This article was originally published with Convivium.
Motherhood is a funny thing.
A few short days ago, my daughter turned one. And while I plan birthday cakes and teas and parties galore, I can’t help but reflect on the faithfulness of God in this season. The journey to her was rocky, and gratitude for the gift that is she has in many ways defined this first year.
Like many things, God has used motherhood to refine me. As He does. He has taught me, and so I share. Lessons for myself, lessons for other mamas, lessons for anyone and everyone because the funny thing about God is He uses unlikely things to speak.
1. Give yourself time
Good habits take time to form, bad habits take time to break, and as it turns out, we still eat dinner in front of the TV every once in a while. Less today than six months ago, which was less than it was six months before that, and so the progress goes. It will take time to develop that oatmeal every morning habit and time to break that pizza pops in the freezer habit. And honestly and truly? That’s OK. Give yourself time. Give yourself grace. Heaven knows in all its fullness that God certainly does.
I’ve been reminded over and over in the last year, through motherhood and other transitions of sorts, that God takes the long view of things. He is never in a rush, and he is more concerned with decades of faithfulness than the speed at which we get there – wherever there is. I see this in myself as a mom. I pull my daughter’s hand away from the record player and say, “mama said no. We don’t touch the record player.” And you know what? I am going to keep saying it, every day for the next four years (…or more. Probably more.). Because obedience and understanding doesn’t come in a day, and I am very, very OK with that. I have grace (and expect) for her to take time. Let us be generous with that grace and extend a bit to ourselves too, shall we?
2. Slow down
Don’t do the dishes, don’t do laundry. I promise it can wait. Cuddle her a little longer, kiss those little cheeks again and take another picture instead. You know when people say you can’t just hold her all the time? They’re wrong. In a few short months she will be crawling and off to explore every nook and cranny of the house, and snuggle time will plummet. So hold her for every single minute. Enjoy every single second. Memorize the way her tiny body curls up on your chest. The way her little feet press into your still soft tummy, the way her little fingers flutter across your chest.
Put your phone away. For heaven’s sake, do not make the child you love more than life itself; compete with a tiny in-your-pocket-screen for attention. I’m not saying throw it off a cliff or use it as a shooting skeet. Maybe leave it on the counter, instead of in your hand. Maybe turn off the social media post notifications. I am working at this. Really, I am. Good days, bad days. And I hope the habit will solidify soon. You know what, though? I’m giving myself time.
3. Be a good friend
This is one of the hardest ones. Being a good friend is something I struggle with at the best of times (the introvert in me is prone to cancel plans), but it develops a new sort of importance in motherhood. New moms? We need each other. A lot. But we don’t only need each other. We need established-mom friends, married-without-kids friends, single friends, been-around-the-block-a-decade-or-five friends. Does spending time with people become more complicated when you add the most wonderful bundles of attention-seeking cuteness to the mix? Absolutely. But is it worth it? Absolutely.
When we meet friends for dinner we ask if we can meet at three or four and hangout before the meal. I am officially that old person who needs to leave by 6:30. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Show up, with all your chaos, and be a friend.
4. Speak life now
I talk to my daughter as she sits in her highchair and waits for her lunch.
“Hey baby, you are doing such a good job waiting! You are being so patient. What are the Fruits of the Spirit? How do we know Jesus’ Spirit is in our hearts? Love, and joy, and peace, and kindness, and goodness, and gentleness, and faithfulness, and self-control. And what’s the other one? Patience! And you are doing such a good job being patient baby.”
Does she understand me? Not. A. Single. Word.
But she hears that I am happy with her, that I love her, that I delight in her. And I am choosing to speak Scripture and truth over her. Does she understand it now? No. But she will. And when the day comes that I am correcting her with Scripture, I want it to be built on that foundation of encouragement with Scripture.
5. Be honest (otherwise known as: Ask for help)
When your husband is taking his second helping and your first is still getting cold? Be honest. Ask for help. When someone asks if they can bring a meal or do your dishes for you? Say yes. Accept the help. When someone asks how you are doing? Be honest.
Speak up. Most people around you want to help. Many just don’t know how. And truthfully? You may not know how. But when you do know, speak up. Be honest, and ask for help.
God is good. In this first year, He has been present. Through tired nights and joy-filled morning snuggles, He reminds me that He gives good gifts. That He uses everything including (or perhaps, especially) this new season of motherhood. I have learned, I am learning, I will continue to learn. And I am grateful.