A Letter to Young Moms

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Dear Young Mom–

I know I seem a bit irrelevant and old-fashioned to you. You would probably much rather get your information from colorful parenting magazines or child education specialists. And, honestly, things have changed a lot in this world since my children were small. But, although some things have changed, many others have not. After all, many of the worries, frustrations, joys, and rewards that come with being a mom are timeless.

As I contemplate the struggles you must be having today, I can confidently let you know that I, and many other women like me, truly can understand what you are going through. We remember the sleepless nights, the potty-training frustrations, the cheerios on the floor, and tripping over toys. We remember going over and over math homework or phonics lessons that we just couldn’t get our child to grasp. We remember the loud car rides and the chaos of bedtime. We remember the craziness of getting ready to go to church and the {almost} impossibility of trying to cook a meal or vacuum a floor with a baby on our hips.

Honestly, it seems like a lifetime ago–and yet it seems like yesterday.

A family is a little like a flower arrangement. Stick with me here. I love flowers, so this example came naturally to mind. When you see flowers in an arrangement, they look perfect and beautiful. But, without exception, each of the flowers in that arrangement was grown in dirt. It was most likely sprayed for pests and diseases, and probably pruned. Sometimes I think we expect to have picture perfect families right at the get-go. But the honest truth is that it takes years of hard work to reap the fruit of what you are doing right now as a young mom.

So how do we, to the best of our abilities, end up with a beautiful flower arrangement  instead of a wilted and broken mess?

If I could give you one piece of wisdom, drawn from my own experience, it would be make sure and determine your long-term goals for your children right now–while they are babies. You see, if you develop your goals now, then you can eliminate the things that are not moving you towards that goal and foster and grow the things that are.

For me, personally, my goal for my children was simple and was drawn from the words in Mark 12:30-31:  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

I figured if my kids learned to love God and others, then the rest–marriages, education, careers– would fall into place. Of course, I guess, by its very definition, this can’t really be a goal since I cannot control the outcome. But it was my first and most important priority in raising my kids–to teach them the truths of God from the Bible and to try to set a good example so that they would be, first and foremost, servants of God and secondly, that they would selflessly love others. Oh, I wasn’t very good at any of this some days and I have failed (and continue to fail) miserably sometimes. But this was my priority as a mom.

So, once we have set our goals (or priorities may be a better word) in place, how do we remember them in the midst of the daily chaos?

Here are a few helpful tips that I learned along the way–

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Bathroom accidents, muddy hands and feet, magic marker on the piano keys or the walls, locks of hair mistakenly cut off –all of these, when looking back now, are not as big of a deal as I made them. I know that now.

2.  Keep your focus off of yourself.  Whenever I was down or even angry as a young mom, I would eventually realize that it was often because my focus was on me. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to lose sleep or clean up that mess. Someone wasn’t treating me right. Poor little ole’ me. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. Because life isn’t really about me. It’s about glorifying God (Isaiah 43:7). And, if I am going to keep my priorities in order it is critical that I am not my focus!

As a side note, I want to mention here that, as moms, we are constantly barraged with this message: You deserve a break! You are a mom and you need time to yourself! And while I most definitely believe that is true, I also believe that breaks are to be enjoyed like a cool drink of water in the midst of a marathon. Motherhood isn’t about the cool drink, it’s about the marathon. It is important as moms that we keep our focus on the Lord and our families and not so much on ourselves. Sometimes, looking back, I am appalled at how self-centered I was (still at battle with this in my life…)

3. Find a happy balance in keeping your house. It is important to keep a neat and tidy house. Your husband feels loved and appreciated when you do. A household that is organized is a happier and more peaceful household. However, if your child cowers in fear if he spills his milk or you walk behind your children or husband cleaning up after them, you may not have found a balance in this area.

I will always remember one of the most encouraging things an older woman said to me when she visited my house one day amidst the toys and books and baby cups: “This is how a ‘lived-in’ home should look! I always feel sorry for kids who live in perfect houses because they can’t even be kids!” That made a huge impact on me as a young mom. I realized that it was okay for me not to have a picture-perfect house 24/7 (which was good because at that time I was also finding it impossible!)

We need to let our families “live” in our homes, but we also can’t throw our hands up in the air and stop working at keeping them clean and organized. Sometimes this can be a hard balance to find.  I’d like to say this gets better –and it does in some ways–but now, instead of cheerios, I find chip bags, and instead of toys, I trip over size 11 boots, soccer cleats, and flip flops of all shapes and colors!

4. Keep your current priorities carefully. Review your goal(s). If your goal is for your child to be an Olympic gymnast then hours and hours spent at the gym make sense. Otherwise, they do not.  But be very careful when setting any goals or priorities and consider the long-term, eternal ramifications of them. Is it really worth skipping church to go to an 8 year old’s sports event? Does that fit in with your long-term goal? Make sure your daily, current priorities match up with your long-term goals.

5. And, finally, don’t give up. Sometimes you probably feel like you just want to throw your hands up in the air and quit. Of course, as moms, we can’t do that. But if you are finding yourself amidst a really stressful, crazy time, see if Dad or Grandma will watch the kids and take one of those needed cool drinks of water. This is what they are for–high stress, difficult stages that come in waves all through life. Take a bath, go out with girlfriends, read a book, or–even better–spend some one-on-one time with God. You will come back refreshed and ready to tackle life head-on again.

I know that I have said this before, but I’ll say it again, anyway: You will blink and your babies will be all grown up. Life goes SO fast.

Spend the next few years loving the babies that have been entrusted to you. Discipline them, care for them, and nurture them. And then let the Master Arranger make a beautiful thing out of your family. He is faithful!

Lovingly,

A Mom Who Has Been There

 

 

 

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