I am so happy and excited for you to become a mom. And while I feel so far from inhabiting a place of wisdom (or even peace) much of the time, I wanted to give you more than some hand-me-down maternity clothes and half a box of size one diapers. Although I know those come in handy, too.
In fact, there are so many things that I want to tell you – little things, like how you should buy prints instead of solids because then the spit-up and peanut-butter and runny-nose-residue are less visible – and big things, like what being a mom has been teaching me about grace and forgiveness and love and patience and despair. Here are four things I’ve learned so far.
PRIORITIES. Being a mom is really, really busy, and really, really hard. I know you’ll be juggling a lot next year with the baby and your running and your work and, of course, your relationship with your husband and your church and your small group. So many things seem so important. And they are.
During premarital counseling, our pastor told us that it was most important to prioritize our individual relationships with God above all else in our marriage.
After my second was born, I gave up on God for awhile. Things felt too hard, I was too overwhelmed, and I couldn’t seem to concentrate for longer than six seconds. God felt far away and I was struggling to get through each day. Things only got worse. I realized that I needed to make the time for my relationship with God.
I’m a better mom when I am loving God well.
Sometimes that’s just being honest with him, telling him that I feel overwhelmed or confused or frustrated. Finding a few minutes to foster your relationship with God and be encouraged by his word is possibly the most important thing to prioritize next to caring for the immediate needs of your newborn. Some days it will feel impossible to do this. Consider yourself warned.
Back to my premarital counseling. After our pastor made his God-over-marriage point, he said that we needed to prioritize our marriage over our kids.
I did not understand, then, how difficult this would be.
There have been many days and weeks when I’ve felt like my best friends are my kids. Not my husband. So many days when I spend more energy loving them rather than him. Yes, babies demand a lot of you. Yes, you have to compromise other things and relationships to meet their needs. But make sure those compromises are temporary. Don’t let them be your new normal.
I’m a better mom when I’m loving God well, and I’m a better mom when I’m loving my husband well.
EGR. One of my friends has this wonderful phrase – Extra Grace Required (EGR). If one of us was in the midst of a challenging conversation with a coworker, a borderline nasty email exchange with a landlord – it was an EGR situation. Being a mom is all about EGR. You need loads of extra grace – for yourself, for your husband, for your children. You’ll take your baby to the playground and forget a snack or sunscreen or diapers – and you’ll need extend extra grace for yourself. You’ll forget to do something special for your husband’s birthday. Your kid will poop on you five times in a row. Your husband will tell you that he just needs more sleep than you.
It is not possible to be a perfect mom, but there are a million ways to be a good mom. Tell yourself that all the time. You won’t be perfect. You will do your best, and that will be good enough.
But he gives us more grace. – James 4:6
God doesn’t run out of grace for us when we’ve screwed up, when we turn – yet again – to other things for comfort or sense of self-worth. He always has more grace to give, and his grace is enough. Don’t beat yourself up over your weaknesses or your parenting mistakes – or your husband’s. These are the places where God can do his best work. Allow him to. You cannot parent on your own strength. Your days will feel too full, the nights too long (or too short, depending on your perspective), the burdens too much.
Give it to God. Practice giving yourself and others the grace that He gives.
HEART WORK. Of course you want your little one to be smart and polite and a healthy eater and talented in his/her extra-curriculars and lots of other things. But the most important work that you do will be shaping that little heart.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:5-9
The way you live and the words you say, and what your children see you rely on, will shape your little ones more than anything else. You will be their world, those first years especially. Make God and his truth and peace, forgiveness and grace, gentleness and love your world, and it will be theirs, too.
The most important work you do will be to shape the heart of your child.
(By the way, I totally recommend Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp. This is the book that opened my eyes to the necessity and privilege and work of shaping a child’s heart.)
TIME PASSES. When your baby is little, many days will feel long – and the nights will feel even longer. You will wonder if you’ll ever sleep or feel rested again, if you’ll ever have a coherent conversation again, if you’ll ever sit down to a meal and actually eat while it’s hot.
This, too, shall pass.
For me, every little milestone felt overwhelming – learning how to breastfeed or get out of the house with the stroller or start solid food or sleep train. Researching daycares and schools; wondering why my baby wouldn’t drink water; agonizing over a toddler who was constantly disobedient.
This, too, shall pass
The stages of babyhood feel so long when you’re in them, but they are short. Just as you start to figure out one thing – it changes. Whatever is hard now will change soon, and you will figure it out or you won’t. Either way, your baby will grow past it and then something new will be hard. And you’ll get through that, too.
Mothering young children is hard. Community and companionship are hard; days are often lonely; we are weary and tired. But God will provide and He will sustain you. And each hard thing will pass and change and before you know it, you’ll be crying at kindergarten graduation and then high school graduation and then college graduation – and at each stage, you’ll still be worried about something.
But even then – that, too, shall pass.
I love you and know you are going to make the greatest mom! I can’t wait to meet your precious little one.