Muddling through Motherhood?

Are you muddling through motherhood? Does it sometimes feel like you’re just going through the paces, but not really connecting with your kids or doing the things that God would have you do? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that, yes, you love your children—but sometimes you don’t really like them? Anxious for those little ones to take their afternoon naps (or the big kids to bed at night) just so you can get away from it all?

Now…maybe you’ve always been muddling through motherhood—or perhaps it seems that way. I find that when I get into habits or feel a certain way, I can get myself discouraged and imagine that it’s always been like that. Chances are, it hasn’t. Chances are, you’ve had lots of good days and maybe just a run of bad ones. Maybe you haven’t responded properly and so you’re kind of “stuck” in some ruts. That’s where I’ve been. I guess a good place to start is to share a bit of my testimony in this area.

I have always enjoyed my God-given roles of wife and mother. Being at home has been my preference, and I dearly love my children. My heart’s desire is to love and serve God and to encourage my children to do the same. I can’t say that I’ve been a perfect mother—in fact, far from it. But there has never been any doubt in my mind that my children are a blessing from the Lord and that I take great joy in doing my small part in raising them to be men and women of God. Even when I have struggled with depression (which I have), it has never occurred to me to despise motherhood.

So how did I get to be in a phase where I’ve felt like I’m “muddling”—not only through motherhood, but even through life? Well, it began this summer when I was deeply hurt by someone that I had considered a friend. Honestly, I harbored some unforgiveness and didn’t deal with the offense in a biblical manner. As a result of my disobedience in that area, there was a certain distance between me and God. Before I was able to be restored, I found out I was pregnant—and my first trimesters are always soooo tiring! There were evenings that I would find myself inadvertently nodding off even during our evening family devotions. And get up early in the morning? It wasn’t happening! As a result, I missed my habitual morning quiet times with the Lord for about seven weeks—talk about a LONG time!! So guess what? More distance!

I believe that this was the root of my own season of “muddling through motherhood.” Add to that my husband being laid off and putting our house on the market—that created an almost constant pressure (albeit self-induced at times!) to keep the house in “showing condition.” My own personal spiritual condition was suffering, and life circumstances only compounded the problem.

I slowly began “managing” rather than “ministering” to my children. Not only was there distance between me and God, but now distance was developing between me and them. I was kind of on autopilot throughout each day. Maybe they weren’t my worst days, but I would say that there was a definite absence of effort on my part in many ways, from homeschooling to marriage-building, discipling my children, and everything in between. After a bit, my husband and I of course got around to discussing the issue. In his usual, straightforward way, he said, “Yeah, you definitely aren’t doing as bad as you could be—but you aren’t doing all that you should be.” Okay, so I got the point. I was muddling through motherhood.

So, what did I do—and what do you do if you find yourself there? If you feel like you’re not experiencing God’s best, you may need to ask yourself some tough questions—this is where I started when I realized that I had been muddling through motherhood:

  1. Have I fallen out of the will of God through some disobedience? (For me, this was true. I knew that I should have dealt biblically with an offense, and I did not.) The Bible is clear that sin separates us from God—but also that God forgives us and restores us when we turn to Him. If you feel distant from God on an ongoing basis, think about when it began and see if you can identify the cause.
  2. Am I carrying a grudge against anyone for anything? (In my case, this was also unfortunately true; though I did “want to” and “try to” forgive, it was difficult.) Matthew 5:22-24 warns against anger towards a brother and instructs us to seek forgiveness if we have offended someone. If we are to love God and love others as God’s word says, it’s vital to maintain right relationships. Interpersonal difficulties can have a spiritual effect!
  3. Do I have a substantial prayer life and a connection to God through the Word? (I would say that I attempted to sustain a substantial prayer life, but I had certainly gotten out of the habit of relating to God through His Word) Prayer life and time in the word are the most important elements in having an ongoing love relationship with God. This is how we hear from and talk to Him. We can’t move forward spiritually without them. Without them, we are bound to be dry inside—that’s where muddling through life can begin!
  4. Am I being distracted from my faith by worldliness and failing to seek God first? (For me, not true in this case—but it is certainly something we all struggle with at times.) If we fail to take the admonition of Colossians 3:1-2 to “set [our] hearts on things above,” we certainly will be focused on earthly things—and that can easily throw us off-track.

When I look back on my season of muddling, I can’t believe the number of factors that contributed to my ongoing difficulties! Yet God was—and is so faithful! If you find that there is an impediment such as one of these in your walk with God, repent. Turn to God and desire change in your heart and behavior. Of course, you’re probably familiar with 1 John 1:9, which is a scripture I remind myself of in such circumstances. It says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And what does God do after that? He begins restoring—bringing us back to an even better place!

Preparatory Work

Our children are pretty well-trained to help out around the house. They have scheduled chores that they do on a daily basis, but I can also ask them to give me a hand with odds and ends that are needed throughout the day.

However, sometimes they need help in order to be so helpful to me.  For example: as my little ones napped this afternoon, I thought ahead to what job they would be doing when they got up…dishes! Now, one can wash and the other can rinse, but they aren’t yet proficient at putting in “just enough” dish liquid or getting the water temperature just right. For that matter, they get a bit frustrated by things that are too heavy for their little hands, or pans that are too tough for them to scrub. So my job—before they did their job—was to wash a couple of pots and pans, then make sure the sink was just full enough of warm water and bubbles. As I blog, my three and five year-old daughters are now busily washing and rinsing

the remaining dishes! They are not even aware of the work that I did beforehand.

How does this relate to family and ministry? Well, sometimes (given the number of young children we have), I wonder if we’re “doing” enough. We want our children to have a heart for the lost and to be “ministry minded”—but if actual, hands-on opportunities get to be few and far between, how do we facilitate this process?

It helps me to remember that in ministry (just as in this example with my girls) there is the work that we immediately associate with a given task. But there is also preparatory (and often unseen) work as well.

So even though, as a family with lots of “littles,” I’m not (ever) out there witnessing in the streets, I try to think of what we can do to help out before, during, or after others (like my husband) do the actual work of the ministry. At one time, I helped out by making lists of visitation possibilities for evangelistic outreach. I also followed up with phone calls after the visits. When we know of someone who is doing the work of evangelism, we pray for them and for those with whom they come into contact. Prayer is an important, unseen work in the process of sharing the gospel!

We can also encourage others in their ministry, whatever it might be, by sending cards or making occasional phone calls. Letting people know that we are praying for them or that their work is appreciated is never a wasted effort. Such encouragements often provide a boost to someone who may be weary in serving, and can be an impetus for them to press on in whatever God has called them to do.

As parents, we are constantly engaged in “preparatory work” when we make the effort that is needed to disciple our children: training, instructing, encouraging, and disciplining them. We help our children to grow in Christlike character as we live a life of example, teach from God’s Word, encourage proper behaviors, and correct misbehavior—always with their heart and their relationship with the Lord in mind. So when we do get an opportunity to engage in more active (or “obvious”) ministry as a family, we are all prepared to be a true witness for Christ, glorifying Him in the way that we behave.

So if you, like me, are a home mom, don’t be discouraged because you are not “doing” any ministry. Think about how you, and your children along with you, can continually participate in others’ efforts—even (and especially) in unseen ways. And remember that very moment of every day, you are on the front lines, preparing your children for a lifetime of serving the Lord.