A few weeks ago I shared a question I’ve been wrestling with over the past several months — Do I see motherhood as a burden or a blessing? — and ended that post with a challenge-of-sorts to myself:
Like the Lord who loves me (and is, in all things, a perfect parent), I am trying to take great delight in my children, and to rejoice over them. More than anything, I’m writing to remind myself to daily choose to put on tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and to hopefully, one choice at a time, transform my wearing of motherhood from a burden to a blessing.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the original post yet, do that first, because this is the follow-up. It’s easy to say that I’m trying to do things differently, make better choices, and live in a new way, but we all know that if there are no practical steps in place, nothing will change. So here are a few things I’m *trying* to implement in my life, to help me transform the burden to a blessing:
Make time for myself.
This is obviously not an original thought. Even though I’ve seen many inspirational images with this sentiment lately, I’ve found that it is much easier said than done. I have learned that if I take the time to do something for myself, by myself, I am much more patient and ready to meet my kids’ needs. For me, this looks like setting my alarm for 5:15 am, so that I can get up and have time to read my Bible and journal before my littles get up at 6. (This doesn’t always happen, and boy can I tell the difference in myself when I choose to sleep in instead!) In some seasons, it has meant running or taking a bike ride in the afternoon. Sometimes, it means reading in my pool on the big flamingo float while the kids nap. Whatever and whenever it is, take the time to remember who you are outside of being a snack-providing, shoe-tying, problem-solving, carpool-coordinating mom.
Use my words.
How many times have I said this to my kids? It applies to us mamas, too. I have scripture art in most rooms of my home so that on those days, I am reminded of who I am and whose I am. I also have a few key phrases that help me shift my thinking and allow me to respond to my kids with mercy and kindness, instead of frustration:
- My child is not giving me a hard time, she is having a hard time.
- Little people have big emotions.
- Connection over correction. (Sometimes all it takes is a hug to set me and my kid(s) back on track).
I have realized over the past few months how often my kids ask me to play with them, and how often I tell them “in just a minute,” “when I’m done with dinner,” “after I put the dishes away,” etc. etc. Play time with our kids is so important for so many reasons, but in our hectic lives, it often gets pushed to the back burner. Now, I’m trying to set aside time as soon as we get home in the afternoon/evening, just to play. I’m leaving the backpacks that need to be gone through and the lunchboxes that need to be washed on the counter, and going straight to play time. This is fully-engaged, phones down, lots of eye contact play time. Believe me, this is a struggle for my type-A personality when all I can think of is what needs to get done. But taking great delight in my children starts here, witnessing their delight as we play together. Mamas with older kids, your play might look different, but your kids still want you to engage with them in their interests!
In the moments when I am most frustrated, feeling burdened and weary, I am choosing to name what I am grateful for instead of muttering things under my breath. It feels silly at first — when the kids are engaged in a screaming tug-of-war match over who knows what now, and I say, “Thank you, Lord, for children who are healthy enough to fight with each other.” It may seem contrived, but it helps me to exhale just a little, and find a way to help them through their craziness, instead of joining in.
These practical steps are helpful, but I have realized that they mean absolutely nothing if I am not first resting in the love of our Heavenly Father. He is the one who gives me strength when I am at the end of my human abilities. When I allow His love — His never-ending, reckless love — to fill me, then I can parent out of the overflow. So on days when you have no time for yourself, no words to use, no time or capacity to play and are struggling to find something to be grateful for, here is the promise that we can all rest in:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
Keep on mamas. Bring those burdens to Jesus and find rest. And tomorrow, with His help and in His love, try again.