One moment in my life changed my perspective on motherhood for good, and it came when I asked my 93-year-old grandmother to tell me about her favorite season of her life.
Her answer? The years when her children were little.
I was surprised. This was a woman who had lived almost a century! My grandmother had traveled the world, lived a long rich life, and enjoyed a retirement many would only dream of.
At the time, I was in the thick of raising my own little ones. I wondered at her love for these years. Was I cherishing them like I should? If these days were truly the best, why did I often find myself so weary? Why was exhaustion, not gratefulness, my natural inclination in this season?
The reality is, with motherhood often comes loneliness and exhaustion.
But mothers are resilient.
So we wake up at 2:00 a.m. night after night. We feed them, we keep them clean, we tell them stories and love them the best we can. Then they get a little older and our time is spent answering a steady stream of questions, driving them places, running an increasingly complicated household, and helping them with homework and heartache.
It can be hard to cherish the earliest years of motherhood. It’s easy to let one unintentional day with them become a week. But those weeks turn into months, and months into years. Before we know it, they’re ready to leave the house — and we never managed to escape survival mode. Maybe we weren’t nearly as intentional as we hoped we would be.
When my friend Sara was a new mom, she joined a Bible study for young mothers like herself. The study leader gave every mom a jar and a bag of dried beans. She told the moms to count out a bean for every week they had with their children between now and graduation, and to take those beans out as weeks passed.
She asked them to think about the jar emptying. Would they feel regret looking at the empty jar? Or would they use their beans well? Would they let their weeks manage them, or would they manage their weeks?
Those are sobering questions to ask, and so few mothers get the support they need to answer them with confidence. They learn to cherish their children the best they know how all by themselves. They learn to cope with the craziest weeks. They show up every day, whether they feel ready for it or not. It’s messy. It’s hard.
There is hope in this nearly universal struggle, though. Knowing we’re not alone makes all the difference! Sara and I thought of all the ways we had both learned to develop Christ-centered rhythms in our days of young motherhood. For instance, we used mealtimes and car rides to initiate safe, vulnerable conversations with our kids. We’d developed ways of getting deeper than “How was your day?” without it feeling forced or off-putting. We’d learned to pray with our children at bedtime and dinner time. On good days, we managed to share our daily quiet time with the Bible alongside our children.
Sara and I have walked side-by-side on this journey, sharing both the joys and difficulties together. Having someone to high-five on the good days and give a “you’ll get it next time” on the harder days has made all the difference for us.
Practical pointers, offered lovingly, can make all the difference to a young mother who feels overwhelmed and unseen. Little rituals can become sacred spaces in the day, places where we truly come to know and delight in our children.
But a new mom might not think of those rituals on her own — so if you have ones that have proven fruitful in your own life, speak up. Share the practices that have made your own motherhood joyful. Share the little things you cherished most, and how you learned to see the beauty of early childhood through your own bleary eyes. Who knows? You might change her life.
The odds are good that just a few intentional moments every day will make the difference between reminiscing on years we remember with joy and looking back on years we can’t remember at all.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
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Amy Lowe is the director of WinShape Camps for Girls and oversees WinShape Camps for Families. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Samford University and a Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Like most other moms, her hobbies include laundry, running the robot vacuum, and unloading the dishwasher.