motherhood is not martyrdom

Contemporary narratives about motherhood can be daunting. Social media seems to suggest that moms can't take a shower, do some serious Bible study, or go for a run. It is normal and to be expected that we hide from our children in the closet. Also, since we're overwhelmed with motherhood anyway, we might as well have a glass of wine at three in the afternoon.

But at the same time, glamorous Instagram influencer moms seem to be putting their prenatal pants back on thirty seconds after giving birth and effortlessly running successful businesses. The expectation of doing it all and doing it all “right” can feel overwhelming as you read through post after post of the latest advice:

  • Are you having "me time"? It is very important not to lose yourself.
  • If you raise your children like the Mayans, they will always be helpful and resourceful.
  • Do not praise your children too much.
  • Praise them more!
  • Make sure your child gets into the right preschool.
  • Buy organic products or your children will have all kinds of health problems.

He New York Times recently published a report on studies revealing that modern parents are far more physically, mentally, and emotionally overwhelmed than their parents or grandparents were. One interviewee said that she chose to have one child instead of three, like her own mother, to ensure enough resources for things like "activities and private classes." In January, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new census data that "showed a sharp decline in fertility rates in recent years, with most women having a average of 1.3 babies and an increasing percentage giving birth at thirty-five years or older.

Our narratives matter

It seems that more and more women (like me) feel discouraged about motherhood. I desperately want to get it all under control and raise well-adjusted children who grow into happy, healthy, and successful adults. But sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that I want to retreat to the pantry with a candy bar (especially when all three of my children have a stomach bug in the same night. Rest in peace, first floor rug).

The Bible speaks of motherhood as a gift, a crown and a joy

Of course, motherhood is difficult and, in some cases, deeply painful. It is right, good, and wise to share our struggles openly and honestly with others, especially in the body of Christ. It would be crazy to pretend that we have mastered motherhood or that our children have escaped original sin.

However, many of our phrases overemphasize the pain of motherhood, to the exclusion of the pleasure. We insist on how hard, overwhelming, frustrating and painful it is to be a mother. If we're not careful, it can seem like we're equating motherhood with martyrdom. But the Bible speaks of motherhood as a gift, a crown, and a joy.

Mothers need a better story

Our successes or sacrifices in motherhood should not be what defines our narrative. What should capture our hearts and minds is a story that is ultimately not about us, but about Christ our Redeemer.

As a Christian, I need to understand that I am not the hero or the center of my story. The saddest part of my story is not that I'm overwhelmed, forgotten, and spit out. The saddest part of my story is that I was dead in my sins. The climax of my story is not how I overcame the challenges so my son could graduate with honors. The climax of my story is that my Savior was obedient to death to redeem a people for Himself.

Seeing Jesus as the Hero of the story takes attention—and pressure—away from my successes or sacrifices as a mother. Instead of having to prove to myself or others that I'm making it, I can be captivated by what Christ achieved and what he sacrificed. I can follow his example by seeking, by his grace, to live a holy and sacrificial life for him. When Christ is always before me, when my story is part of his story, complaints and regrets seem less inevitable. .

When Christ is always before me, when my story is part of His story, complaints and regrets seem less inevitable.

This is the beautiful thing: when I don't complain, but instead think of ways to give thanks in all circumstances, my motherhood story stops being an endless list of frustrations, like spilled milk, everyone's yelling, the stain of poop on my shirt or my husband being late from work.

Instead, it sounds like the hymn "Great Is Your Faithfulness" when I see the goodness of the Lord in my clapping baby's smile or the sweet victory of creative training with the kids, even though Dad had to work late to make ends meet. provide us. When the scriptural narrative prompts me to look to Christ and obey him, life makes more sense and the very circumstances can seem more beautiful.

Jesus offers us rest

I agree with the article New York Times where the modern and secular pressures of parenting make it more stressful than in previous generations. And I don't think it's a coincidence that falling birth rates have been accompanied by a drop in church attendance.

To our generation of burdened and anxious mothers, the Lord tenderly says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt 11:28-30).

I am a terrible hero and should never have been in charge. I need to stop focusing on myself and my circumstances and instead focus on Christ. Motherhood is not the worst. It is a precious gift given to us by our sovereign Lord. Let's adore him and let him define our narrative.

Originally posted on The Gospel Coalition. Translated by Eduardo Fergusson.

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