A Narrative Written by Jessica Phillips and Mike Augsburger

Hang in there for 18 years! 

I am a mother.  It’s a pretty thankless job with a delayed reward.  If I can just make it through eighteen years, that’s when all the insanity pays off—right?  If I’m not in an asylum by then? Don’t get me wrong.  I love these little people more than life itself.  But, I’m exhausted.  I haven’t slept in six years.  And I’ve heard myself say the most ridiculous things.  

No, you may not put a bag over his head.  He could die.

Do not hit your brother on the head with a hammer.

No, you may not wear shorts.  It’s the dead of winter.  Yes, I’m quite serious.

No, you may not bring roly polies into HyVee.

Don’t touch the potty.  Don’t lick the doorknob.  Why would you lick the doorknob?  There are germs on doorknobs, sweetie.  People are puking all over the state of Iowa, and now we’re all going to be puking.  Wonderful.

Mom.  Mom.  Mom. Mom. MOOOOOOOOOM!!!  I love their voices, really.  But when they’re talking at me all at once, and picking at each other, and refusing to put their shoes on, and taking 100 years to get buckled in the car . . . why does it take 100 years, anyway?

And why is it that, no matter how much I clean, nothing ever smells clean? There’s sort of this permanently stale, sweaty smell.  Do houses full of girls smell like this too, I wonder?  So you open the windows for that fresh spring rain smell, but now it just smells like stale sweat mixed with earthworms.  Lovely. And of course the diapers are a tremendous help.  

Ever feel like all you do is change diapers and do laundry and feed hungry little people and pick up toys and sweep seventy times a day (but the floor’s never clean), and unload and reload the dishwasher, and give eighty-thousand reminders about the same things all day long? Stop arguing.  Be kind.  Remember to think before you act.  Remember to think before you speak.  Just basically remember to think before you do ANYTHING! Look at my eyes.  Look at my eyes.  Would you just LOOK AT MY EYES AND LISTEN ALREADY?! Crap.  I just said crap.  Twice.  

I want to delight in it all and be sweet and patient and wonderful, vacuuming in pearls like June Cleaver, kissing my children’s cheeks all day long.  But my husband is working 500 hours a day, and so am I, and I’m tired and crabby and sweaty and covered in someone else’s snot, and there’s orange juice on the ceiling, and the bathroom’s flooded again, and there are little round bruises on the soles of my feet in the shape of Legos, and I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired and smelling like earthworms!!!  Oh, good.  Now I’ve gone and burnt dinner too.  Cajun broccoli tonight, kids.  You will eat it, and you will like it!  And just when you’re finally getting ready to enjoy the hot shower you’ve earned—because, after carting children and laundry up and down stairs all day, you’re pretty sure you’re actually contributing to that stale, sweaty earthworm smell . . . Mommy?  I need a drink.  Mom?  I’m hungry.  My pants are wet.  I had a bad dream.  Mama! Maaaaaama!  Bottle?  Bottle! MAAAAMAAAAA! Mommy, my tummy doesn’t feel so good.  I think I’m gonna . . . . oooooooooohh crap. Here we go with the stomach flu.  

What I’d like to know is, why isn’t NOW the due season?  And when do I get a break?  Sigh. One day, you tell yourself.  One day they’ll all be grown, and I just need to make it until then. It’ll be worth it in the end, right? Maybe one of them will grow up to be the President.  Or maybe they’ll even rise up and call me blessed! But, right now, aren’t there moments—or days or weeks!—when it seems like you’re just spinning your wheels?  We know.  Eighteen years will fly by.  And we’ll miss they’re little faces. Just, please, say a prayer for us?  That we’ll make it that long? Meanwhile, if you need me, I’ll just be hiding in my closet. 

Delayed Reward?  

Could this really be the case?  Are all the rewards for mothering actually delayed?  One thing we ALL know is that mothering is difficult.  Why?  Courtesy of our good friend (actually enemy) sin!  In Genesis 3 God doled out the curses that would result because of sin, and mothering specifically was cursed.  In other words, mothering is difficult precisely because it is sin-cursed.  However, Genesis 3 also teaches us that through mothering the Messiah would be born.  So, amidst the curse is blessing.  

Isn’t this just like our God?  “Mingling toil with peace and rest” as the hymn writer so aptly quipped.  Yes, there will be delayed reward in mothering, but I would contend that the greatest rewards in mothering are right in the throes of the daily grind.  Why?  Because the greatest gift and reward God could ever give us is to KNOW HIM.  Strangely enough, in the common, gruesome, and annoying duties of mothering we find ourselves mimicking the very character of our God.  Managing the foibles of our children let’s us experience what God experiences as he patient deals with us…His children!  Please, dear mother, never take for granted the “inglorious” aspects of mothering, for in that which seems “inglorious” we find the very nature and character of God displayed in glorious colors.  What does this look like?  Read on!

Enjoying God in Your Mothering

I am a mother.  A thankless job?  Sometimes, but, let me tell you, the reward is constant.  Focusing on knowing and enjoying God during these 18 years is going to be such an adventure! Knowing the Savior as a mother opens a window into the character of God.  You may have known and loved Him for years, but when you become a mother . . . whoa.  You start seeing lots more of what He’s been up to in your life, as you care for your little ones.  

Beginning with your physical body being undone for them, as His body was broken and torn for us.

Praying for them, and making plans for their future even before you meet them, like He prays for us, and lays out His plan for us even before we are knit together in the womb.

Protecting them from danger, just as He does, and guarding their little hearts as He guards our own.

Nurturing their souls as He nurtures ours.  Meeting us right where we are, but not leaving us there.

I hear, “That’s not fair!” and I remember that God is just. 

When I clean their clothes, You remind me that I am clothed in the spotless righteousness of Christ.

I tell them “I love you!” 87,000 times a day, and they’re pretending to roll their eyes, but I see the twinkle in them because they love to hear it, and they know it’s true, just like I love to read in his Word over and over how much my Father loves me.

We delight in watching our children doing what they love, in the same way that the Father delights in us. He delights in our song.  He delights in our affection.  He even delights in our repentance.  

And don’t you just love to hear little children pray?  Our Father, too, delights in our prayers.

They’re always asking questions, too, aren’t they?  Especially,  “Why?”  Why, Mommy, why?  Why is the sky blue?  Why do birds fly?  Why can’t we have ice cream for supper?  Why can’t daddy stay home every day?  Isn’t that so like us?  “Why, God?  Why did you let this happen?  Why can’t I have my own way?”

We’re always cleaning up their messes, like He cleans up ours.  Mending relationships. Softening bitterness. Teaching us to forgive.

And, honestly, sometimes children just need to be held.  Our Father knows this about us too, and He holds us close, never letting go.

And when I feel like I’m a broken record, and they just aren’t getting it, I remember that He doesn’t rebuke me when I still don’t get it. So I look up, eager for His instruction, ready to hear the same lesson again for the fifth or maybe the fiftieth time today. 

Father, when I’m exhausted and spent and needing to be refreshed, drive me to Your Word.  What I need is Christ.  Not a pedicure, or a haircut, or a massage, or more “me” time. Your Son came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life—to be poured out as a sacrifice.  Let me be poured out for you today. We are in this together, You and I. Help me to rest in You in the midst of the busyness. Help me to share with them how Your Word encourages me.  Let them see me finding my satisfaction in you.  Seeing Your character through the simple tasks of caring for my children is a beautiful and constant reward.  Watching them enjoy Your blessings gives me a greater glimpse of Your unconditional, relentless love.  So I praise You and thank You and lean fully on Your strength today.  You are God.  You are with me. You are always enough.  And I get to mirror You to my children today. What a gift!

I am a mother.  Thankless?  Sometimes.  Delayed reward?  Absolutely not!  In fact, I’d say this is the most spiritually rewarding job on the planet! Tomorrow is a new day.  A fresh opportunity to enjoy Him and be used up for Him.  I can’t wait to see what He shows me next!