The Things I Didn’t Say About Mothering

By Jenny Harris

Dear friend,

Months ago, you visited. I wrangled my toddler while you told me about your reticence to have children. I can honor your stance—parenthood is hard, for sure. But you are also trying to want to have children, and it is here that I must apologize. I listened to you as a pied piper; I agreed too readily with your feelings without ever confessing my own.

You deserve the truth.

You are right: people describe parenthood in trite packaged statements that overemphasize the losses and barely touch on the gains. There is some sleeplessness, certainly. And your body will absolutely change; so will your lifestyle. But listen—

Being a mother can set you free from anxiety and futility: from anxiety because you will be more concerned about your child than about yourself, and from futility because you will engage in deeply meaningful work every day.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my soul feels positively nourished by this deep, bidirectional care relationship.

Being a mother opens up new doors for service and sociality. I know you’re worried about relating to other moms. You don’t know if you’ll fit in with the mommy crowd, or if you’ll even like them. You don’t always like what you see, and that’s fair. If you don’t like how they parent, then don’t parent like them. But honor them for their love and sacrifice, and grant mental support for the burdens you can’t see. And know this: You will find kindred souls. You will find mentors. You will BE that friend and mentor.

Being a mother transforms who you are and how you live—arguably for the better. You say that people talk about parenting like it is some kind of death. No more sleep, no more travel, no more fun!! There is some truth to the lie. As with all covenant experiences, parenthood means death to the old life and birth to the new. But travel and fun are up to you.* You will prioritize what matters most, and you will make those things happen.

Besides which, you will renew a thousand childhood pleasures ranging from picture books and playgrounds to bird watching and bouncy balls. You will increase your commitment to all things bright, happy, and moral—because children themselves are bright, happy, and moral.

Life doesn’t end if you quit your job for full-time parenting. You will continue to learn, grow, and contribute to society. Newborns sleep for an average of 14 hours per day—subtract 8 hours of sleep for yourself, and that leaves 6 hours of discretionary time. Don’t be a slave to housework or social media; cherish the waking hours, do what needs to be done, and then fill nap time with things of the soul!

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that my pre-parenting fears about stagnation were totally unwarranted. Lucy is priority number one, but there is still time for personal growth! I’ve taken guitar lessons, started a blog, learned to cut my husband’s hair, accepted on a part-time job, read dozens of books, and trained to become a workout instructor. Some of these things she does with me; some things I do while she naps. The key here is that you can still do things. God is not finished with you yet.

Parenting will improve your marriage. Hold up. Doesn’t research say that babies are hard on marriage? Yes, absolutely. However, research also says that there is a really awesome mediating force: a supportive husband. And you, my friend, have a supportive husband. So with a good man on board and with a little intentionality, your marriage can still prosper.**

Our life together is richer with a child. We feel like a bona fide family now, and that’s a serious thing. Lucy is a compelling reason to get along and stay together. We are both crazy about her; she is the penultimate shared hobby. Lucy is also the stimulus for a cool family culture. She is an excuse to do things like watch clouds, sing songs, poke bugs, collect rocks, visit parks, and make cookies. These are all things that strengthen our marriage.

So my dear, there you have it. Months and months late, here’s how I feel about motherhood. You are now with child yourself, and I am full of hope for your future.  I am proud of you for pursuing God’s plan, and I hope that He surprises you. He’s an expert at changing hearts, so I pray that yours keeps pace with the circumstances.

Happy mothering, dear friend.

Love,

Your friend Jenny

* Sleep is another matter. Parental effort notwithstanding, some babies sleep worse than others. If yours isn’t a sleeper, just remind yourself of college life: you used to stay up late on purpose! And you probably even pulled an occasional all-nighter. So, you see, you’re experienced. Totally ready for the challenge.

** It’s going to be tricky. You will need to redouble your efforts to practice spousal preeminence. Go on dates. Get a babysitter. Talk to each other. Share the burden. It’s SO easy to love a snuggly baby, and sometimes less easy to love a spouse. But make your spouse #1, and everyone (your child especially) will be better off.

Jenny Harris

Jenny Harris

Jenny is a star-gazing, book-clubbing mother of two. She has a Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, which is mildly comical (but also a boon in parenting and relationships). Her kids will attest that she's crazy about reading aloud, time out of doors, and creative play. Her family's goal is the “abundant life,” as prescribed by Jesus. You can read more posts by Jenny here.
Jenny Harris

Jenny Harris

Jenny is a star-gazing, book-clubbing mother of two. She has a Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, which is mildly comical (but also a boon in parenting and relationships). Her kids will attest that she's crazy about reading aloud, time out of doors, and creative play. Her family's goal is the “abundant life,” as prescribed by Jesus. You can read more posts by Jenny here.

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