I’ve been in Atlanta all week with my husband.
We’re here half for ministry (for me), part for work (for him), and part for some quality time with just us two. We left on the heels of hosting my family all the way from Zambia. In fact, seven of my siblings, my mom, and my dad are back in our eighteen hundred square foot home with our sons.
I should be laying in a hotel bed binging Parks and Rec with my husband. And I will be soon. But I have something to say about motherhood and mom guilt.
That’s What You Get For Sharing
Two days ago, I wrote a post on Instagram about how, even though I know the ministry I’m doing is valuable work, I really (really really really really) miss my children. Even though I should be enjoying being able to rest and breathe without two small people literally riding my back, I’ve actually spent the majority of my free time scrolling through pictures of those small people and showing anyone who will look just how adorable these children are and how utterly rewarding motherhood is.
In response to this post, more than one person commented to let me know that my primary ministry is my family, no one can replace me as my children’s mother, and that I will never get the beautiful days with my little people back. One person even told me that given the way she knows I was raised (I’m assuming to be a wife and mother), my post about being away from my kids made her just plain sad.
Before you read any further, I know that the best way to avoid commentary on my life choices is to keep them off the Internet. If that’s the way you live your life, I say without a hint of sarcasm or snark: I applaud you. But for those of you who do share on social media…
Here’s What Young Moms Know About Motherhood
We all know that motherhood can be hard but rewarding. If we don’t know, there is no shortage of Target mugs, hilarious memes, or well-meaning older women on the street corners to tell us.
We also know that everyone from the older woman on the street corner to the young mom in our Bible study group, to any number of women who read what we share on social media, has an opinion on how we choose to mother those difficult yet rewarding children.
We know that there are moms who judge us if we’re too much of a hot mess, too put together, or too middle-of-the-road. Your house can be too clean as well as too dirty. Your parenting style can be too lax as well as too helicopter-y. Did you know that crunchy moms are putting their kids’ lives in danger? Or that moms who vaccinate actually hate their children?
I bet you did. Of course, you did. You open social media without knowing these things.
Here’s What We Don’t Know
Did you know that there are people out there who would rather come over and clean your kitchen so you can play with your kids than judge how dirty our kitchen is?
How about that there are people who will literally come fold your laundry so that you can take a nap with that nursing baby sprawled across your chest?
Did you know that there are people who will bring you dinner so you can read your child a book without worrying if the broccoli is burning?
Did you know there are women who will offer rebukes and encouragement about motherhood that will change your life?
They are rare, but they do, indeed, exist. And in the true heart of Titus 2, they are usually the people who are doing life right alongside you, not the ones who are commenting from the wings of the Internet.
I have been a mother for less than half a decade. There is so much that I still have to learn about motherhood. I am not a professional on this motherhood journey, and if I am not open to learning from older, wiser mothers along the way, then I am foolish in every sense of the word.
But as a young mother and a sister in Christ, I can tell you that the best possible way to give and receive reproof is in the context of life-on-life community. From people who know and love you and have shown how much they know and love you.
From people who, for instance, know that I am a mostly-stay-at-home-mom who takes three or four trips a year without my kids. They know that I literally take them to work with me and have a job where I breastfed my youngest between classes. They know that my own mother is at home with those children, soaking up this week with them because she only sees them twice a year.
And they know that I should be spending time with my husband instead of letting random Internet folks stress me out.
I’m not saying there’s a certain amount of time you should spend with your kids every single day, a certain amount of trips you can take, or a certain amount of hours you can work before you become a bad mom. That would be legalistic and arbitrary (and take the time that I don’t have while being a mother myself). Your life might look completely different than mine.
So find someone who is in your life and can actually see your motherhood up close and personal; don’t gauge your motherhood by the opinions on the Internet.
Be The Change
Young mothers: find those people. And when they offer you a word of caution as a mother, you heed it. When they offer you a helping hand, you take it.
Old women: be those people. There is a young mom in your life right now who needs both the encouragement and the help. Your time would be so well-spent offering it to her. Motherhood is hard. You know it better than they do. So be a good spiritual mother.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for Legacy about friendship. In it, I tried to be as honest as possible about the struggle of being a transplant in Mississippi’s foreign culture, and my own hang-ups with making new friends. I hit send. Weeks passed. A couple of months. Then the article went live. And I had more than one friend reach out to me and ask me if we were okay. “I thought we were friends!” Undercover Trust Issues I’m not a journaler, and I try not to use my articles as thinly veiled diary entries. However, there…