I would love to encourage you with a couple major points I’ve learned and that I use to continuously keep myself on track and encouraged as a young mother.
- Children are a blessing and never a hindrance
This was a serious battle I had to overcome in my journey of motherhood. I walked across the stage of my college graduation at 21 years old and three months pregnant. Although I was excited about what was to come, I’m ashamed now of all the time I wasted dwelling on all the things I couldn’t do as a mother. I saw my friends traveling, partying, and staying up late pursuing careers and dreams, and I hated that that wasn’t my life anymore. I was too immature and self-centered to appreciate the gift and responsibility of being a mother.
“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”—James 1:16-17
Without a doubt, my daughter was “good and perfect,” innocent, and pure; therefore, a precious gift from the Father. There was nothing about her that needed to be changed; it was me. She was and is always the blessing, but I needed to change my heart and mind in order to truly cherish her as such. So I did, through lots and lots of prayer.
- Prayer transforms your heart
Praying saved me as a mother. I wanted to be nurturing, patient, sensitive, and really have fun embracing the 24/7/365 duties of taking care of Grace, but some women are not born with that. I truly envied women who had a natural patience and gentleness with their kids. I was off the chain as a kid, so naturally my child is as well, and I know I don’t always have the calmness I should, but I did have a genuine desire for it, so I prayed that God would help me. That I would be intentional in slowing down to enjoy the little quirks about Grace; that I wouldn’t be so hurried that I couldn’t take however much time she wanted to draw or play with play-doh; that I wouldn’t get so anxious about messes being made. Ultimately, I desired to live an unhurried life where I didn’t nag my child so much! And that’s what I got. It was obviously a process, but one where I really had to look at myself and ask God to change the things that were keeping me from being the mother I wanted to be.
Yes, she still bounces around like the energizer bunny and is sassy as ever but I have fun with teaching her without chastising her. She’s more confident, and so am I because I know I’m leading her with love, and I’m not screwing her up emotionally. Like I said before, children are never the problem. We have to realize that whatever bad habits we see in them that we don’t like, we must fix within ourselves because they had to learn it from somewhere.
- My daughter is a mirror that reflects everything I am
Children reflect only what they continuously see. Grace is me down to my mannerisms and facial expressions because she is by my side every single day. If impatience is something I struggle with, she will inadvertently pick up those same anxious habits and that is the last thing I want. Seeing the fruits of holy spirit in my life is so important because those are the qualities I want her to possess: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).
Children are literally pure and untainted when they come into this world but are shaped by the people who nurture them—that is such a major responsibility. My peace, shapes her peace; my response to hurts, shapes how she responds; my kindness and goodness shapes hers. I don’t want my daughter to have to waste time as an adult unlearning habits that she picked up from me because I wasn’t a proper example. And obviously as she learns and is exposed to more things on her own, she will develop things (good or bad) without my input, but it is up to me to build her foundation.
- Take joy in every small victory
I don’t believe anyone goes into motherhood completely prepared. No matter how many books you’ve read or baby classes you attend, there are just some things you don’t learn or adjust to until you’re actually on the job. And that’s fine. You’re going to get some things wrong the first time, and honestly any mother that’s keeping it real will tell you that 50% of taking care of children’s physical needs is trial and error! What food combos do they like? Trial and error. What hair products are getting us through? Trial and error. I wonder if this laundry detergent is what’s making Grace itch so bad? Trial and error. Don’t beat yourself up about what you don’t know or may be getting wrong but take joy in mastering the small things that will be big things later.
I will never forget learning this lesson almost a year ago when I was visiting my family. At this particular time, I was trying to cut back on the amount of juice Grace was drinking. Grace and I had multiple melt-downs about apple juice leading up to this to the point where I felt like this was just going to be an ongoing battle. Anyway, I’m in the shower and my sister offers Grace apple juice with her breakfast and my baby says, “No, I know my mom wouldn’t want me to have that right now. Let me go ask if it’s ok.” Y’all, when my sister told me this I almost cried. Lol. Small victories people, small victories. Not only did she reject the opportunity for juice, but she thought about what I would want when I wasn’t in the room, and that made me so freaking proud! That may be little to some, but at the time it reassured me that I was doing something right. Being a mother is selfless work that never ends and sometimes we need reassurance that we’re even doing this thing right—I believe God reassures us in small moments like these.
- Create your own normal
This is a concept I’m learning more recently. I was always an emotional and imaginative child, and as an adult that has shown itself in me restricting myself to ways of life that I only thought about in my limited view of the world. The way I looked at motherhood, family, relationships, etc. was all built around what I imagined would be perfect, but that’s not how any of this works. Every family is different and considers the factors that are important to their life when raising their children. That means every child doesn’t have to go to private schools, not every child eats all organic homemade snacks or maybe they do, some children have the opportunity to travel and be taught at home, other parents may enjoy and thrive when there is more routine and less spontaneity—there is no wrong way! The only right way is to consult Holy Spirit before making decisions. I’ve learned to talk to Grace and really hear her when she tells me what she likes and doesn’t (within reason) because that sheds light on how her little mind is putting the pieces together of what is happening around her.
Perfection only exists in Jesus. None of us will ever compare, so I pray that this encourages a mom to just do her best and to not worry about trying to be a “perfect” mother because there is no such thing. Grace yourself today and everyday, and pray for guidance about everything else.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7