It had happened again.
It was the end of the day. The kids were (finally) in bed, the dishes were done, and Alan and I were brushing our teeth before falling into bed.
I was stressed. Disillusioned. Discouraged.
“It’s like I have this war going on.” I lamented, “Either I can get stuff done, or I can have a relationship with the kids. I just don’t see how I can do both at the same time!”
Can you relate?
One of the sole reasons I stay at home is to foster these all-important relationships with our children. However, we can’t just sit around reading classical books, making amazing crafts and going on storybook field trips all day!
For one thing, the bathroom always seems to get dirty. And these four little bodies need to be clothed, which requires (continual) laundry. And then, every once in a while, they happen to want to eat. Which, honestly, because I have boys, could take up every waking moment of my day if I’m not careful.
And in the midst of keeping up with all of that, I also need to consider school work, extra-curricular activities, house cleaning, keeping up with friends and relatives, keeping up a relationship with my husband, feeding the dog, and not to mention sleep every once in a while.
And, what? I stay at home to have a relationship with these little kiddos who are causing all of this work?!
I think that might be why I’m stressed. And disillusioned. And discouraged. Again.
Early the next morning found me crying out to God before the littles stirred.
“How?” I cried, “This job is just so hard! I want to be good at it, to create a space where we can all grow and learn and love, but not allow it to come before the lives You have sent me to love. I have no idea how to do this!”
I remember just sobbing. I couldn’t hold it in anymore.
And then, as the sobs subsided, I felt this calm peace wash over me. Not in audible words, but in a soft understanding that seemed to fill me to the point of bursting as I realized its beauty.
“You’re not supposed to be able to do this job on your own,” I seemed to hear the Spirit whispering, “if you could, why would you need God?”
I just kinda slumped back into my worn out armchair. The realization of this truth hit me like a load of bricks.
Had I been asking the wrong question the whole time? Instead of pleading with the Lord to dump a perfect understanding of motherhood and homemaking on me, maybe I had already been given the exact thing needed to grow in Him.
An understanding of my inability.
My inability. An understanding that I need Him day in and day out. The raising of these precious little lives was bringing me to the end of my first-born perfectionistic self and showing me my complete inability to truly live without God’s moment by moment help.
I almost laughed. Here I was, asking God to just give me what I needed to do the job He has laid before me and the answer was right here all along. I had what I needed. What I needed was to see that I couldn’t do it in and of myself.
I was given this impossible job to make me fall to my knees, cry out to the Father, and learn to live in His strength. Day by day, moment by moment.
And the funny thing is, as I learn to practice this moment by moment dependence on God, I’m giving my kids a tiny glimpse of what this thing called being a Christian looks like.
And isn’t that what I want more than anything for my kids? For them to grow passionately in love with their Creator and enjoy Him forever?
And one of the best ways I can do that is by showing them my inability. And honey, I’ve got a lot of inabilities.
As funny as it sounds, I left my armchair that morning refreshed, rejuvenated even. My to-do list hadn’t changed, by youngsters are still as needy as ever. But my understanding of my job had changed.
I’m not called to be the perfect housewife. I’m called to
- Ask forgiveness when I fall
- To pray continually for patience and strength (even when that includes tears, in front of them)
- To work heartedly at what I’ve been shown, not lament over what I don’t know
- To enjoy and accept today, it’s what the Father has given
Do I do that perfectly? Of course not! It’s one of my inabilities. 😉 I still often try to do it all in my own strength. And when I’m about to scream from frustration, I have to stop and refocus: the goal is not to know how to do this job perfectly, but to know the One who can help me do it well in His strength.
And you know what I have been learning as I strive to live moment by moment in His strength? The very activities I thought were pulling me away from a relationship with my kids are actually the stepping stones to grow closer together.
You know that bathroom that always seems to get dirty? As I clean it, my kids are witnessing my attitude toward the Lord (I hate cleaning the bathroom). Remember that never ending pile of laundry? They are learning to do it with me (yes, it takes forever, and yes, “folded” is a very loose term in our house;). When they see my patience and love in teaching them I’m fostering those relationships.
And so it goes. I don’t have two battling goals as a homemaker with young children, I have a house and I have children, and in the learning to live out these roles together, my relationship with them grows.
Sometimes that involves snuggling together for story time, or an amazing field trip. And other times it looks like cleaning up the bathroom floor together from all the water splashed again from hand washing (which, hopefully, they will learn to do well before leaving our house, I’m not getting my hopes up, though;).
You see, I had thought that a relationship meant doing those things that sound pretty and magical on paper, but in reality, it is living life together, with all the messy realities that make up our moments, and doing them in God’s strength alone.
What about you? What lessons has Christ taught you as you strive to be a homemaker with young children?