I’ll be the first to let anyone know that I am not a natural mom. In fact, I never grew up around babies in my small family of origin, and I never babysat. I didn’t like babies, and I certainly didn’t intend to have my own.
That was, of course, over twenty years ago, and as the years passed and I grew up (at least a little), I knew that, if my vocation was to marriage, then I had to be willing to welcome children if God willed for us to have them. Then came the call, shortly after my husband and I were married – It’s time for children.
A calling is definitely different than a desire. It’s like this gentle tapping on one’s heart that can turn into loud knocking from the Holy Spirit. The call to motherhood, for me, was a fierce and fearsome one. I didn’t know what to do with a baby, but my husband and I said yes to the call.
And then God blessed us with two beautiful girls. The sleepless nights began immediately, and I was quickly overwhelmed. I remember laughing with my husband when we tried to figure out how to change a diaper – on our own daughter! Neither of us had ever changed one in our entire lives before that moment. So we got a crash course – via life experience – on parenting.
Naturally, parenting is rocky and messy and usually a constant struggle. But for some moms, it seems to come so easily. I always watch in admiration when I see mothers who appear to have interminable reservoirs of patience while juggling a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler, a kindergartner, and a first-grader.
How do they do it? I wonder. The guilt quickly sets in as I recall my earlier outburst of anger, the sighs and eye rolling (from me, not a child), and the constant inner turmoil as I cringe at every shriek or scream. Why is everything so difficult for me as a mom?
The answer does not come quickly or easily, but I realize over time that there is, in fact, a grace of imperfect motherhood. It keeps me grounded in my faith, running back to Jesus on a daily basis and begging Him for more divine grace. It humbles me as I realize my weaknesses and inability to raise children without help from my husband and God. And I know that God works in and through my messes every step of the way.
Even though I once balked at the idea of becoming a mother, and despite the fact that I do not – to this day – have a strong, innate maternal instinct, I am grateful for the opportunity to raise these little souls to know, love, and serve God. There is no greater – or unpredictable – job than to guide a child toward his or her specific path to sanctification. And I know that God makes a beautiful masterpiece out of my foibles and flaws.
The gift of imperfect motherhood, I find, is that God’s grace always compensates for my lack.