“Not the Mother I Want to be…”

I have often struggled with comparing myself to mothers who have one or two children, who have the time to implement an intricate disciplinary program with their children, give them attention for every sentence, have resources to provide them with every private lesson under the sun, and still have time for themselves to explore any hobby or social interaction they wish… and here I am, barely making it through the day, with a very simple disciplinary program (yell, and then yell louder), and when I do make it through the day, I collapse in a heap on the bed without even the desire for a hobby.  With 7 children under 10, what I just described is on a good day!  But, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it, or take back any of my children.  They are not a number in a long line, but my little community, and somehow I believe this is all worth it, especially in eternity…

A friend just sent me this article that she found on the Sonlight Forum, and I just had to pass it along to you.   She sums up exactly my sentiments, and I found this message so encouraging!!

People can—and will—say the darndest things.

Out loud, even.

I was at the Y yesterday, signing Oliver and Manolin out of childcare just after my 45 minute biking marathon with Jo. It’s a wonderful Mother-Daughter bonding time; if you’ve got the means to work out with your daughter, I highly, highly recommend it. The conversations we’ve had in those 45 minutes have been some of the ones I know I will cherish thirty years from now. The big boys are in Karate at that time, the little guys are in childcare and it’s just Jo and me, racking up miles on those stationary bikes while everyone around us wonders what in the world we’re finding so stinking hilarious.

But I digress.

As I said, I was at the Y. Manolin had already been handed over the counter and was grinding his face into my collarbone with every ounce of his being. Oliver was being led—in protest, mind you—away from the playdough table and towards the little green exit gate. I wrote my name on the register with a flourish, and turned my attention to signing dramatically so that Oliver knew it was time to head home.

“You’ve got, what? Three boys? Holy cow,” said the worker, a woman about my age.

“You missed one,” I offered helpfully, taking a step to the side. Sure enough, Atticus was hidden just behind me in the tight reception area.

“Four boys? I couldn’t do that. No way. They would drive me nuts.”

I smiled broadly and nodded. This woman, after all, goes to my church. And you know … she really ought to know better.

“I like raising boys,” I said. “These guys are awesome. I can’t imagine how boring life would be without every single one of them.”

You think that’s it, don’t you? You’re saying to yourself—”This is a post about how people are always bashing on little boys.” Well, it could be. But no. This woman just didn’t know how to quit when she was ahead. Just then, Jo came through the door carrying our workout gear in our oversized blue duffel.

“Oh my gosh, I totally forgot! You have, like, five kids. All those boys and a girl.”

Great math skills, I thought. You must be so proud. My sunshiney thoughts had turned decidedly sour. Because at this point, let’s face it: the woman has already basically told my sons that they are a burden to their mother. Now she’s going to harp on our family size. This keeps getting better!

The woman then shook her head and delivered the jewel:

“I couldn’t have that many kids. There’s no way. I just couldn’t be the mother I want to be with that many of them.”

And you know what? I told her she was absolutely right.

“I can’t either!” I admitted. “And I’m so thankful!”

Now before you look at me like I’ve grown ten heads (which is precisely the look she delivered, by the way) let me tell you why I feel the way I do.

I am not the mother I wanted to be with these children. Can’t be. It’s not possible. There’s only one of me … and five of them. Do the math. I can not be all things to every child.

The world says I am failing. I have chosen quantity over quality. I can’t possibly be a good enough mother. Needs will not be met. There are just too many kids.

Praise God, I say.

Because I have come to realize that the things I want to do and be for my children are not necessarily the best for them.

I want to kiss every boo-boo. Fawn over every picture. Brush every head of hair. Trim every finger nail. Hold the back of each bike seat as the training wheels come off. Stop the hurts before they come. Be the ear for every heartache. Bake every afternoon snack. Cheer at every game. Warn of every danger. Read every book. Watch every impromptu performance. Be a part of every game. Lead every troop. Sing every song. I want to right the wrongs. Hold off the enemies.

I want to be their world.

With one child, I could do that. No problem. With two, I think I could manage pretty nicely. But with three, five, seven? No way.

Instead, what my kids get is something different. Maybe not better—the Lord’s plans are different for each family, and I respect that. But at the very least, what my children have is equal. It’s not some lesser thing. It’s not worthy of pity. It’s just different.

It’s not about me, The Perfect Mother, this growing up thing. No matter how much I always dreamed it would be, it just isn’t. It’s about God and the family He provided to meet every need.

Do boo-boos get kissed? Of course! But a portion of the time, it is a big brother who kisses the baby’s head after he’s tried to fit underneath the coffee table for the fifth time in an hour. Do cookies get baked? Yes. I admit, though, that Jo is turning into quite the chef thanks to being blessed with the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen without my hovering. And do you know who taught Logan to balance on his big boy bike when he shed the training wheels? It was Atticus, running behind him and shouting, “Brother! Brother! You’re doing it!” in a voice so full of pride and utter joy that I get a catch in my throat just remembering. I cried from the curb, my hands busy plaiting Jo’s hair to fit under her helmet. It was a gorgeous moment, burned into my mind, my heart, my soul.

“Brother! Brother! You’re doing it!”

Are there sweeter words?

My children have a cheering section, not a number one fan. They have a chorus of voices that sing their praises and hands that reach out to help no matter the hour of the day. Will they walk through adulthood with this same closeness? There are no guarantees, of course. My own mother is the youngest of seven children, and I wouldn’t call their family particularly close-knit. There is no formula, no one perfect thing that will bind these little personalities into a warm quilt that they will want to stay wrapped in throughout their lives.

But there is love. Abounding love. More love than I, the mother who has been entrusted with them, could ever offer on my own.

I am not the mother I wanted to be. I do not make it to every event. I am sometimes preoccupied with a diaper or a math problem when a milestone flies past me at the speed of light. My children will not remember me in the foreground, chairing every committee, meeting every need and wiping every nose.

But I am the mother God wants me to be. I am in the background, usually. One voice among many in the sea of encouragement. Cheering. Praising. And witnessing the miracle that is our family.
— Mary Grace


6 thoughts on ““Not the Mother I Want to be…”

  1. What a great post! Thank you so much! Now if only I could email it to every person who made carelessly selfish comments about having a large family! Sheesh, now I’m getting a little vindictive…sorry.

    I think I would like to post this on my bathroom mirror for the times I am hiding in there trying to find a moment of relative quiet in the chaos. Maybe this is why men like to spend so much time in the bathroom!

    Thanks again!


  2. Wow! Thanks for this! I was thinking the last line of your article would’ve included something like:

    “I’m the Mother God wants me to be, just like his Mother, Mary.”

    Because, you see, Mary was always in the background, never taking credit for all the wonderful things she was part of. It’s called humility and us mothers sometimes have a hard time swallowing that.

    God bless you and your growing family!


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