I’m starting to raise sympathetic eyebrows everywhere we go since I now have more than the requisite two kids. “You have your hands full,” strangers comment at the grocery store.
“Here, let me help you.” Knights rush in everywhere to hold doors for me.
Just recently, at a checkout line, a father with one older daughter tagging along beside him looked at me trying to juggle three kids and a full cart and smiled, saying, “Don’t worry. It won’t always be so hard.”
I always appreciate the support and I know everyone means well, and sometimes I need to hear it’s going to get easier. Being the mom to what I gently refer to as “three little black holes of needs” can be physically exhausting.
But you know what I’d also like to hear every once in awhile? That this season of motherhood isn’t some lengthy penance, that I’m not “paying my dues” for days of freedom ahead.
I’m fortunate because all of my family and friends are very supportive of me being an at-home mom and my openness to new life. The same holds true with most of the strangers I encounter when my brood makes a public appearance.
Occasionally, though, I have to deflect a derisive zinger. Like: “You want more?” I even had a mail clerk tell me she’d pray I’d have a boy next time so I could be “done.” And who knows? Maybe I am done. I don’t know how God’s plan for my family might unfold.
Still, it irks me that there seems to be this constant undertone in society that being a mom to little ones is just me “doing my time” and that one day I’ll collect my “get out of jail” card, and I’ll be free again.
I just don’t like the idea that my kids are burdens to be emancipated from and shackles that tie me down.
Of course, there’s a ceiling to my martyrdom. I often say I’m taking life one day and one child at a time. That’s all God asks me to do, I think. Have I ever uttered something like, “Ah, someday I’ll sleep again”? Have I ever longed for a moment’s peace after playing referee to a sibling squabble or attempting to interpret a garbled request for something my toddler must desperately need or she wouldn’t be howling like that? Absolutely. I’m only human - and a weak one at that.
But even when I find myself attempting to remove (another) stain of squashed berries from the carpet when I’d certainly rather be napping or reading or doing anything but damage control, I don’t feel like I’m in prison. Quite the opposite, actually. What motherhood has really done for me is liberate me from a life that surely would have been more about Me, Myself, and I rather than the Holy Trinity.
Sacrificial love doesn’t come easy for me. God knew I’d need something to humble me.
First, he gave me marriage. It was so much easier for me to be selfish when I was single. Now I’m not suggesting single people are more selfish than married folks; I just personally needed an extra push in the direction of holiness.
When I was on my own, my priorities were more worldly: Get a good job. Buy those chic, chunky espadrilles.
As a spouse, my priorities have changed. I’m living more for eternity. I frequently find real happiness when I look beyond myself and what the world has to offer and fix my gaze on making my husband happy.
I thought I was getting the whole holy thing down pat –- respecting and loving my husband and biting my tongue when he left dirty laundry on the bathroom floor.
Saintdom, lookout. Here I come!
Then I became a mom, and I realized there was a lot more to learn about giving until it hurts.
I have an aunt who is one of the most faithful women I know. I’d assumed she’d always been like this until we started talking one day and she admitted she’d turned away from the faith for a long time.
“What caused you to change?” I asked.
“Being a mom to four kids under five,” she said. “It brought me to my knees.”
This is what motherhood has done for me as well. It has brought me to my knees. It has become a very real way of me expressing God’s love. It has given me never-ending opportunities to grow in holiness. It has handed me a “get out of jail” card and a life that is helping—tantrum by tantrum, explosive diaper by explosive diaper—free me from my self-seeking, shackled ways.
This column originally appeared at Faith & Family LIVE.