The things I used to judge moms for, and what I know now

Once a young woman with stars in my eyes, I kept mental lists of the things I wasn't going to do when I became a mom.  From the superficial and external to the deep and complex - I had it all mentally figured out.  Now with 3 kids going on 4, I'm slightly the wiser (and much more convinced that I know very little about being a mom).

Here are some of the things I used to judge moms for, and here's what I know now...

What I thought then:  My van will never have crushed snacks on the floor and toys everywhere.
What I know now:  Going places with lots of little kids requires bags, toys, snacks, cups, clothes, and more.  Somewhere during those travels (either around town or across state lines) these items drop, fall, or are thrown on the floor.  While moms would like for it to be a priority to remove each and every one of those items littering the van, it's hard enough to get each child out when you arrive back at your home.  You're potentially pulling out people with complicated coats who are hungry, crabby, tired, or haven't napped.  The main goal is getting everyone inside and having their needs met.  So sometimes, the crackers on the carpet just aren't a priority!  A clean van is nice, but some mess here and there is just part of having a family.

What I thought then:  I'm never going to "let myself go" and wear junky clothes / no makeup everyday.
What I know now:  When you've been up several times in the night with young kids, you might need to sleep until they wake up.  As soon as kids wake up, your best opportunity to shower has probably passed.  It's possible to squeeze it in later in the day, but it's going to require other hard sacrifices.  Immediate needs have to be met, like feeding kids breakfast, changing diapers, and getting everyone settled into the daily routine.  Getting ready is on your list, but it keeps getting pushed back and back and back because people keep needing you unexpectedly.  When you do finally shower, the precious 10-15 minutes it takes to dry and style your hair probably needs to be exchanged for dinner prep or switching out a load of laundry.  And once your nice sweaters are permanently stained or torn for the 4th or 5th time, you stop wearing nice clothes around your young children altogether.  There is still a place for personal grooming and looking attractive to your spouse (which is of high importance), but it's much more challenging than I ever expected!

What I thought then:  I'm not going to let my kids watch TV.
What I know now:  TV is not evil in and of itself.  It needs to be moderated and shouldn't ever take the place of intentional mothering.  There are shows that are not appropriate for a young child to watch, and as a parent, it's so important to protect what our children see until they are mature enough to evaluate content for themselves.  However, there are also a lot of shows and movies out there that have a decent message.  They aren't going to scar a child for life, and they might even bring some brightness to everyone's day.  TV shows can provide a good opportunity for mom to have some needed time with God, or catch up on a few chores to make the rest of the day run more smoothly.  TV shows can give a chance for mom to shower (see above) and can help everyone cope during times of morning sickness or other illness in the house.  I used to think the decision to let my kids watch shows was straightforward, but now I see that there are a lot of factors to weigh and it's not the difference between a good mom and bad mom.

What I thought then:  I'm not going to become a hermit who stays home with kids all day long.
What I know now:  Getting kids out of the house (especially multiple young children) is logistically challenging and physically exhausting.  There are numerous factors to consider such as; is everyone healthy?  Are we going to miss a nap?  Has everyone eaten?  How will we get around once we get to our location?  How much help am I going to need?  What is the likelihood that someone is going to run away or have a meltdown?  Sometimes the answers to these questions aren't deal breakers, but they need to be carefully understood and weighed, and sometimes, the benefits of getting out of the house don't outweigh the difficulties.  Not to mention, most kids thrive on routine.  Sometimes moms want to just be at home and have a smooth or normal day as a family.  The more children we have, the more I understand why many moms go through a bit of a hermit season until their kids get a little older.  It's important to get out and do things, but it's not the only important thing.

What I thought then:  I'm not going to have sick kids all the time.
What I know now:  I used to see moms of many children and wonder, "Why are they always missing things because of sickness?  Do they have a really germ-infested house?  What is the deal?  I don't like that moms are inconsistent and hard to count on."  *sigh*  Even the most clean-freak moms who wash hands and use sanitizer and stay out of public places get sick kids.  And guess what, if you have multiple children who are under the age of 5 in one house, it's almost inevitable that what one has, they will all get.  And it doesn't always happen at the same time!  Sometimes an illness will take weeks to hit each child, and each time that mom needs to wait it out until her child is better before she comes into the world with them.  Bystanders might think this is annoying, but I promise you that it bothers the mom even more.  She WANTS to be consistent.  She WANTS to uphold her playdates and adult commitments.  She doesn't intentionally avoid you because she would rather be taking care of a child who is throwing up or has a fever.  The doctor's office isn't her favorite place.  Any mom would tell you that if it was in their power, they wouldn't ever have a sick child!

What I thought then:  I'm not going to have a messy and cluttered house.
What I know now:  Mom's are trying to pick up after miniature mess factories.  Literally, for every item that is put away, a child takes a new thing out.  For every pair of pants that is washed, a new one is stained.  Each time a dish is rinsed, another one is eaten off of.  Even if you are 100% on top of your game, well-rested, and in good spirits - this is a tough job.  So add any other family or physical stress to that and a person can imagine how quickly a house can become messy and cluttered.  Not to excuse it, but it's much more challenging than I expected, and it's something that you can spend your whole day on without making much noticeable progress.

Honestly, this list could go on and on (sadly, this is just a small sampling of my judgements)...but it's really just a reflection of what some women say and think before they become a mom themselves.  These are the things that can make women dread and avoid motherhood.  Because from the outside, it looks like a bunch of women who are haggard, tired, and struggling to do their job well.  But it's much MUCH more complicated than that, and outsiders looking in on motherhood also don't get to see the deep joy and satisfaction that mothers experience as they put their hair in a ponytail again, nurse another toddler back to health, or give thanks that they are blessed enough to have a car full of cracker crumbs.
Outsiders can't always see the way moms do mundane things with eternal purpose, or work with excellence even when the pretty results are thwarted.  It's not a glamorous job by our culture's standards, but God calls it an important one.

And because of what I know now...I'm TRYING to be more reserved with my judgements about what type of mom I'll be to school-aged children, teenagers and adults.  Because it will probably look a lot different than I expect once I have a better perspective!  Also, I think some of these things have helped humble my too-high view of self, as I recognize my daily need for God's grace through the cross.  I can't do this thing alone, and I certainly can't do it WELL without ongoing growth and training.

Can you relate?
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