Sometimes motherhood feels exhilarating. And if we’re honest, sometimes it feels like being poked to death by plastic spoons. Like fighting the battle of Thermopylae with a team of Barbie dolls. You want to hear a true confession? This morning when I asked my kids what they want to be when they grow up, my four-year-old blurted, “I want to be a mommy!” and for one millisecond, all I could think was, “Why??”
Of course it was flattering. She wants to be me. But the truth is, some days I don’t even want to be me! Being me–and I’m sure being you–is hard work. It can be thankless work, lonely and menial. And it can be joyful work, rewarding and energizing. But always, it is work in that it requires a reservoir of strength, persistence, and dedication–sometimes with giggles and marshmallow crafts, and sometimes with migraines and diarrhea diapers.
Perhaps the hardest work of motherhood is the work done not with our hands, but our hearts. This work starts at conception, the moment we begin to love the life growing inside of us. It is the work of entrusting back to God what He has entrusted to us. The work of passionate affection and painful surrender. Of giving a faithful God our most fragile treasure. Of lessons slow learned, and victories hard won. It is the work of prayer and tears, of snapshot moments sealed in our souls, and quiet hopes for the future. One day, it will be the work of letting go. The work of college applications and bridal gowns and empty bedrooms that once wore butterfly quilts. And already I know that on that day, I will long to trade such work for ten thousand diarrhea diapers.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, (and) difficulty.” Which makes me think, maybe it’s okay to admit motherhood requires gargantuan effort. Maybe it’s okay to admit it’s painful and difficult. Perhaps motherhood isn’t worthwhile in spite of the difficulty, but because of it. Like a farmer who pours his blood, sweat, and tears into his land, we pour all of ourselves into our children. And when we think there’s nothing left to give, we give a little more. And motherhood becomes beautiful because over the years we have wrestled all the rocks and roots out of that stubborn land, and we have made it valuable.
You know what I find amazing? The fact that in spite of her Oscar the Grouchy mom, my four-year-old daughter already recognizes the beauty and value of motherhood. She sees some of the work–the plowing, and planting, and sweating, and crying. But she focuses on the fruit. The cradling, and kissing, and singing, and smiling. And when I look at motherhood through her eyes, I find that I’m grateful to be a mom. And especially, to be her mom.
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