“I don’t think I really realized how hard those first few months of motherhood were until now. People told me over and over, ‘It gets so much easier.’ But I never believed anyone in my hormonal, sleep-deprived state when I had a constantly crying and colicky baby who wanted to be held every second of the day. So, I’m here to tell whoever needs to hear it that it does indeed get so much easier (even though she still wakes up 3+ times a night!) It may not seem like it, but one day you’ll wake up and realize, ‘Ah ha! This is what people mean when they say kids are the best thing ever.’ I finally get it.” (My daughter Julie made this Facebook post when her baby–their first–was ten months old.)
Another mom responded to one of my blogs with similar feelings about the challenges of motherhood: “I am so extremely tired from all that goes into staying home with my four little girls (ages 6, 4, 2, and 6 months.) Thank you for sharing the ‘why’s’ and a larger perspective than the ‘here and now’ of being with them. This is definitely a long-term investment with an unknowable return.”
Raising children is definitely plain old hard work. In my 35 years of motherhood, I have made 38,000 meals; done at least 10,000 loads of laundry; driven kids to more than 10,000 lessons, games, practices, and youth group meetings; changed diapers over 30,000 times (we were one of the last hold-outs on cloth diapers); and have had well over 4,000 nights of disrupted sleep due to crying babies or middle-of-the-night diabetic blood-sugar checks. That does not count the frequent feelings I have had of inadequacy, exhaustion, failure, and being overwhelmed that every mother feels at times.
How can children be a blessing in light of those facts? If they are truly a blessing, shouldn’t this “motherhood thing” be fun and easy? How can God say children are a gift and reward when they are so much work? Why aren’t human babies like baby sharks which are self-sustainable at birth? Or at least like giraffe babies who walk within two minutes of birth?
We don’t understand God’s ways. He, the wise and good Creator, designed babies. He could have designed them to be totally self-sufficient at birth—able to feed and clothe themselves, get around by themselves, not needy of anything. Instead, He made them totally dependent on us for everything–I mean everything! And we spend hours a day nursing our babies. How confining and limiting! What was God thinking?
Maybe it’s His way of telling us that giving ourselves to the care of our children is His good and perfect will–in spite of the hard work. This phrase comes to mind: It is hard to kick against the goads. This Greek proverb was familiar to anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, resulting in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered.
Nothing good comes easy. Every great accomplishment takes huge amounts of time, work, energy, and attention. Talk to any great politician, musician, or athlete—they all paid a huge price for success. Being good mothers and raising whole children requires nothing less. Maybe it’s time we quit “kicking against the goads” and start yielding to God’s perfect design. Embrace the hard work required in raising children.
View nursing as a good reminder of what is important in life. Before the advent of formula and bottles, nursing guaranteed that a mother stay close by her baby–again, God’s design. The hours we spend nursing our infants sow a multitude of valuable things into their little spirits that translate into their knowledge of God. They learn that ever-present mom is always there to meet their needs–just as God is present. Psalm 22:9 tells us that we learn to trust when upon our mother’s breast. Trust is one of the key stages of development that contributes to us becoming whole people who can in turn become world-changers.
As I have mentioned before, God uses all the hard work and sacrifice of raising children to deal with our flesh and conform us more to His image. Surrender. It’s in that place of sweet surrender that we find God’s peace and joy.
P.S. Pictured above is my grandson Leon Paul Engelhardt when he was only a few days old–the epitome of a newborn’s helplessness. He is now an active, inquisitive seven-year-old boy who is out to change the world. All the hard work David and Bethany are putting into raising him will be well worth the effort!