of rewards I can hold in my hand and tangibly see.

I am tired. I work from dawn to dusk. There are always tasks unfinished. There are always small moments missed where I should have pointed my child to Jesus but didn't. There are the failures I count over in my head as I am nursing the baby to sleep, if I have any thoughts left to spare in my exhaustion. There is the guilt. I didn't do well enough. I lost my temper. I cried. We watched too much TV. I didn't take him to the park. I didn't reach out to my friends.

Motherhood to me seems like a lot of lonely moments and missed opportunities measured against my guilty shortcomings. Who in their right mind would chose this life? It's hard. And as I said above, motherhood does not come naturally to me: it's a lot of hard work. It's not fulfilling, it's not rewarding: at least not in worldly rewards like money.

That is because the rewards of motherhood are not of this world. God didn't write “raise up your children and you will feel fulfilled and be richly blessed”. Because motherhood does not fulfill me on any sort of human, worldly level.

The rewards of motherhood are all spiritual. I am learning about God while raising my children. God is pruning my branches as I traverse toddler-hood. The heavenly father is teaching me patience, gentleness, kindness and humility. And I must submit to his will and to his teaching: not fight him for what I think I should have or how I think motherhood should look.

While on Earth motherhood is a lot of grief as you watch your child go through trials of all kinds and generally fail at making good God-honoring decisions. Our children, like their parents before them, live in a fallen world. They are subject to the whims of their own sin nature.

Thus we mothers sit here in perpetual prayer for the safekeeping of our offspring, daily beseeching God to keep them safe. Safe from themselves. Safe from vices, cancers, drunk drivers, abusive relationships...the list goes on and on and nothing is more broken than a mother's heart when we see our children hurt, be it physically or emotionally. Yet we must bear it.

While motherhood is mostly a world of heartache here at our temporary home on Earth: the abounding spiritual gifts of motherhood overflow! So do not despair, dear lonely mother. The joy of the Lord is everlasting, even in the midst of sorrow of hardship.