Motherhood: The To-Do List

Posted by on Mar 16, 2013 in Bug & Bear | 0 comments


~ is when, at the end of a long day, you don’t want to play one more game of hide and seek, or chase, or tickle monster, or dress up, or spinning around and around in circles until your back might break, but you do it anyway because you do want your kids to feel loved, attended to, cherished.

~ is when, at the end of your emotional rope, you don’t have the energy for one more tantrum, or power struggle, or display of disrespect, or critique of your fabulous dinner, but you dig a little bit from deep down anyway because you do have your babies best interest at heart, their feelings are important to you, their hearts are so tender.

~ is when, in the wake of your worst mistakes, you don’t feel like facing yourself, or facing your children, or letting your heart be changed because it’s so very hard, but you do it anyway because you do feel your weight of responsibility to protect their spirits, to model good choices and behavior, to guard their well being in every way.

Motherhood. It is just so full of things to do. With virtually no way to gauge if you’re doing all there is to do well. A mother is a nurturer, teacher, disciplinarian, instructor, role model, playmate, question answerer, booboo kisser, helper, caretaker, housecleaner, cook, minor household repairwoman, major household repairwoman, stuffed animal surgeon, and the list goes on. That’s a lot of responsibilities, and this list doesn’t even touch on other relationships and obligations in her life, much less any time she may need to care for herself. It can be utterly overwhelming. The sheer volume of responsibilities and roles to perform can make a mother feel spread too thin and leave her with a sense of failing at the things she holds most dear.

The thing about motherhood, though, is that while there’s so very much to do, so very little of it is of all that much importance. Oh I know it seems like it’s all important, because if you don’t clean the house who will, and if its not clean then you’ve failed to provide a healthy home environment for your children, plus if the place looks terrible then your friends might judge when they come for play dates, and you might go a little crazy because the mess  – IT’S TOO MUCH. Breathe. It’s not important.

What is important in the job of motherhood is capturing and nurturing little hearts, discerning and calling out great destinies in little lives, building relationships with little people so that your influence is greater than the world’s. Because one day, those little babies so dependent on you are going to step out into the world in independence, and when they do, these are the things that matter. How clean your house was, how great your dinners were, even how perfectly you made them behave will not amount to much as they become their own people.

I have struggled with this idea and the relinquishing of control that it ultimately amounts to. That speech about calm down, it’s ok if you don’t clean your house this week, that was all for me. A couple years ago I started to notice that while juggling all of my responsibilities and all of my stress, I was failing at relationship. I was staying relatively successful at all of the peripherals like cooking, cleaning, rule enforcing, and routine, but I was too busy, too tired, too stressed to just be with my kids and really know them. I knew I was missing the whole point and I had to make a change.

I’ll confess that I don’t read much in the way of parenting books anymore because it took me so long to get out of my psychologically savvy head when I had my first child. Instead, when I face a parenting dilemma, I pray and ask God for an answer specific to my kids and our family. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with reading parenting books, I have personally just struggled with relying on head knowledge more than heart connection when it comes to raising my children. So in the wake of this realization that I was failing at relationship when I knew that relationship is all that really matters, I took my To Do list to God and asked Him to show me how to manage. I prayed through the overwhelming weight of responsibility and exhaustion that was crushing me, and this is how He reordered my list:

1. Clean the house on Monday each week, and only on Monday. I felt like I was caught in a never ending cycle of cleaning that never resulted in anything actually being clean. As insignificant as this sounds, it was stealing my time and energy from my girls, not to mention my sanity.  I’m not saying this is the right plan for everyone, just that when I asked He gave me the perfect solution for me that unloaded a ton of pressure. Now the girls and I clean the house together on Mondays, and whatever doesn’t get done waits until the following Monday. If you visit my house and it looks like a 2 and 4 year old cleaned it, well, now you know why.

2. Include the girls in my day to day activities. It seemed like in all of the busyness of taking care of my home and children there was no time for any of the things that keep me sane, like praying, running, and cooking. God showed me that there’s not much on my To Do list each day that my girls can’t do with me, and that involving them in all of my activities was a way to mentor them. They help clean the house on Monday, they’re involved in cooking dinner each night, they exercise with me, we pray together, and I even built in some time that we all quietly do our own thing. At times this is harder than doing my favorite things by myself, but most of the time we all enjoy doing these activities together and I see my girls’ confidence bloom when they realize they can be a part of things that grown ups do.

3. I only have two parenting objectives:

1. For my relationship with my kids to model what a relationship with God is like

2. For my parenting to cultivate God’s destiny in each of my children’s lives

Number 3 is what really turned my To Do list upside down. Gaining that understanding, that my job as a mother really just boils down to a To Do list of two things, revolutionized my mama world. It changed my focus and perspective and completely reordered my priorities. It’s a list of just two objectives, but they are abstract and non-specific, which is so perfect for me because it forces me to be dependent on God to reveal what this looks like from day to day.

According to this list, my most important task as a mother is to pray. Not cook or clean or control, but seek His guidance for each individual day and each individual child. For my relationship with my kids to model what a relationship with God is like, I have to have a relationship with God so that I know what it feels like to be parented by Him. For my parenting to cultivate God’s destiny in each of my children’s lives, I have to ask Him what that destiny is and what things are useful in guiding them towards it. Doing this leaves me feeling a lot less like I have to control or plan a certain way and a lot more inspired and excited to build relationships with my kids based on the unique insight and wisdom I’ve been given about them.

This entire process is wrapped in grace. I do this so imperfectly. I mess up a lot. I’m not following a To Do list published in a book or fabricated by an expert, I’m creating one that is unique to my family based on God’s expert leading and direction. I have to discern and listen and obey and sometimes my humanness gets in the way and I get it all wrong. As I take all of my mistakes and shortcomings back to God I am astounded by His great extension of grace to me, by His ability to bless my family in spite of my mistakes. This experience of grace in my worst moments as a mother did not just transform my To Do list, it changed my life. It showed me what grace and forgiveness look and feel like, and how I can extend grace to my kids in their humanness and shortcomings. If in the face of my worst parenting mistakes and failures God can stay in relationship with me, love me, give me grace and forgiveness, gently instruct me, teach me how to to it differently next time, and give me another chance, then I can know how to do the same for my children.

To Do List:

    1. Pray
    2. Obey
    3. Grace

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