This is an excerpt from Survival Guide to Motherhood by Karen Stubbs.
We as moms—have to change our perspective on parenting. Changing our mindset will make all the difference in the world. We have to resist the struggle and embrace the T-I-M-E our children need. We need to slow our pace and get in step with them. We need to build in the extra time it takes to let them move at their pace. We need to do whatever it takes to make it work. Why? Because our entire family will benefit in the long run.
Here are a few practical ways you can find contentment as you navigate this new perspective on mothering:
1. KNOW THE WORK IS WORTH IT.
There are many challenges in motherhood, but one of the hardest for me was continuing the work without seeing the reward right away. This slow pace of life that required me to be patient while my child was learning to obey, learning to have manners, learning to be respectful, learning to be responsible—it was difficult. It felt at times like they would never get it. I was worried that all of my work was being done in vain. Moms, I want to encourage you that your work, your patience, your labor—none of it is in vain. Don’t give up! Your child needs you to hang in there with them. I know it’s hard. I know patience for their pace is difficult. At the end of most days, you are beyond exhausted.
When Greg and I were watching the grandchildren, we used to fall in bed at night so tired we could barely move. I felt that waywhen I was raising my four children, too. But now that my children are grown adults, I can tell you without a doubt that all the work— the blood, the sweat, the tears—was well worth it. I see my children now, and I am so glad that I slowed my pace to put in the work when they were younger. Now, I really see the fruits of my labor. I want to encourage all you moms out there struggling to put in the work now. You are running a marathon, and I am on the sidelines cheering you on! I’m yelling, “You can do it! Don’t give up! You got this! The work is all worth it!”
2. JOY IS A CHOICE.
Living a life full of joy and fulfillment is up to you. We all know that a mom’s life is challenging. But try and resist the urge to complain often about how hard it can be. Not because you shouldn’t be honest (because you should!), but because staying in that negative place will only make you a bitter person. The reality is, you can make just about any situation better simply by adjusting your attitude.
I remember in 2002, Greg was recalled to active duty in the Navy after 9/11. His orders were for a year. At the time, I had four children, ranging in age from middle school to preschool, and the last thing I wanted to do was to parent those children alone. I started to go down a self-pity spiral. Greg told me, “You can do this, you are strong.” I told Greg, “I know I can do it, but I don’t want to do it!” The more I thought about it that way, the worse my attitude became. I started blaming Greg for being in the Navy in the first place. I thought constantly about how “selfish” he was. I will spare you all the details because they aren’t pretty, but the point is, I was not in a good place.
One day, it hit me. My bad attitude wasn’t helping anything. It definitely wasn’t changing my situation; in fact, it was only making it worse. So, I made the decision to adjust my attitude. I decided to choose joy.
I chose joy that my children were a little older during Greg’s deployment so three out of the four of them actually went to school, giving me a little break.
I chose joy because I was working part time at a church, and this small job gave me an outlet away from the home and much-needed conversations with adults.
I chose joy because I had great friends that encouraged me and listened to me.
I chose joy because Greg was not in harm’s way while being deployed, which gave me some security.
I chose joy because the children had adjusted quickly. We had our days of course, but overall, they did great.
It was that simple. My situation was the same; I was still parenting four children by myself. What changed was my outlook.
Moms, I cannot stress enough the importance of your attitude. It makes all the difference in the world. And only you can change it. Do the heart work. In other words, examine your heart. Consider your attitude. If you realize it’s not where it should be, then make an adjustment. Don’t get stuck on the fairness of it all. Get that thought out of your mind! It is not your friend, and it will not help you choose a positive attitude. Because the reality is, life isn’t fair. In the mundane days of raising children, wake up each morning and embrace what’s ahead of you with joy rather than resentment. You can’t control much, but what you can control is your attitude. So, choose joy!
3. FOCUS ON THE NOW
Realize the importance of the “slow days” that you are in the middle of living. Try to resist the urge of thinking that life is passing you by, because it is not. I promise, when you get ready to re-engage in life at full speed, it will not take you long to jump back in. So, focus on the season you’re in now. Give yourself some grace. Celebrate the work that you’re doing now and realize the importance of your job. Remember that God is the writer of your story. He is not limited by age, lack of work experience, or anything else that you might believe counts you out in the future.
My career with Birds on a Wire did not start until my daughter, Abby, was a senior in high school. I worked part time at a large church in Atlanta for 11 years and never once spoke on main stage. After I left my job and started the ministry, I had a staff person from the church tell me they never knew I could speak on stage. The reality is, they never asked. But God knew all along, and He is the one that gave me what I needed when I needed it.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of God. Look at the people in the Bible that we study all the time. They’re all people God chose to use in a mighty way in God’s timing, not their own timing. Look at Abraham and how old he was before he ever had Isaac. Look at Joseph and how he sat in prison for 12 years before God brought him to be the second highest man in Egypt. Look at Noah and how he was an old man when God shared with him the plan to build the ark. My point? Trust in God’s timing, not your own. Do the job that you have been given today: raising your children. Treat being a mom like you are the top executive at a large firm in New York City. Give every day your fullest and do all you do for God’s glory. Resist the urge to be anxious about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself; you just focus on today.
And can I let you in on a little secret? Social media is the enemy here. We can be doing great at this and then we start looking onsocial media. We see how amazing everyone else’s life seems to be, and we have trouble with the way our lives are now. Trust me,people might be posting these amazing pictures, but a lot of the time, that is all they are: pictures. Reality and a picture are two different things. You know the old saying: “The grass is greener on the other side.” Well, from my vantage point, grass is greener when it is being watered and fed. Water your own grass and don’t worry about other people’s yards.
4. EACH DAY IS A NEW DAY.
Moms can easily feel like one day flows into the next day and that there is nothing exciting about any of the days. You know youare in trouble when walking to the mailbox to see if you got mail is the highlight of your day. One mom confessed to me that she looks forward to the weekends, not because she has any great plans, but because her husband is home on Saturday and Sunday. It’s another person in the house, and that is such a treat. Another mom told me that she takes long walks in the afternoon with the children, just to escape her four walls and get a change of scenery. They’re struggling to see each day for what it is: a new day.
Moms, take each day as a new and fresh start. I cannot tell you how many times when I was parenting my children, I went to sleep asking God to forgive me for losing my cool that day with my children, for not being patient, for being lazy, or for having a bad attitude. I tried to start every morning thanking God for the day and asking Him to guide my steps. My daily prayers usually start off like this,
“Father, thank You for this day that You have given me. God, I ask that I would glorify You in all that I do today. Each day is a gift from You, and I appreciate this day and all that it will bring.”
Moms, when I pray that I may “glorify God” in all that I do, that means ALL. I can bring glory to God in how I rock my child to sleep. I can bring glory to God in the way that I clean my house, speak to my children, or talk to my husband. I can bring glory to God in the way I talk to teachers, the way I drive, how I dress. I can bring glory to God in the way that I guide my teenager, the work that I do in my career, the way I prepare my child for college. I think you get the point. God is in our days—every part of them. Yes, even in the mundane.
Each day we have with our child is a gift. So when we have great days, let’s celebrate them! And when we don’t, let’s remember that each day is a new day. A new opportunity to begin again. A new chance to glorify God in all we do as moms.