As I walked out the door, I breathed an involuntary sigh of relief...Mothering 3 children under the age of 5 has been overwhelming at times and we are in the midst of 2 weeks without Daddy being home. I felt the freedom of holding and buckling in and out, just one baby.
But as I breathed the air from that sigh back in, I sucked back in all of a mother's worries...will they cry? will they make any friends? will this make them want to go to school? will this help them love Jesus more? will M. tell them if he has to go to the bathroom?
I drove home with all of these emotions and questions swirling through my head and two main thoughts about motherhood crystallized for me.
The first is that I am so grateful I have been able to stay at home with them. In a culture where "63 percent of the nation's children under five years of age are in some type of child-care arrangement every week," it can be hard to go against the flow.
It is easy to want the money working outside the home would bring . It is easy to want the lifestyle working outside the home would bring. There have been days over the last 4 years where I have doubted my decision to stay home.
But not today. Today, when I breathed back in those worries, I felt such joy that dropping them off at day-care/preschool has not been part of our normal routine. I realized how fast these 4 years have gone. Surely, it was just yesterday that G was the one I was taking out of the car seat. And with just the baby and I in the car, it felt so empty and the house is so silent without them now. Yes, it can be overwhelming to have a house full of little ones so dependent on me all day, day in and day out, for everything. But that need and dependence is the way it is supposed to be. And staying at home I have been able to give them the security of knowing each day I would be there. As they learn the very basics of how the world works, how to care for themselves, what authority means, who Jesus is, I have been there. A sure thing when everything else has been so new. And on that drive home, I was able to more fully realize the gift that motherhood can be for a child, a gift of the self for the child. And this laying down of one's life for another, is it not the very center of our faith, is it not the very core of the gospel? As Thomas Howard writes in Splendor in the Ordinary: The My-Life-For-Yours principle is the only one on which any life is possible at all because of the one "full perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world."
And it is such a sweet sacrifice at that. Thomas Howard continues that the home "is a holy place, for in it the sacred mysteries are celebrated: the mysteries of love transfiguring duty into joy, and of laid-down life understood as the principle of all life, and of ordinariness hallowed by being offered up in oblation to the Giver of every good thing" (p. 28).
Howard writes that in the bonds of family we begin to discover that
"self-giving, freedom, and joy are all one thing. From the first coupling of the parents in desire for each other and for a child, through the carrying of the first child by the mother and the husband's consideration for his pregnant wife, on through the nursing and feeding, to the training of the children ('Say, "thank you,"' or 'Pick up your paper dolls,' or 'Stand up when your mother comes into the room') and the ordinary muddle of things done together, it is all the school of Charity. For is not Charity the name given to that final, perfect, gloriously free and blissful state where all the lessons have been so mastered that the rules [and even our the work as members of a family] have withered and all of us have won through to the capacity to experience as joy the thing that was hinted at in all our early lessons; namely, that My Life For Yours is the principle at the bottom of everything?" (p. 48).We ultimately receive so much more than we could ever give. Sacrifice, Duty, Work, Fatigue give way to Virtue, Care, Laughs, Joy, Freedom, Love. And with each child there is only more to receive.
And the second thing I discovered as I breathed in those worries was the gentle reminder that though I may believe that my "house full of little ones so dependent on me all day, day in and day out, for everything," it is simply not true. Yes, I believe God has called me at this stage of my children's lives to provide them with full-time security and care but it is He who is truly our only security in this world. No matter how hard I try, I can do nothing to keep them ultimately healthy, safe or happy. At my best moments, I am a mere shadow of His Care, His Authority and His Love.
And so "letting go" just for a few hours today, I have learned yet again how to embrace my role as mother with joy for all it means and for all it does not.
Thanks be to God!
And now I'm going to go pick them up :-)