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Christian Living

Family

How to Practice the Art of Motherhood

Mother and child painting

When I get to heaven I will have two questions for the Lord. The first is the common query of why innocents had to suffer on Earth. The other would be why he mistakenly forgot to bequeath me with the talent and body frame necessary to be a contemporary dancer, when it was my heart’s desire for so long. Of course that ship sailed decades ago, but during my delusional habit of pretending to be a ‘pointe’ dancer while squatting to episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, I had a deep revelation about motherhood. A contestant said, “Dancing is not about technicality, it’s about your individuality, and when you’re doing what you love, the audience loves it, you feel alive, you stop critiquing and enjoy the dance.”

I sat there thinking, “I sure wish motherhood could be the same way.”

Because really, motherhood is an art form. Your kids are your canvas, and there’s no right or certain way to mother.  This kind of freeness can feel scary at first, but the longer you’re a mom, you learn to craft your own style and approach parenthood in a way that suits your personality and your kids’ needs. I think new moms and even some of us veterans get tripped up by feeling our home life has to look a certain way based on our childhood memories, delusions of grandeur, or comparison to friends. But since no child, mother, or set of circumstances are exactly the same, and since nothing (sweet Moses, nothing) prepares us for motherhood, we’ll never have it all “right.” And just like any form of art, imitation stinks.

I used to feel bad that dinnertime in my house was such a clear disaster, especially compared to the five-star meals I remember from childhood. Each began with us running like cheetahs to devour homemade scrumptiousness, and ending with my dad declaring, “good meal, hun!” So, when my dinners consistently looked like scene from Gremlins and my husband purposely “missed” suppertime to avoid the wreckage, I felt like such a failure. We all feel disappointment like this, whether it’s feeling guilty when we dread helping with the kids’ homework, or when our family devotion time is about as spirit-filled as an Amish pot luck. 

We need to get out of this habit and here’s why: comparing our family life to others, and always focusing on our limits or weaknesses, robs us of our joy.  My childhood meals were great because my mom was home, and we owned a grocery store, for goodness sake. Free food and free time equals filet mignon Monday. So I’ve learned to let things go—I mean really hand my feelings of inadequacy to the Lord and rejoice in what makes me a great mom.    

Over time, I’ve learned to be thankful and proud of the ways God’s allowed me to rock it as a mom. We should always pray for our weakness to improve, but appreciate the good in the meantime. Just like any other form of expression, the way you show love to your kids and your home life should be all your own. Then, like dancing, your audience—your family—will love it. You’ll stop critiquing. You’ll feel more alive and enjoy this season tenfold. Motherhood is the most beautiful expression of love and kids are our ultimate creative product.

I’m a huge nurture over nature person. The way we act, what we teach, and how we interact with our kids shapes the people they become. If we’re always worried about doing things a certain way, or appearing as we think we should, it takes our focus off our kids and turns motherhood into a duty instead of an adventure.

Tips for becoming your own mother artist:

Avoid self-imposed “rules” that aren’t important. Don’t feel you have to do the dishes before playing with your kids, or heck, even the next day. If your kid won’t eat, buy a Ninja blender, make a smoothie with kale, and call it dinner.

Don’t over-schedule/over-commit. If you feel you’ve done too much running around and the kids don’t want to go out even when the weather’s nice, then let go of your plans, throw the packed lunches back in the fridge, and just enjoy the day together. Anyone who’s forced their kids to go on a playdate or “fun outing” has learned the hard way it’s better to stay in and risk personal boredom. I’ll take comfy sweats and Candyland over tantrums in the library any day.

Identify some things you really want your kids to experience and appreciate and work them into your life. For me, that’s nature. I don’t care how late it is, if I spot a harvest moon out and they’ve already gone to bed, they’re getting up! No rules. I want them to know that even though life has structure and mom wants them in bed, sometimes you have to break out and celebrate God’s truly wondrous world. By being an appreciative person, you’re going to create appreciative kids.

Live in the moment. As much “The Power of Now’s” message makes my blood boil, there’s truth to understanding how to live in the moment, especially when you have young kids. Even when I feel like I might self-implode by being forced to play “Super Mario Smash” just one more time, I’ve learned to concentrate on the beauty of the moment—watching their animated faces and hilarious commentary—instead of the fact that I just want to boil spaghetti. One of my sons used to take five minutes reading a single homework page while I held my eyelids open each night, but if I focused on the way he formed his words, with his occasional lisp that I secretly loved, I found sweetness in the moment.

Some of us might be more Salvador Dali than Norman Rockwell, but motherhood is meant to be personal, creative, and expressive. Our kids are our canvas, the ultimate way we make our marks on the world. The best artists have been known to be unorthodox, messy, and unorganized. These kids are going to be flipping prodigies…

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