I have this quote taped to the inside of my household binder which holds a collection of recipes, homemaking ideas and tips, gift ideas, and most importantly, notes to myself that I’ve made every few years that I label “rules of life”.
Lately I’ve been thinking so much about how this quote applies to motherhood, and how our attitude shapes our children’s lives and our experiences as mother.
Our children don’t have a choice about how they are cared for, but we have a choice when we become mothers about how we are going to embrace our new role. We have a choice about our attitude towards motherhood and that attitude will make our life and our children’s life and our spouse’s life stressful or wonderful. Over the last twenty one years of parenting, I’ve observed many different attitudes towards mothering and I think attitude truly is more important than circumstance, money, giftedness, skill, education, or appearance as it can make or break a family.
By definition attitude means “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically reflected in a person’s behavior”. I think in this day and age we must be purposeful in cultivating a good attitude through our thoughts and feelings about motherhood as our culture today doesn’t send messages that support us.
We’ve been told, unlike past generations of mothers, that in so many ways raising children can put a cramp in our style, make daily living inconvenient, ruin our careers, drain our finances, and surely we have better, worthier, things to do with our time, energy and talents. We are expected to have and do everything all at once-we are bombarded with materialism and live a faster-paced life then years ago, the opposite of a “settled way” of being. When we realize this way of life is lie, that it is impossible to have and do all, it can easily allow resentment to build. If we expect our children to fit in on the sidelines of our life, and when we demand that they to conform to that lifestyle, they retaliate by being unenjoyable and needy, and we throw up our hands in frustration. Or maybe it’s just simply the posturing trend today towards comedic sarcasm and self-pity-a “these darn kids” eye-rolling stance-that can permeate our way of viewing of parenthood if we allow it.
I’ve had times in my life when I had to remind myself to find some time to step back and take the time to switch my brain from heading down the wrong attitude path. I have attempted to jot down some of the things that have helped me over the years, and some of the characteristics and lifestyles of fabulous mothers I have observed over the years who have maintained a beautiful attitude towards motherhood and family life.
I think cultivating a beautiful attitude towards motherhood means truly surrendering ourselves with a purposeful attitude of gratitude towards our new role. By that I mean, allowing ourselves to fall in love with our babies, letting ourselves be reformed into something new and start on a brave new learning journey of reshaping our old lives to build a joyous family life together. It requires letting go of keeping up, shaping up, showing off, moving up, getting away, going out like we did before we became responsible for another’s life and it requires giving our energy to something far more important than worldly desires-the child we brought into this world.
Our attitude really comes down to embracing and accepting hard work because motherhood requires this during all stages of parenting. “Work is love made visible” says a famous philosopher. We must find a way to make this hard work enjoyable and if not, to just do it, knowing we will bear the fruits of our labor. Sometimes it helps just to expect that we will always be required to do hard work and stretch ourselves beyond what is comfortable at all stages of our children’s development. We must know and trust that nothing in this world is more more worthy than our service. It is okay for us to serve our families-sometimes serving them means showing them how they can help us, and other times it means just that-doing the work that is needed to care for our families.
It comes down to developing a tender connection and a deep bond-knowing mother is important and irreplaceable, and that which there is no substitute-which takes the gift of time given freely, and sacrifice for many years. We must change our lifestyle so that our babies and children are able to flourish and thrive, and we accept that it’s not just about what is best for us anymore.
It comes down to guarding our hearts carefully every day-by that I mean rejecting the sarcastic attitude that makes parenthood seem like a long tortuous journey of interrupted sleep and sticky fingers and too long summer breaks. There’s a child on the other side of that sarcasm wondering why he’s thought of as a curse instead of a blessing. We must attempt to avoid this attitude like we would avoid the co-worker who constantly zaps everyone’s day with her complaining negativity and pessimism. We must choose carefully who we spend our time with as mothers and what we allow to creep into our brains. Attitudes are catching. We must search out positive affirming messages about motherhood. We must find what fills us up, not what tears us down.
“I get to do this” is a phrase that changes every task from a bother to a blessing. Whether it be to rock a crying baby in the moonlight, soothe a frustrated toddler, help a slow learner with homework, or stay up late talking to a moody teenager, we must recognize that there are many fellow women whose hearts break daily because they desperately want to be given the gift of motherhood and some that have had it ripped away from them.
I’ve told the story before of a young mom who lost her toddler in a terrible accident while on vacation-she had said that before she left she was mad about the hand prints left over the newly washed windows and walls that gave her one more thing to do during the hectic time before the trip, and how when she came home without her daughter she searched everywhere to find just one beautiful, precious hand print to treasure. She shared this story to say, stop, slow down, strive to be grateful.
I have had a friend who had to work for the first year of her daughter’s life tell me through tears that she had an acquaintance who complained to her constantly about how difficult her days home with her children-“warning” her against her desire to be home. But my friend cried often when she pulled out of her driveway to go to work, wondering how she could desire so badly what someone else took for granted-somehow that made it hurt more. Finally the day came when she was able to be home and she rejoices every morning when she doesn’t have to rush off and appreciates being the one to see her children change and grow and learn all day long, and says she soaks it all up, thanks God for the opportunity, even if it is indeed hard work. “I get to do this” is her attitude-an attitude of appreciation and thanksgiving.
Each of our children is a wonderful blessing from God and we are being entrusted with this little being to raise-and receive joy and love and affection that will never be found elsewhere in that process. It comes down to reminding ourselves to possess overwhelming gratitude towards the gift of being able to raise a child, and to do that we must slow down and unwrap that gift daily with care.