Open Letter to Moms of Little Ones

9:08 AMHeather

Last night, I had a reality check.  A dear friend e-mailed me to pick my brain about some mothering questions.  And, I realized as I replied that my oldest son is about the same age as she was when I first met her.  She was in high school back then.  Now, she's married with two children.  

Weird that while all that has happened in her life, I've somehow managed to stay the exact same age? At least in my mind.

As I replied to this sweet mama, my thoughts turned to my cousins in Canada who are each in the throes of that busy season of mothering toddlers.  And, I thought of the sweet MOPS moms that I recently spoke to.  I therefore decided to write an open letter to each of you young moms raising up infants and toddlers and preschoolers.  Because I hope to offer some encouragement on your exhausting journey.

To all Moms of Little Ones,
It is exhausting indeed.  You are pouring yourself out every day, all day.  And through many sleepless nights as well.  And your well might run dry.  May I just give you permission to fill your cup whenever and however you can?  Be aware when your reserves are depleted and you are running on fumes.  When that "empty light" comes on from your gas tank, I give you permission to do something about it.  In fact, I insist that you do.  Call on a grandma.  Or a mom of older kids like me.  Trust me--there's plenty of us who need a baby fix.  See?  It's mutually beneficial.  

But, it's paramont that you take care of your children's mama.  She needs rest.  And adult conversation.  And a girls night out.  Or a date with her husband.  Whatever it is that fills you up and replenishes you, be sure it's happening regularly.   Mothering is a marathon, after all.  And not a sprint.

I know you feel just plain tuckered out.  And it feels mundane.  My cousin Megan posted a funny cartoon as her profile picture.  It's a rather harried mother with a baby on her hip and a toddler hanging on her leg.  The mom is answering the phone and says, "Can you call me back in 5 years?" 

Yep, that sums it up, doesn't it?  But, let me whisper a secret to you that you may already know but you've forgotten.  Every time you change that diaper, wipe that snotty nose, watch that Barney episode, fill that sippy cup, and nurse that are doing Kingdom Work.  Every single time.  Oh, I know it doesn't feel very significant.  I remember those days.  But, as a wise mama made sure to remind me regularly, let me remind you.

You are engaged in a world impacting, life changing ministry that is advancing the kingdom of God.  You are meeting the needs of the helpless.  You are discipling the next generation.  You are pouring yourself into the future teachers, moms, dads, attorneys, accountants, missionaries, and pastors.  As you invest in your little one, there is a wide ripple effect.  Your little one's life will touch many others.  And so on.  And so forth.  So every time you change a diaper, can you remind yourself of how you are glorifying the Lord and making a difference?  Oh, this side of heaven, you may not know the extend of your ministry's influence.  But, I'm sure you'll have crowns to cast at the feet of your Savior when you meet him face to face.  Because you faithfully trained up His precious little ones.   You clothed them.  And fed them.  And cared for their needs.  You are Jesus' hands and feet.  No small feat--even if it's made up of tiny little tasks that seem insignificant.

I also want you to know something.  For a short season this summer, I was sure that I was going to have to re-enter the work force full time.   I've wasted years "contemplating" the greener grass of doing something  that matters--not being "just a mom."  I've somehow felt that what I do in a day is just not that important.   Surely, something with grander purposes is out there, just calling me from my tedious tasks.  But, facing that potential head on, I came to a conclusion.  I don't want to be anywhere else than where I am.  THIS is where I want to be.  In my home.  Full time.  Being available to pick my kids up from school.  And helping with homework.  And doing the housework and the grocery shopping to fill their bellies and their insatiable teenage appetites.       

We don't get do-overs.  I'm so thankful that God opened the doors so that I can be home with my kids.  I realize now that I'll never regret these years that I've been afforded the luxury of making them my number one priority.   I don't think you'll regret it either. 

So do not receive the message that you are "just" a mom or somehow not contributing to society.  Do not own the lie that says mothering isn't enough.  On the contrary.  Mothering is everything.  And, if you've been blessed enough to be home with your little ones, remember how important it is that you're there.  Think of the memories you've given your children by the hours you can invest in them.

Last but not least, I want to offer you some specific advice for these hard seasons of mothering.  I've officially moved into the "mom of middle and elementary school children" phase.  Next year, I'll have a high schooler.  I have the gray hairs to prove my years of experience, underneath this Clairol Nice and Easy #117.  

Soak in the moments.  Take a mental picture of that toothless grin.  Relish in your little ones lying on your chest or sleeping in your arms.  Stop and count the blessings of their funny little perspective and their innocence.  Marinade in the wonder of these ones so fresh from heaven.  The days are long.  And the years are short.  

Easy to say.  Hard to do.  I know.  I heard it repeatedly when I was a young mom.  I wanted to tell those older moms to come soak in the tantrums and dirty diapers and messy house and sleep deprivation.  Have at it.  I'll hand over the reigns and enjoy a respite.  

Now, I look at the face of my oldest, so close to becoming a man.  And, I feel so nostalgic.  I remember his tiny hands and sweet baby smell.  I fondly recall the first words and first steps and even the mishaps.  I am nearly looking eye-to-eye with him, and the years are flying by.  My middle son, the one who didn't like to sleep.  He still doesn't like to sleep.  But, he has big ideas and creativity like crazy.  And, I think back to "yesterday" when he was coloring on the walls.  And my baby girl.  Our bonus child.  She is wearing the same size shoe as I am now.  I miss the days when I'd put on her lace socks and the black patent Mary Janes on her feet.  I try now to look around my house, with text books thrown here and there, laundry needing folding, and the little messes they leave.  And I try to remember how quiet and lonely my clean house will feel when they are gone.

So, kiss them often.  Tell them I love you a million times over.  Laugh with them.  Snuggle up.  Read them books.  Even if it's the same one over and over.  Someday, they won't crave time with you as they do now.  Someday, their peers will matter more than their parents.  So, be an influence.  Sing them songs.  Delight in them.  Play games with them.  Get down on the floor with them.  Let them pick the play activity and connect with them.  Those connections are what will keep them away from drugs, alcohol, and sex.  

Pray for strength when you feel like collapsing.  Press on till they are tucked into bed.  And then fall into a hot bath with some herbal tea.  Ask God to show up in your fever-ridden child and screaming toddler who's teething.  And then note just how God will show up.  It might build your faith for the future.  When they are bullied on the playground.  Or heart broken over a middle school romance.  Or pulling out of your driveway with their brand new driver's license. Those moments when you will wonder where the years went and you will once again cry out to God to show up!  

Be intentional.  Be the person you want your children to become.  And have grace on yourself when you fail.  Because you will.  But, guess what?  They will too.  Maybe, just maybe, when you stumble, you can show them how to get back up.  You can ask them for forgiveness and know that a valuable lesson came along with your mistakes.  Have grace on them, too.  Ask the Lord to give you insight into these wonderful creatures that he created.  Ask him to help you love them madly, directly them intentionally, and laugh with them often.  

Oh, young moms.  Believe it or not, I envy you.  Those are precious moments in between the hardships.  Actually, even within the hardships.  You have such an important job.  And, I want you to be confident that you are doing it well.  Know that your Heavenly Father is cheering you on, moment by moment.  Because you are pouring yourself into those little treasures he's loaned you.   Well done, good and faithful servant.  Well done. 

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