There are many things not getting done in our house or in our lives because we have children. Kids have a way of being all-consuming, particularly when they are young. We wouldn’t need to learn to find time to ourselves in the every day or process the stresses of life if it was simple.
I’ve heard people say that they need to “take time out” of life to have kids, as though having kids isn’t part of life. During the beginning seasons of motherhood many women quit their jobs or step back from positions of leadership or influence in their church or communities. This is understandable. After all, motherhood is demanding.
Do you remember when you were pregnant and people said not to worry about food because, really, the baby will take what it needs? That’s how it is with motherhood. The hyper-vigilance and focus of motherhood will have to be done, and it is often the other areas of life that suffer in the interim. That’s why you’re a tired mom.
However, I don’t think that’s a problem. I don’t think that children prevent us from following our dreams or influencing others. I don’t think being a stay-at-home-mom prevents us from fulfilling our purpose in life. On the contrary, I think it prepares us for that very thing.
1. We learn to put others first.
When you have your first baby you realise just how selfish you really are. And it’s no wonder. Until this point you’ve never had a reason to put someone else before yourself so completely. Add another child or two and soon you haven’t showered in two days, haven’t painted your toenails in two months, and haven’t worn high heels in two years.
Motherhood trains our bodies, minds, and spirits to put others before ourselves. Even when we don’t feel like it. No, especially when we don’t feel like it. Even when we are tired, sick, fed up, and half crazy, we still must take care of our own.
In order to effectively lead, you must learn to put others first.
2. We learn to serve.
A mother spends her days serving. Don’t picture a grovelling servant. Think about someone showering care, nurture, and love on others. When our children are little we serve them by helping them carry out hygienic practices they can’t do themselves. We serve them by feeding them, clothing them and loving them. We serve them by ignoring our own impulses that say “I don’t want to” or “I don’t feel like it” and we do what’s best for those we love.
Leaders are not the winners of a popularity contest. When there is a group of people who need to go somewhere, a leader is chosen to function as a guide. The leader helps move people from point A to point B. A leader is not too proud to get her hands dirty or not so puffed up she can’t do menial tasks.
In order to make a difference in the lives of others, you must learn to serve them where they need it most.
3. We learn the meaning of sacrifice.
Since we live far from family and are without regular babysitters, I have sacrificed many aspects of my life to be a mother. I haven’t played team sports in years. I don’t get near as much adult interaction as I did before children. My body has undergone changes that come with 3 babies in 3 years. I stay in many nights. I don’t get to sleep in. In fact, I think my body has forgotten how. Some women sacrifice influential career positions. We all sacrifice sleep, time, and even money being mothers.
While the cost of motherhood is nothing compared to the joys, we still sacrifice on a daily basis. Daily there are things I don’t have time for, hobbies I can’t fit in my schedule, and books that don’t get read because I fall asleep at 9:30pm (ahem, for argument’s sake).
To make a difference in the lives of others, you must learn to sacrifice.
4. We learn how to make hard decisions when it’s most important.
There are pivotal moments in parenting we’re all aware of as they’re happening. That moment you know you have to stick to your guns. The moment when your child wants to sweep things under the rug and you’re tempted to go back on your word. The moment when they come asking for something important and you’re tempted to go back to your smartphone.
Tests of our character, willpower, and strength come not when it’s easy to make the right decision, but when it’s the hardest. It’s what we do when no one is looking or when no one will find out that shows what we’re made of. Because we have our eye on the long-term goal – not this instant – we make decisions for the best of our children and families. When it’s hard, when we want the easy route, and even when we know it will make our children angry, we learn to stick to our guns.
If you want to make a positive difference, you must be able to do what’s right when it counts the most.
5. We learn the dangers of people pleasing.
We mothers learn quickly it’s impossible to please children consistently. Their favorite breakfast… no, it’s no good. They don’t like the shirt you chose simply because you chose it. They don’t want to take a nap, don’t want to go to bed, and don’t want to eat vegetables. They are against brushing their teeth, wearing underwear and saying thank you.
Daily, hourly and minute to minute we are faced with opportunities to do what’s momentarily pleasing to our children, or to do what’s best for them. Sometimes the two will meet happily, praise God, but often we must choose what’s best over their happiness. Often we must listen to their emotions, comfort them, and still require them to do what displeases them. Mothers learn early that maybe, just maybe, children don’t always know what’s best for them.
To be a great leader, you can’t be afraid to make others unhappy.
6. We build strength, stamina, and endurance.
Like muscles, our character and willpower grow when stretched consistently. Daily our sanity is tested. We start small and, with time and opportunity, build our ability to withstand trials, testing and adversity. What would have driven us over the edge with child #1, three years later we think it’s a cakewalk. We learn how to get up for the 12th time that night with our sick baby. We build endurance when we discipline and train consistently and repetitively when we just want to lay on the couch and zone out.
Unlike muscle building, however, we don’t have to take time out of the day and go to the gym. Our gym is our daily life. Motherhood provides opportunities for resistance training, weight training, and cardio. Sometimes my kids resist my every word. At some point on many days I carry two toddlers upstairs at the same time kicking and screaming on their way to time out. My heart threatens to beat out of my chest when they get nutella on the couch, scream a little too loud, or roll over on their baby brother.
Still I know that to be a great leader, you must remain standing when others can’t so you can be their strength.
Motherhood will stretch you, test you, and bring out all the impurities of your heart. That’s okay, you were never going to be perfect. You’ll want to throw in the towel, mail the kids to grandma, and contemplate medication. That’s a good sign. It’s a sign that you are growing. It’s a sign you are maturing. It’s a sign that you are learning to serve and love others.
Even if it’s hard. Even if it means you eat cold food, wear spit up stained clothes and forget how to use big words. Every day that you stay and love and nurture despite exhaustion, delirium, and the desire to flee, you are becoming just the type of person you were meant to be. It’s hard and it’s unrelenting but still, consider these trials pure joy, mother.
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