i'm exhausted just writing that. (and before you get offended, i just picked things that are commonly talked about between moms...some of which i'm into.)
internet, instagram, twitter, Facebook, pinterest, and interpretations of in-real-life moms, all lead us to a pretty unrealistic view of how we should mother and how we should fill our time. and more importantly, we are taking cues about what all of that has to say about who we are in Christ. in fact, i bet most american mothers walk around in a pile of shame in regards to their mothering.
when i was in haiti this month, i was refreshed by the child rearing i saw in the orphanage. it sounds odd and probably contradictory to say, but as i sat there in the poverty, in the simple, in the bare bones of life... i found something valuable and uncomplicated. people were just living. it wasn't fussy, it couldn't be. 2 mama's and 1 papa taking care of 25-40 children. you'd think that would be crazy right? but it wasn't chaotic at all.
as americans who live in such a wealth of time, resources, conveniences, and money, i think we've lost something here in the parenting area. we hover over our children as if we're in so much control. if they just learn this before kindergarten! if i give them this advantage and they go to this school. if i parent them this way with these techniques...oh the places they'll go!
and oh, the flags we fly. the must-have flags. the must-accomplish flags. the do-it-this-way flags.
in haiti, it was refreshing because i had been flying lots of heavy flags in my heart about what kind of mother i needed to be and who my children would be as they entered adulthood. as if i determined it all. in a place where i felt literally unsafe and out of control, i saw something stable and good.
i saw well behaved children who loved Jesus and who didn't have constant hovering and constant attention. and i saw adults who were once children in the orphanage that were amazing, productive citizens, who loved the Lord and glorified Him with their lives.
they didn't grow up having the best education, the best clothing, the best food, the best medical care, the best parents, or the most educational activities... in fact, they probably had the worst or mediocre of all of that according to our modern day american standards.
i looked at the kids running around everyday. see how happy the children are? with no parents toting them around... oh! you need to share. oh! don't do that! uh-oh, time out! oh no! don't touch! come here! do this activity! now off to another one!
see how well they are doing? without being constantly entertained and constantly bargained with.
look at them, thriving and playing and helping and sharing. not much whining, not many tantrums.
only 1 time in 5 days did i see a fit thrown. he was 3 probably and ran to one of the two "mama's". she continued doing the laundry and he sat there next to her in tears. they sat there together realizing that life wasn't fair, she a widow and he an orphan, both treated harshly by a broken world. after a minute he got up and went right back to playing.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Ps. 127:1-3
oh. well, i have to admit...that's not the way i see it often times. in fact, with my thoughts, i think i'm building the house most of the time. i put so much weight on if i do something wrong i'll screw them up! or i think i'm awesome because i do it a certain way. too much pride or living in shame.
as i watched the haitians i noticed a lot of unfair, but a lot of absorbing hurts and moving on.
a lot of living. a lot of cooking. a lot of going out to the garden. a lot of laundry (i mean, remember they're doing it all by hand). a lot of fetching water. a lot of kids playing and pretending and singing. a lot of simple.
it was just how it was.
it wasn't fussy and it didn't need to be. because it couldn't be.
we've lost so much in our modern living and in our excess. and in that, we've gained such a false sense of control and safety. we've gained other's convictions on how we should parent and have gotten lost in the busyness and activities as a measure of how good of a mother we are. and who we are.
it all has been telling us how we don't measure up.
mothers sitting in PILES of shame because they aren't "doing it all" or doing it right.
whatever happened to just living life and inviting children into it?
to laughing and talking over chopping veggies for dinner?
to teaching lessons through living and modeling and just being?
intentional living, without everything revolving around the children.
and no, i'm not saying that we all need to throw out fun activities and entertainment. i'm not saying we need to live in poverty and abandon all american ways to be better mothers. i'm not saying if you look at pinterest for activity ideas, you're sinning. or that what i saw in one culture is the standard to live by. but the contrast simply brought to light issues going on in my own heart. and i think i can venture to say many other mothers too.
i just think there's something to be learned here about taking good desires and turning them into must haves, must do's, and value makers. creating activity, after activity, after entertainment, after entertainment is not good for anyone. but our culture says it is. lots of activity = very productive!
what we're actually fostering here is bored and unsatisfied children who believe the world revolves around them. we can find this in all of our hearts though, can't we? do you have trouble resting and relaxing? do you constantly need to have your entertainment appetite satisfied? are you often chasing activities, dreams, goals, "happiness", busyness as a way of finding value instead of finding your hope in the person of Jesus Christ and who He says you are?
what i'm getting at is that we're making it really, really complicated. it's hard to be carrying all that weight of your child's future, then your shame for failing most days, and the busyness of trying to do better and be more productive. how can you do all that and "be present" and live in the moment? it's absurd!
let's get real, that's something we all struggle with. unless you're a robot. and hey, i don't have all the answers...i'm a young mother and this is my struggle too.
so what do we do? there's a lot of freedom when we recognize that you and i are sinful humans. we don't have to be offended when we read this because we are all this kind of people. we've been this kind of people since adam and eve and it's not surprising to God that we need his realignement and mercy when we worship other things beside Him. when we take good desires to extremes and turn them into must haves, creating unrealistic demands on ourselves and judgment for others who don't match up.
the only thing we can do is repent from finding the approval of others more valuable than God's. we can repent from seeing ourselves as in total control over our children's futures. we can repent and ask God to change our hearts where we have judged others for not doing it "the right way". we can repent where we've made our children little idols we worship in small and large ways.
i don't have a list for you or a schedule on how your day will look. but we can ask God to help us see where we need to change. where we've been building a house that's not His.
pointing them to Jesus is our goal. asking him, not the world, to build our homes.
in that, this is absolutely not a license for mothers to be lazy or to abandon responsibilities... it might actually be a time for the laid back mother's to be more intentional. but it is an opportunity for all of us to take inventory and ask God to continually change us and help us to see that parenting is about Him and not us looking good, doing it right, being super awesome at mothering, or securing an amazing future for our children. we can ask Him to help us point our kids to Jesus and to make our lives about Him, not us and not them.
did you know there are kids in haiti who are waiting to go to school but can't? because they don't have $20 a month. do you have a little extra cash to spare?
but to sponsor a child with haiti orphan project monthly, go here.click monthly tuition and you can choose 1 kid or 2 or 3 to sponsor!
in the description box, please write KCMO tuition so they know that you are specifically sending the $20 to help the children in the village i visited go to school. i'm hoping my readers will kind of own this specific area. (or at least this is my prayer!)