…It’s a question we often ask ourselves when we see someone doing something beyond our own means or abilities. When I was a new mother, I remember observing mothers with more children than I, who still did volunteer work, served in their church, brought older kids to their afternoon activities on time, while simultaneously caring for younger siblings, and still fit in family time, had energy to tuck kids in, and shared a family devotional time every morning. When my first born arrived, I didn’t even know how to keep the house clean or cook dinner, while nursing, bathing, and changing him!
A few months ago, as my husband and I drove home together, we were talking and I began to cry. I told him how has a mother of young children I had felt confident and capable and like I “knew what I was doing”, but that now in this new phase of adolescent children everything felt new and overwhelming and that I was was often uncertain of how to do things… I just felt like I was not doing a very good job. And my husband smiled at me gently and said, “I remember a few years ago having this same conversation with you. You didn’t feel capable as a mom in the phase you were experiencing.”
Sometimes it’s only by looking backwards that our perspective changes and we can see how much we have grown. This thought struck me recently when I found myself in the same situation as the mothers I had observed years before. A new mother told me, “I don’t know how you do it! I only have one and I’m barely succeeding!” Since when had I become the more experienced mother?! It had happened slowly, over the course of time- day after day, week after week, year after year.
God added weight to my load a little at a time. Sometimes I felt it, but it was often imperceptible. I told the new mother, “It didn’t happen all at once!” God has helped me to grow and continues to help me grow together with my children and my responsibilities. God gives us enough grace for the season in which we find ourselves today. Then He helps us grow so that we are ready for the next season.
Now I look beyond my season at women who have more experience than me- who manage to babysit their grandchildren with joy, teach, who can put together a meal for 20 people at the last moment, and organize weddings and baby showers all while taking care of their elderly parents, and serving in the local church – and I still wonder, “But how does she do it?!”
I still have a sense of wonder, just as I did as a new mother when I could barely get out of the door with my newborn and all of his contraptions (stroller, car seat, diaper bag, bottles…what did I forget?!). I couldn’t understand how a mother with 4 children could have everyone outside the door on time, dressed and happy. Sometimes we have the feeling of drowning in today’s circumstances. But when we stop and look back we can see how much we have grown- in wisdom, in not being anxious, in patience, in balancing things… And this is as true for the new mother as for the mother of 20 years! Maybe your newborn still doesn’t sleep through the night, but do you remember when he was just born and you didn’t even know how to attach him to your breast? Maybe he is beginning to throw tantrums and you don’t know how to handle it, but do you remember when he didn’t sleep through the night yet? Your child is growing every day, but you too are growing as a mother every day. It’s easy to feel tired, discouraged and like things never change. Which is why it is important to celebrate the little victories! Celebrate and thank God for how he helped you grow so far, and have faith that he will continue to help you grow.
We need to learn to cheer each other on. When we walk alongside mothers who are in an earlier stage than ours, we need to encourage them and not make them feel guilty or inadequate. Cheer them on, without belittling. Challenge them, but don’t exasperate them. Celebrate their efforts. When we look at the new mother with the little baby and we need to be careful not to compare her to the mother with more experience. One might think that because she has “less responsibility”, she should be able to do more. But let’s not forget that it’s likely that she is still learning how to balance things, because she too is in the early stages of being a mother. We forget that even mothers are daughters – daughters of God. He makes us grow as mothers together with the children he has entrusted to us. God does not leave us where we are now. He knows how to help us move from point A to point B, from immaturity to maturity, from walking to running.
We learn to have patience with ourselves, and faith in the God who does not leave us halfway. One of my favorite verses is found in Philippians i: 6 “And I have this confidence: that he who began a good work in you will lead it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” He continues to work in the lives of our children, but also in our lives as mothers. We also learn to support one another and do not accept the lie that “I am alone.” Or “I am the only one living this situation or this phase.” Instead of merely admiring the mother with more experience than we have, we could sincerely ask, ” How do you do it? ” Perhaps she has some useful advice to give you. In this way we can learn from one another an support each other as we grow and learn as mothers.