Grace for the Non-Supermom
My husband Dan and I have been sprinting since the moment we met. We were engaged after eight months of dating and were married eight months after that. Of course, I became pregnant only four months later. I was ecstatic when we found out we were expecting our first child. The women at our church made parenting appear easy and, in my naiveté, I thought I could be just like them – maybe even better! I quit my job in my last trimester of pregnancy, and happily awaited motherhood.
But, did the Lord ever humble me. It quickly became apparent that I was no supermom – yet for a long time I remained desperate to be her. I pored over parenting books and articles, but never seemed to parent with excellence. I grew weary, and fell into despair whenever I sinned against my children. I began to doubt the value of my role when a friend pointed out that as a parent I was wasting years of schooling. In those low moments, I missed my career and the respect it garnered. People didn’t seem to respect stay-at-home mothers.
One night, after a particularly hard day, I bitterly confessed to my husband about how suffocating my life felt. My responsibilities were unrelenting. I couldn’t do this anymore. I was tired of putting everybody’s needs above my own. My dreams always had to be pushed aside and it wasn’t fair. I felt invisible. I pointed out that old friends were now successful, and that I would have been too if I had stayed in my career. I was tired of always being on a budget. I was fed up with living in a small walk-up apartment with three kids. I was miserable.
By God’s grace, Dan wisely responded with the hard, but loving truth.
“Jenny, I’m so sorry. I can understand why you’re burdened and discouraged. What you do for our family is invaluable and we appreciate you. I wouldn’t be able to work or even thrive in ministry without your sacrifices. What you’re experiencing is real, and I don’t want to minimize your suffering. I just want to encourage you to remember, ultimately, why and who we serve. When we serve from a posture of thanksgiving for Christ’s sacrifice for us, He is faithful to bless us amidst suffering. It is by His grace alone that we can be joyful when we’re tired, or when life doesn’t go according to plan, or when we have less. If we cannot be content with less, then we will never be content with more.”
The Lord knew this was exactly what I needed to hear. I finally understood that my misery and discontent were rooted in a lack of gratitude. The problem did not lie from lacking or from serving in a demanding and “thankless job.” The problem has always been my deceitful heart. Real and lasting joy is not found upon my own strength, but only upon the strength of Christ.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). I finally understood that I was serving my family out of compulsion and not from love. If I am not serving my family out of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice, then something is terribly amiss. Parenting that does not wholly flow from the Gospel is not Christian parenting at all.
The following scripture has served as a roadmap for me as I seek grace in my parenting:
“Rejoice in all circumstances. Pray without ceasing.
Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
“Rejoice in all circumstances.” Notice how Paul does not say that we must try to rejoice in most circumstances. He does not say, pray sometimes or give thanks sometimes. He clearly commands that we do these things at all times. If we truly believe that the Lord is sovereign and that He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), then we can trust His will. We must believe and live as though He is a good and trustworthy God. While we may grieve the life we hoped for, the life we may never have, we can still rejoice in our imperishable treasure in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4).
“Pray without ceasing.” Frequent prayer displays spiritual humility and communicates our dependence on Him. As children, we have unlimited access to our Father. We plead to our Deliverer when we desperately need His help in times of suffering. We ask for blessings, and He graciously gives them to us. Praying is one of the principal ways in which we can delight in, experience, and fellowship with our Savior. It is for our joy and we must do so frequently.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Jesus was called “a man of sorrows,” and we are called to emulate Christ in all ways (1 Peter 2:21). It is possible to intimately know sorrow and to still be thankful. Being thankful, even in times of suffering, does not mean feigning happiness. We may weep and our hearts may ache, but we can still be thankful for the Lord’s sovereignty, provision, and faithfulness. A joyful Christian’s life has no room for ruminating, self-pity, and pessimism. We must wage war against such temptations, and instead submit ourselves to remembering what is good, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
Mothers, it is my prayer that we slow down, stop overthinking, and cast aside the idolatry of “supermom.” May we quit seeing our children and the sacrifices we make as interruptions to “our real life.” Real life is happening now. It is not something that will happen after our children are out of our homes. May we steward our short time with them well; and even when we don’t, He gives more grace. Our children are eternal souls that are created in the image of God, and they desperately need to know Jesus. May we view every mundane and tedious task we do for our families as worship unto God. Even though we may not receive recognition, the Lord sees every secret and good deed. So, let us labor with hope, and consider it a privilege to lay down our lives for our loved ones as our Savior laid down His life for ours. If our Lord is faithful to save, He is surely faithful to give us complete joy in Christ.