In the last few years, I have had the great privilege of discipling a few younger women in my church. Their joyful and eager spirits have been life giving to me, and our relationships have provided a new ministry purpose in my current home-oriented season of raising small children. Now, these friendships are adding a new chapter: motherhood. Today, almost all of these dear girls are either expecting their first child or enjoying that precious first year.
There is much preparation for all that happens between the positive pregnancy test to the first birthday. Yet, the experience of motherhood is unique to each mother and child, and nearly impossible to predict. A recent Time magazine article, “Motherhood Is Hard to Get Wrong. So Why Do So Many Moms Feel So Bad About Themselves?”, featured an extensive survey of new mothers and dove deep into the decision-making processes that mothers face during those days. It also discussed the emotional, and I would add spiritual, difficulties of motherhood as more than 70 percent responded that they feel societal pressures about those choices. The survey found that “half of all new mothers had experienced regret, shame, guilt or anger, mostly due to unexpected complications and lack of support.”
I empathized with many of their stories and the guilt the women had experienced. As my friends are preparing for motherhood, we talk regularly about pregnancy symptoms, labor and delivery, and sleep schedules, but I also want to be sure to discuss the spiritual challenges of bringing a baby into a home.
Some of these lessons were shared by those ahead of me, and some of them I learned by doing it completely wrong or being caught unaware by temptation. All of these words are covered in prayer and given with grace for those early, sleepless, and hormonal days. With that in mind, I want you to know:
- This is your calling. Ladies, this is it. If God gives you children, this is the primary calling of your life. You will have many other important callings and ministries, but the call to your family is one only you can fulfill. Every call of Scripture, every word of encouragement, every expression of the biblical community will be cast in a new light as you become a parent. God has planned this for you (Ps. 139:16), and he will equip you for this (Heb.13:21). Yet, you will be tempted to look for purpose, identity, and fulfillment in other, more visible or seemingly more exciting ministries as the years pass by. Never let the call to love and serve your family fall in line behind something else. The triumphant mark of a life well lived in Proverbs 31 is that her children call her “blessed,” and her husband praises her. The family watches all the good works of this woman, and those relationships matter unlike anything else.
- Everyone does it differently. Each tribe of mothers (and fathers) has a book or a parenting philosophy that is shared as if it were the gospel. It’s not. I love to share things that were helpful to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to raise your child. No two families have the exact same set of circumstances. Whether it’s sleep-training methods or preferences on childcare, understand that everyone does it differently. Let that free you and your husband to make decisions about what is best for your family as God guides you (2 Cor. 13:7).
- You are not the exception. Beware of the temptation of resentment, which is so powerful and so dangerous. It is easy to play the comparison game with other mothers, other children, and even other husbands. Job 5:2 says it plainly, “Resentment kills a fool” (NIV). The apostle Peter wrote, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12). Parenting is not always a fiery trial, but Peter understands that we are encouraged by the commonality of difficulty in the Christian experience. So many families have difficult circumstances, such as a parent with an unusual schedule or demanding job. Even in the most difficult days or seasons, God will always provide what you need (2 Pet. 1:3).
- Your baby can become your idol. You will be doing one of the most honorable and noble works of your life in caring for an infant. Feeling successful at keeping that little person alive and growing is thrilling. Feeling like a failure can be devastating. Your highs and lows will be unlike any previous experience. Hello hormones! It will be so easy for your identity, purpose, and joy to be found in him or her, allowing the baby into spaces of your heart that only God should occupy. When the baby becomes your idol, many other parts of your life become distorted—your marriage, your emotional health, your participation in the Christian community, and more. Talking about how you are feeling, spending time in the Scriptures, and making time for a spiritual life are your best defenses.
When the baby becomes your idol, many other parts of your life become distorted.
But, the best advice I can give is to cling to Jesus, even if it’s just by whispering that you trust him as you hold your child. My heart is thrilled to think of this love that you will know. You will be given an opportunity like never before to see God’s goodness. It will be in your heart, and it will be in your arms. The common grace for every mother is palpable, but as a believer, you can use this time to worship God with a new understanding of who he is and how he loves you. Don’t let the worries or chaos of the season get in the way of the joy. God will use the journey of parenting to change you—for the better.