Psalms 127:3-5 “Children are an heritage of the Lord… Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”
I was the youngest of four children so there was never a baby sibling for me to tend. My family moved to Asia for a few years and because of our sheltered expatriate experience, I only had the opportunity to baby sit once until we returned to the States.
Unfortunately, by the time we settled in to our new home, I had lost interest and can count on one hand all the times I was employed to watch someone else’s children.
Nevertheless, I still looked forward to motherhood. I knew that, according to all my church lessons growing up, I would find my greatest joys in raising a family.
I married when I was twenty and had my first baby when I was twenty-one. We weren’t fortunate enough to have immediate family close by, so we navigated the jungles of our new parenthood pretty much on our own. I never realized it could be so tough.
Naturally, I had a hard time adjusting to the demands of caring for a new baby; after all, I had scarcely ever cared for a toddler. I’m convinced that there was never a person more UNprepared for motherhood as I. Never had I been required to think more of someone else’s needs than my own for such an extended (um…eternal) period of time. I was overwhelmed and felt as though I was losing my identity.
Ironically, I got pretty good at handling one child just in time for a second one to arrive. It seemed that as our family grew, I learned to manage the number of children I had, just as our numbers increased again by one. With the arrival of a new baby, life was back to mayhem all over again for approximately two years until I learned to handle the new responsibility of yet another child.
For any woman who has reared at least one child, or who has ever babysat a handful of active youngsters, she knows that getting six children ready for church in the morning could be a real challenge; especially when all but the baby are still in Primary.
One morning was particularly frustrating because it was Mother’s Day and I wasn’t feeling very good about how the day was going. I tried not to expect too much special treatment, just in case it didn’t happen. After all, I knew that the children were too young to understand that I honestly didn’t want a picture for the fridge or a weed-flower from the yard; all I wanted was for them to do the things they were supposed to do, without my nagging. For Mother’s Day, couldn’t the house be orderly and the dishes done and breakfast made without me, for one measly day out of the year?
I’m sure my husband made breakfast and did his best to make the morning special. But in spite of it all, I found myself having a pity party that things weren’t absolutely perfect, nor would they ever be. To think that this was just the way it was going to be, probably FOREVER, was terribly discouraging and I moped around, banging cupboard doors and griping at anyone in my path.
Somehow we managed to get everyone out the door and in the car for church, probably ten minutes behind our preferred departure time. I breathed deeply, trying to shake the negativity and prepare myself for sacrament meeting.
Then there came a little four year-old voice from behind. Everyone had been pretty silent, trying not to set me off further, so this tender voice was clearly heard by everyone in the car.
“It’s Happy Mother’s day, Mom… so… you have to be happy.”
I smiled, looked at my husband, and we both started to chuckle. Then my tears flowed.
So it was. It was Happy Mother’s day, and here I was a mother. By mere virtue of
the calling, I should be happy. Hearing my son’s hopeful reminder instantly softened my heart and I finally began once again to feel the joy which was always meant to accompany my role. Happiness was not meant to come through having a perfectly orderly home, at least during the early years. I was reminded of a wooden sign in a friend’s home which said, “Cleaning the house while the kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowing” (Author unknown).
Another reminder comes from this wonderful poem:
Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,Lullaby, rockabye, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peek-a-boo
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullaby, rockaby lullaby loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
– Ruth Hulbert Hamilton
Joy does not come from an orderly home so much as it should come through the sweet and tender relationships with my family members. Through my little boy’s words, I was reminded that motherhood is truly synonymous with happiness, when I am able to just relax and take time to smell their precious gifts of Mother’s Day flowers and enjoy their homemade pictures on the fridge.
For more about Rare Faith and motherhood, click here for Moms, Guilt, and Balance.