Isaiah 41:10 NRSV “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
If you are a woman, and you have a pulse, chances are you have received advice from welcomed and unwelcomed sources your whole life. When you were a girl, it was advice on how to be a lady, how to behave, what to say, what not to say, how to dress, how not to dress; as you got older, there was advice about your hair, jewelry, makeup, who to date, not to date, when to date, when to marry…You name it, and there is a woman out there giving you her advice. And if you are like me, you are trying to filter through all the “advice” and decide what is worth listening to, and what is not.
When you get married, the advice continues, from how to keep your home, how to keep you man, when to have children, how many children to have, where they should go to school, whether you should stay home, or work outside the home, which school to put you child in…the “advice” or rather, opinions, continue.
I was sleep deprived, postpartum, and alone
When I was a new mom, I was a little overwhelmed by the changes that had taken place in my life. I was 20 years old, still a newlywed, had moved 1500 miles away from my family, given birth to my first baby, and was now a stay at home mom. I was sleep deprived, postpartum, and home alone with this tiny human being whose life depended on me. The sobering reality that I was now responsible for such a fragile human being was overwhelming.
What if I messed him up? What if I didn’t raise him right? Could I really do this? Have I mentioned that I was overwhelmed? Let me say it again, I was o-ver-whelmed.
I remember walking through Costco with my screaming child in my arms, bouncing and singing and patting his back, doing everything that I could to calm this child down. A mom leaned over and said, “Let the dishes go. Sleep when he sleeps.” Let’s just say, this advice was not well received. I held my tongue, but on the inside, I was fuming.
Instead of feeling supported, I felt judged
Now, in retrospect, this was not bad advice…and her intentions were good. But all I could think of was the mess that was my house, and my failure as a “good stay-at-home” mom. Instead of feeling supported, I felt judged. I was exhausted, and I felt like a failure. I thought of my mom, who raised 4 kids, worked outside the home, how hard she worked to keep our house clean, and how it seemed like the house was spotless. I thought of my mother-in-law who raised 5 kids, made excellent meals, and kept her house clean…they seemed to have it all together. And when I looked at myself, I didn’t see a mom with the kid whose clothes were immaculate, whose house was well kept, and whose hair and make-up were done. I just saw failure.
I mentioned I was postpartum and probably had postpartum depression, but I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was that I loved my husband, I loved my son, and I wanted to be the best wife and mom…and I was not.
Looking back on that time, if I could give myself advice, I would share what I know now about being a mom.
It’s OK to let others help.
1) Motherhood is a life-long journey. You will love, learn, succeed, fail, try again, laugh, cry, rejoice, ache, pray, defend and advocate for your child(ren) your entire life. You will never be perfect. You will always be you – so give your best, and let the Lord lead you in all things, big and small.
2) There is no manual, and there is no perfect mother. What works for someone else, may not work for you. Your child, your family is unique. Learn from your successes and failures, listen to the Lord’s promptings, and don’t doubt yourself. Believe in yourself, and lead your children with confidence.
3) The woman that seems to have it together, does not. Don’t be fooled, she is as insecure as you are. The woman that appears to have it all together, is usually only about appearances. If you could see into her heart, you would see someone a lot like you – a mom who loves her family, who is doing her best to be what her family needs her to be, and aching for a friend who is safe enough to let her guard down with, and who will love her as she is. Don’t judge her, be her friend.
4) You are enough. Whether by birth or adoption, your child was given to you, and you are the best mother for that child. There is no one better. As mothers, we are often our worst critic. Silence your inner critic, and listen to the voice of your Heavenly Father telling you who you were created to be.
You are enough
5) It’s ok to let others help. I remember feeling guilty the first time my husband and I left our son with my mom-in-law for the first time. I felt like I was abandoning him. Momma, your needs are still important. If you are blessed to have family and friends that are willing to love and care for your little one, while you take a much needed break, it’s okay to let them help. You are not a failure. You are not a bad mom. You are showing your child, even at a young age, that they are surrounded by people that love them, that will protect them, and that will support them throughout their life. That is what family does. They help each other, they love each other, and they take care of each other.
6) Hold on to hope. There will be times when you are scared, tired, angry, tired, weepy, tired, you may even feel alone, and one more thing…tired. I hope that you will be encouraged by Isaiah 41:10 NRS:
“Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
Hold on to hope Momma. Whatever your trial, whatever your hardship, whatever your struggle, you will get through it. God is with you. You will rejoice again.