When our youngest was born, our oldest was just six years little. I remember those years with a fondness, and am also amazed to think of all that would happen in a day. Diapers were changed, toddlers were chased, babies were nursed, meals were made, snacks were handed out, sippy cups were endlessly filled, diaper bags were packed, and boo-boos were kissed.
I remember questioning myself a lot in those days.
Was I a good enough parent? Was I teaching them enough? Playing enough? Snuggling enough? Feeding them the right foods? Did they know how much they were loved? Did they feel as special as I knew they were?
My mind was constantly in motion with the next necessary task. Meals. Naps. Laundry. Playdates. Picking up toys. Meals. Naps. Laundry……
And in the back of my mind, as I would lean down to pick up a toy and place it in the toy box, or make meal, a quiet voice would often whisper, “Is this enough? Does what I’m doing matter?”
Years later, looking back on those years at home with four very young children so close in age, I wish I could whisper back to myself, “Yes. It is enough. Yes. It matters. You are doing a great job, and God will fill in the gaps. Rest in the knowledge that He made you to be their mother. And while you can’t be all things for them, you can point them to the One who is. Who will continue to be. Forever. You may let them down, but He will not.”
What I was doing wasn’t just being their mom. It was, and is, my ministry.
But at that time, my sleep-deprived self couldn’t see that. The days were so busy with the tasks of mothering small children. I felt stretched thin on some days. I didn’t feel like I could be a great wife, mother, daughter, friend and sister. I just didn’t have it in me to do all that I felt the day required. And to top it off, our children had health issues that often left us with cancelled plans.
And once again the voice inside of me would say, “See. You let people down. You will lose your friends.” And the guilt would pile up some more.
Over the past months, with all of the time at home, our children have been drawn to watching old family videos. Watching these videos has brought us a lot of joy, and has also been an unexpected gift to me during this time.
In watching these videos, I see myself playing with my children. Chasing their little toddler bodies around the house. Pushing them on swing sets. Singing songs with them at the dinner table. Reading them stories. Snuggling them. I see myself holding my babies and loving them well. These videos weren’t staged. They weren’t scenes created to make me feel better about those years. They are filled with random memories, and moments, captured in our home. They are simple things. Saying the ABCS. Blowing out Birthday candles. Making cookies.
And I realize as I watch these videos, how very wrong that voice of guilt that I listened to for all of those years was.
Was I perfect mother? Absolutely not. Did I make mistakes? You betcha.
But I tried.
I loved my children with all of my heart. I was present with them. And available. Did I sit on the floor and play all day long? No way. But who does?
And that’s not what children remember anyway. They remember the feeling of being with you. The comfort they felt in your presence. The meals on the table. The boo-boos kissed. They remember your presence. Whether you are folding laundry, cooking, picking up toys, or reading a book. What they remember is your love.
And as much as you love them unconditionally; they love you unconditionally, too.
If you are a parent with young children, I hope and pray you are able to silence the voices of guilt and doubt. Know you will never be perfect, but nobody expects you to be. Know that God is with you, and that He can fill in the gaps, and that there are other adults in your children’s lives who will love them and nurture them and care for them, too. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Neighbors. Friends.
The weight of it all doesn’t fall on your shoulders.
You have been given a beautiful gift when you are given the gift of a child. Trust that you know what is best. And know that the love you feel when you look into his, or her, eyes is worth more than you can ever truly fathom.
I wish I had understood better in those younger years, that what I was participating in, what I am participating in now, is the ministry of parenting. That these years, these tasks, these acts of love and service – they matter. My ministry is not outside of the home at this point in my life, my ministry lives within these walls. My ministry is loving my family as best as I am able, and pointing them to God.
There is a greater value in all of these acts than I ever realized when they were younger. I questioned so much. And now I am letting that go.
Thank you, God, for letting me participate in the ministry of parenting. Thank you for teaching me through my children. Thank you for helping me to see those young years again for what they truly were. I pray for all of the parents of young children. That they will know that the things they do every day matter. That they will be able to take time for themselves throughout the day. And that they will not be bogged down by the voices of guilt. I pray they will know You have given these children to them for a reason. That they will never be perfect. But they were never made to be. I pray the voices of guilt can be silenced. And that they will know that what they are doing matters. So very much.