Not everyone is a ‘born parent’.
Some of us – often of the female persuasion – have been waiting for years to become a parent – since we were young girls playing house. We have been eagerly anticipating that moment when we will finally bring that baby home, and we can comfortably step into the title we have longed to wear for ages: “Mother”.
But others of us have been quite enjoying the ‘child-less’ season. We have been enjoying pursuing a rewarding career, the freedom of being able to come and go as we please, to enjoy a quiet afternoon working or a romantic dinner out…or a long night of uninterrupted sleep! Sure, we would like to have children someday, but until then, we are fully enjoying the ‘freedom’ of not being responsible for another human being who is completely dependent on you.
I would fall into the latter category.
A year ago, after thoroughly enjoying three happy years of married life, we found out I was pregnant. We were certainly excited. It was the right timing. We were thankful for God’s gift. We were looking forward to it.
As with most other things I encounter in life, I was ready to give it my best. I wanted to ‘do it right’. I spent the last year faithfully ransacking ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and Babycenter.com, learning all I could about pregnancy, childbirth, babies, parenting, asking most parents I know for their top parenting advice.
But I was also nervous. Never again, for the rest of my life, would I NOT be a parent. I knew there would have to be many freedoms given up, many sacrifices made. Sacrifice is not something one naturally looks forward to.
I have been a mother for 4 months now. It’s been fun. We are very thankful for our little guy.
But I still don’t necessarily think of my main identity as ‘mother’.
I only realized that this weekend. It was the first time in 4 months that I spent 24 hours away from my son, thanks to his kind grandmother who was willing to look after him while my husband and I enjoyed an overnight break. And for the first time in months I felt I could ‘be myself’ again – I could enjoy just wandering outside aimlessly, journaling, reading my first novel in months…without needing to suddenly drop everything and rush to comfort a crying baby.
I realized I needed to be away from my son to feel ‘fully myself’ again.
There are many aspects of motherhood that are easy to enjoy. The way he greets me each morning with a huge happy grin simply at seeing my face. The peacefulness of his delicate form as he falls asleep on my lap. When he laughs hysterically simply because he saw his face in the mirror. No, these moments are not difficult to enjoy.
It is the moments when we don’t even notice our enjoyment starting to slip, and before we realize it we are simply biding the time, adjusting, putting up with it. Like when I am trying to get something done – whether finishing an email or just finishing a meal – and he simply won’t stop fussing. Or when he’s crying inconsolably and I simply can’t figure out why. Or when I’m just trying to have some quiet time for thinking, praying, journaling, but can’t really get deep into it because there’s someone always there watching me, needing my attention.
And slowly, ever so subtly, I start feeling dissatisfied, frustrated, resentful of the limits placed on my freedom and productivity. I start counting down, waiting for the next break to relax, the next season to arrive – once he gets past this newborn stage, once I can stop nursing, once he starts sleeping through the night . . .
It’s not difficult to find many great books, websites, friends who will give all the best tips for being a good parent. But I realize that more than any secret strategy or technique, the single biggest investment I can make in shaping my son’s heart, is to simply – enjoy him. For him to experience the unconditional love of parents who truly delight in him – regardless of anything he does or doesn’t do, regardless of whether he’s happy or cranky. The way his Heavenly Father loves him.
Because I know that the less I am enjoying him, the more frustrated I get with him, the less patient I am with him, the less energy I have for daily motherhood tasks, the more I start to resent him.
And he will surely know it.
Nobody taught my son how to smile. But somehow in the last few months he started smiling, and even laughing. Somehow, at 4 months old, my son has a sense of humour. Yet the only times he ever smiles is when he sees one of us smiling at him -- never when he’s by himself. Never. Somehow or other, my baby knows whether or not I am enjoying him, whether I am smiling when talking to him. And he responds accordingly.
If I don’t smile at him today, he will not smile at all.
The struggle this year will be to maintain my joy in motherhood – to truly delight in my son. To embrace this current season of life – not wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else. Whether I am with him all day or just a few hours – am I fully present? Am I willing to get silly with him, laugh at myself – am I having fun?
I know that motherhood will be frustrating, a constant battle between my selfishness and exhaustion. And yet – it is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be totally and unconditionally loved, needed, wanted, by somebody who is happy to sit for hours just staring at my face.
The sooner I stop listing what I’m giving up, stop waiting for the next break or season, stop thinking of parenthood as a stressful curtailment of my freedom, but think of it as God does – a blessing – the happier I will be. And the more whole my son will grow up to be.
"Children are a blessing from the Lord". Blessed are those . . . in other words, happy are those . . . who have children.
Last year my brother and his wife found out their 2-year-old daughter has cancer. I hear them describe how they long to spend every possible moment next to their little girl, holding her in their arms, even rocking her all night long if that’s what she needs. And suddenly, it’s harder to resent the fact that my precious hour of ‘alone’ time gets interrupted and I have to drop everything and rush back because my baby wants ME.
What a privilege that is.
Enjoying motherhood is not necessarily something that comes naturally, and no book or seminar can teach me the secret to it. I need help, to truly enjoy it – I need God’s help, to create in me new desires.
One of my three resolutions for 2015 is this: to enjoy motherhood. Because more than any parenting secret I can learn, this is the one thing that will make a difference in shaping my son’s heart. Not just for this year, not even for 20 years from now – but 20 billion years from now. Because I learned to enjoy my son.