Being a mom is overwhelming, underappreciated, relentless, monotonous, unpaid, unglamorous work. I am on call 24/7, and that means when my child is vomiting in his bed at 3 a.m., not only do I have to get out of my own warm bed, clean up his stomach contents and change his pajamas, I also have to let him sleep in my bed with me, breathing his sickly breath in my face.
I have stretch marks and permanent love handles. Parts of me will never look the same without professional help. As of this month, I have been either pregnant, breast-feeding, or pregnant and breastfeeding at the same time, for three complete years. My life is not my own. I answer to the beck and call of three immature, demanding, high-maintenance people who don't understand the rules of fair play or the value of alone time.
I am a servant, nurse, toy mechanic, chef, P.E. teacher, discipliner, narrator, laundress, and personal assistant. Even when they go to bed--which is a complete routine involving books, songs, back-scratching, prayers, medication, and diaper changes--my work is not near finished. There are still loads of laundry to be folded, toys to put back in their homes, highchair trays to clean, and boys' bathroom toilets that need to be wiped down. It is an unending cycle that at times can be frustrating, exhausting, unrewarding.
And if I looked at my life through those eyes all the time, I'd be bitter, irritable, and negative. I would be impossible to live with, and my children would grow up feeling like they were obligations, rather than gifts from God bestowed on me for a brief period of time. There is so much out there that says I am living life as a doormat if I don't fight for my rights! Demand me-time! Make my husband help with the chores! Have my own checking account!
I live in this world, but this world does not live in me. Mottos like Have it your way! don't work for me. Instead, in a paradox that this world scoffs, Jesus says, Have it My way! Not your will, but Mine! If you want to have a life, you have to give yours up! Be the servant, not the served! I don't know of many opportunities outside motherhood that allow me to lay down my life more fully. When I'm tempted to chafe at the constant demands and occasional indignities, I hear a still, small voice gently reminding me that I am the clay; He is the potter. He is using stomach viruses, sibling rivalry, and high-maintenance children to shape me into something much more beautiful than I am now. If only I'll let Him have His way.
At the same time, I am teaching my children the crucial lessons of having patience, taking turns, and serving each other. They are learning that family is a gift, and if we bite our brother, he will not want to play with us. In the same moment, they learn that even a wide-jawed, skin-breaking bite mark doesn't break the strong bonds of brotherhood.
Sometimes I blow it. God hands me an opportunity to develop kindness, patience, and gentleness; instead I react with anger, irritation, harsh words. In those moments, my children see that even adults need repentance, and they learn how to forgive. He is the Redeemer, able to teach them through my weaknesses.
What a beautiful, many-colored gift motherhood is. It is something nobody can be adequately prepared for, no matter how many parenting classes and books are consumed. On some days, my children may not get bathed, eat nutritious food, or be read to, but if I've spent some time snuggling and speaking softly-spoken words, all is well. When I take the time to remember that interruptions are God's method of working on this canvas of my life, that my life is not my own, I feel the rays of His pleasure breaking over me.
Motherhood is a permanent tattoo on my soul. I am a mom, and I will never be the same. Even stretch marks are worth that.