*This was written a while back and not posted because I knew I was being particularly whiny at the time, but I think the message behind it might be an encouragement to some. To be followed by a post about my attitude adjustment. 🙂
“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” –Genesis 16:13
I have been finding myself feeling a little swallowed up by motherhood these days. It can be hard sometimes not to lose my identity, or my mind. Some days it feels like no one truly understands the all-consuming nature of being a stay-at-home mom, of spending each day being climbed on, chattered to, barged in on, and requested of nonstop. Of having someone blow their nose on your arm and get greasy fingerprints on the first nice outfit you’ve worn in a month. Of having every shower interrupted by a crying child, every chore you manage to do be instantly undone. Of not being able to fit in your clothes because the baby weight isn’t coming off, and not being able to go for a run because you don’t have a babysitter. Of not being able to spend time with or be there for your friends, or your spouse, in the ways that you used to. Of your big achievements of the day being 40 clipped baby nails and the fact that you cooked dinner, nursed the baby, called the insurance company, and pulled somebody’s pants up all at the same time. Honestly, as other mothers know, this is just the tip of the iceberg, or at least it feels like that some days.
Bigger than these little inconveniences is the heavy weight of the enormous responsibility of making hundreds of little and big decisions each day to raise a little human being, yet having nearly every one of your choices questioned by a whining toddler, a judgmental bystander, or your own questioning heart. During this season, there are virtually no tasks ever fully completed and hardly any tangible, visible or measurable indications that you are doing well, at least not if you want to avoid the trap of comparing your children or yourself to others. And besides, you know there’s a good chance that two minutes after your little angel helps you do the dishes or says he loves his baby sister, he will chuck something at her head or dump his milk cup on the floor just for fun.
Even those who have been there often seem to have nostalgia-induced memory loss regarding what raising babies and toddlers is really like, and they are likely to admonish you to “enjoy every moment, because they grow up so fast!” It’s true, they are growing up before my eyes, and it is only going to get faster. And indeed they are precious gifts. I have a beautiful, blessed life. I love these little rascals so much it hurts, and I hate the thought of squandering any of the time, opportunities, responsibilities or joys. I do enjoy my children, and I try to have fun with them. I know that not everyone gets this opportunity to be with their children each day, or to have children at all. But truthfully, sometimes it takes quite a bit of effort to enjoy it, and some moments just aren’t fun. It also happens to be a lot easier to enjoy children when you get to just make fun memories with them, feed them pizza and ice cream, and then send them home when they get crabby. I am so thankful that my children have such wonderful people in their lives. But those people are not tasked with the responsibility of making sure my child eats enough protein, practices self-control, gets enough sleep, and knows they aren’t the center of the universe. Other people get to swoop in and be pure fun, rather than the mean mom enforcing the rules. And then they go home and do things like shower, sleep, and poop by themselves.
As hard as it all feels some days, sometimes I wonder if I’m acting like an angsty teenager, creating drama and crying about things that a few years down the road I’ll realize were not a big deal. Maybe it’s not just memory loss but maturity that changes the perspective of parents whose children have grown. And I know that God is using this time to mature me, some of it in very specific ways that I can already see, and as hard as the growing process is and as much as I might whine about it, I am thankful for it.
Still, it makes a world of difference to have someone understand you, and empathize. I realized as I waded through my feelings these past couple weeks that that is all it is that I am longing for- understanding. And there are so many wonderful people in my life, people I know try to understand and encourage the best they can. Yet when someone tells me what a good job I’m doing with my kids, I find myself wanting to say, “But you didn’t see when they, or I, behaved terribly this morning.” On the other hand, when someone comments that having kids is so much work and sacrifice that they can’t imagine doing it, I just want to tell them how sweet and rewarding it is. Basically, I just want to argue with everybody.
So what exactly am I looking for, then, I asked myself. When I thought about what words I actually would want to hear, wouldn’t feel the urge to argue with, I finally figured out that all I want is for someone to really see exactly what I am experiencing, and to remind me that what I am doing is worth it, that it matters. I don’t want my performance evaluated, even if the reviews are favorable. I do way too much of that already. I just want to know that I’m seen. Not to be praised or even “noticed,” but just to be known. Not to be told I’m doing something great, or even that I’m doing it well, but just to be helped to remember that what I am doing is worth doing and that it is going to matter.
And isn’t that what all of us want? To be known. To matter. To be reminded and encouraged in those things when our vision grows hazy and we start to doubt?
No sooner did I realize that this is what I long for than I realized that I already have it. My God is the God Who Sees Me. He sees all of it, even the moments no one else will ever see, even my husband or my closest friends. And he infuses my life and my mothering with a meaning that makes it all worth it. He goes before me, taught me by example what it looks like to serve selflessly and lay down your life for others (though I am a long way off from looking like Him in this department, but it is the goal, one that will hopefully be realized more all the time as I mature and let Him lead me.) He promises that the work we do for Him will be worthwhile, especially when it goes unnoticed, and especially when it is for the sake of these little ones he loves so dearly. He reminds me that this kind of work is not measured by a daily to-do-list with boxes that can be checked off, but rather it is the work of planting seeds, and watering them. Of investing, and then waiting, praying, trusting that the crops will bear fruit in abundance. Of being faithful in the work, and having faith in the result and in the God who will bring it about. Like a farmer who goes about his work day after day with little fanfare. His work will be evident when the harvest comes in. And the farmer will know that even in all his efforts, in the end it was God who made it grow.
My God says he sees me. And He says it is worth it.
He sees you too. He sees you when you’re persevering through infertility or waiting for that adopted child to finally be allowed to come home. He sees you when your efforts at work go unappreciated, and when your spouse didn’t notice what you did for them around the house. He sees what you sacrifice for ministry when it appears to be bearing no fruit. He sees it all, and tells you that your faithfulness will be worth it. It does not go unnoticed, and if you persevere, it will bear fruit.
Your God sees you, and what you do in His name will certainly be worth it. He guarantees it.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” -1 Corinthians 15:58
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” -Colossians 3:23-24