A quarter of a century ago seems like, well..., a quarter of a century ago. Back then I didn't think too much about our rapidly growing family. Everyone around me was amazed and shook heads in disbelief as every year or two our family photo grew by one.
We didn't see it that way. We shrugged, or laughed, and just carried on, enjoying every minute (OK, maybe not EVERY minute), but in the general scheme of things we were pretty blissful about the whole arrangement. We loved raising our family!
What I didn't think about was the sudden explosion of life that would take place a decade or two down the road. It started with the teen years and the inevitable shift in hormonal balance and one thing led to another and here we are. In a matter of fewer than five years we have added five in-laws, four grandchildren, are expecting three more, have three teens at home, and still have three more up and coming.
It's not that I didn't consider the possibilities of family growth. But it's more than just that, SO much more! It's meshing the numerical growth with the individual growth and journey of each child finding their own way, understanding who they are apart from family, challenging or accepting not just who they are but who WE are, and then, in the midst of this ideologically challenging soup, leaving and cleaving to their new life mate, while a half a dozen others are in various stages of the same process--it all leaves a mama feeling whooped.
On any given day I can be the best mom ever, the worst mom ever, the most understanding, the least understanding, the greatest blessing, the biggest curse, the most desired, the least wanted, the smartest, or the most clueless.
I never set out to prove that I was going to be the world's best mom and show everyone how it was done. I didn't dream of writing "How to" parenting books or giving lectures while holding up my perfect posterity as examples of my authority. And now that I have a few years and stories under my belt I shy away even more from questions of "What did you..?"
I just wanted to stay home and be a mom. On the whole, I didn't bargain for the great ocean of emotional upheaval that would come with loving and pouring myself out for my children. There is just no way I could have ever understood the intensity of the heartache (in the good and bad) that is part of this job. I've had times that I looked at my husband and confessed, "It's just not worth it. We don't come close to getting back anywhere near what we put in." I dream about being alone and escaping demands and accusations. I imagine not having to be so responsible and accountable ALL THE TIME. I imagine, being the kid.
And then I think of Jesus. I remember that, with him, I AM the kid. I think of his great love and sacrifice and how little he gets in return for what he's given. I see myself, the kid, through my experienced eyes as the parent. And I'm not too happy with what I see. I see, as the child, the same things in myself that I struggle with in my children, and my heart softens for them. I see, as the parent, Jesus' perfect example for my life--giving for me his perfect love in love and submission to the Father. I'm shamed and humbled, but not into despondency. My sins are covered by his forgiveness, my hard heart is washed in his love, I'm clothed in his righteousness, and I'm renewed in his spirit.
Motherhood IS worth it, but not for childish kisses and sweet secret notes, or for late night conversations or expressions of gratitude. It's worth it because it draws me closer to my Savior and helps me see myself in a different light, as he sees me. It inspires me to be a better child. And through all of that it makes me more content and full of love for what I have as a parent. It also makes me realize that in so very many ways I get back much more than I put in.