After the Vows

The Pull of Motherhood

Early in our marriage, I remember thinking that having children wasn’t going to affect our marriage much. We were married over 5 years before I got pregnant with our first child. I had all kinds of ideas about motherhood that ended up not being true.

One of which was, “having kids will only draw my husband and me closer to each other.” While there is some truth in that, there ended up being a greater truth for me, "at times, our kids drew me more close to them than to Jay."

A Mother's Love

After 17 years of counseling, I have often joked that I could write a book about “moms behaving badly.” But honestly, I can contribute some stories from my own life!

What is it about this role that can bring out the best and the worst in us mothers? Is it the fact that we have 9 months of our lives literally connected to this child? And after the child is born, it really does feel like a part of our hearts are walking around inside of someone else?

The intensity of a mother’s love can be something fierce. I was always afraid to be alone in a house overnight, but once I had children, I felt a bravery that had more to do with protecting them. I never imagined being willing to die for someone else, (sorry Jay!). However, once we had Karissa, Kirsten and Joshua, I had 3 people for which I was willing to lay down my life.

After becoming a parent, I began to understand God’s love for me even more. The tenderness, the willingness to forgive everything, the desire to want to protect and provide, and the willingness to sacrifice for them. These were all good things. Except… that “love” can, at times, produce some unhealthy behavior.

For instance, putting our children above all else, especially God and our husbands. I didn’t understand how much of a struggle this would be before I became a mom. And I think it begins innocently enough. After all, an infant needs 24-hour care, he or she is so dependent on us.

But sometimes our desire to love and protect can consume us to the point of not making time with God and/or our husbands and even some healthy self-care.

Our lives being totally child-focused is a recipe for great pain. It can border on idolatry. It can leave us exhausted and empty. It can damage our marriages. And it’s too great a burden for a child to bear.

God is truly the only one who can love us unconditionally. And looking for that from anyone else will prove to be extremely painful.

Developing our relationship with Him is the most important thing we can do for ourselves, our husbands, and our children! Yet, we know it takes time and, depending on the season of life we are in, it will look different. When children are young and take a lot of physical energy, our time with the Lord may be short and quick, 5-minute devotionals, listening to worship music, attending a Bible study that provides childcare.

As our children grow older and more independent, we may have time for longer times of connection with God. God understands our time restraints! He just wants us to connect with Him. 

Being loved on by God and loving Him back, gives us what we need to keep healthier boundaries in our relationships.  

Taking in Oxygen

Your children will eventually grow up and move away. Your husband is the one you will truly grow old with. Nurturing that relationship is so important, and, honestly, it has made my empty-nest adjustment so much better than I thought it would be.

This requires a lot of work and some planning. It means that date night starts when your kids are young. Even if the dates are at home because of the restraints of money and babysitters. Your children will eventually love the memories of seeing their parents go out on dates and seeing them work to stay in love and grow closer. This brings so much security to a child. No matter what their age!

Remember how a flight attendant explains how to use the oxygen mask? “If you are traveling with a child, secure your mask on first, and then assist your child.”

You can’t care well for your child if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

Healthy self-care is essential for every mother. Even Jesus himself wasn’t at the mercy of all the very real needs around him. He knew he had to take time alone with the Father and then with a small group of friends before he could minister to the crowds of people. Mom’s need to have healthy self-care in order to be their best. Alone time, time with girlfriends, and other self-care activities are essential.

We don’t have to be moms who push the pause button on our marriages until the kids leave the nest. We can remember that motherhood truly is a gift. We need to take good care of that gift for the health of our families and ourselves.

Thankfully, it is a process that is full of grace and forgiveness. We have the compassion and power of the Holy Spirit to help us assess, change, and grow! 

In my next blog post, I will write about the signs that you are putting your children above all else and the burden it places on your child.

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