On Joyful Motherhood

The days are long, but the years are short.

It was one of those moments that makes your heart hurt. I was taking another silly Buzzfeed quiz and I needed to choose the word that best described me. I chose happy because, well, I feel like a happy person. {Most people might even describe me as a happy person.} But my 9-year-old was sitting beside me and she let out something between a scoff and a giggle, like, “Really, Mom? Let’s be honest…” I am sure she could tell by the look on my face how much that moment hurt, but it wasn’t her I was upset with; it was myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about joyful motherhood since Jackson was born, in the midst of postpartum depression, after Sean’s accident, and as I got my tattoos. And especially since what will henceforth be known as the Buzzfeed incident.

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My mom has always taught me not to speak badly about my husband to other people, and that’s advice I’ve taken to heart. I might share our struggles with my closest friends in a private setting — or sometimes on the blog with his permission after we’ve worked through them — but I never bad mouth him or complain just to complain.

And I try to apply that rule to parenting too.

It feels good to commiserate, but feelings tends to grow when you feed them with words. When we focus too much energy or attention on the hard moments of motherhood, they can easily overwhelm the good moments

It’s good to share our struggles and be real, to ask for advice and to provide encouragement for other moms who are struggling, but we have to be sure that we don’t settle in a place where the struggles are the focus, where we’re caught up in one-upping one another or complaining because it’s easy.

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On Joyful Motherhood

Lately there’s been a video circulating Facebook that looks like a video interview for the world’s hardest job. It doesn’t take long to see where the video is going, and while I love the sweet sentiment of it, something about the overall message sat wrong with me the first time I watched it.

It took hearing other people’s thoughts for me to really hone in on my issue. It wasn’t that moms — and not dads — were the focus of the video; it was, after all, a Mother’s Day commercial.

Instead, it was that the entire video focused on how hard motherhood is. And there’s no doubt that being a parent is hard work — physically and emotionally. But there are plenty of jobs that are actually physically more difficult than motherhood. And, honestly, if you’re not getting any rest or time to yourself (and you don’t have multiples under, say, 3 years old), it may be time to reevaluate and make some changes. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have time or energy for your own passions and pursuits just because you’re a mother!

But more than that, motherhood is also an amazing journey with moments that make you laugh until you cry and make your heart swell until it feels like it will burst.

Honestly, I think we do a disservice to our children and to people who aren’t yet parents when we call it the hardest job in the world or just focus on the hard parts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for being honest, and being a parent is hard work, but I want to focus on how much joy these kids of mine bring me, not on making sure they know how hard I work for them. And I think we need to do a better job about sharing that joy with other people as well.

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It’s almost like there’s this desire to scare non-parents, and I’m just not sure why.

Case in point: We took Jackson to Target after his first pediatrician appointment at just a few days old, and the women in front of us at checkout turned around and made a remark that is all too common. “Enjoy it now while he’s little because you just wait.” I wish I could say that she was just making conversation or joking, but it was clear from the look on her face that she wasn’t.

I couldn’t help by responding that he was my 5th, and she turned away to complain to the cashier about her kids instead (“Two step children and one I gave birth to so I can’t give her back”). I wish I’d been bold enough to say something more to her. But when it was my turn to check out with the young cashier, I made sure to at least tell her how much I love being a mom.

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On Joyful Motherhood

Is joyful motherhood easy?

No, of course not. There are dirty diapers and spilled milk and hormones and endless loads of laundry and backtalk and bickering. And some days it’s just plain exhausting.

Is it worth striving for?

Yes. A million times yes.

When we strive to be joyful in the midst of the diapers, milk, hormones, laundry, backtalk and bickering, we show our kids that we don’t just love them because we have to but that we actually like and enjoy them too. We teach them to control their emotions and choose joy, even when it’s not easy. And, honestly, we enjoy it more too.

To be clear, while I have talked about the value of faking it until you make it, I am not talking about faking it just for Facebook or your church or the stranger you pass in the grocery store. I’m talking about CHOOSING to focus on the beauty of imperfection, the good parts of motherhood and each moment in light of eternity.

There is no doubt that this comes easier for some people than others — whether because of personality, circumstances or a little bit of both — but it’s a worthy goal for all of us.

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Joyful motherhood is a daily — sometimes hourly — choice, and none of us will do it perfectly. But we can work together to make motherhood a celebration, to encourage one another to find the joy in the everyday moments and to lift each other up when we’re struggling under the weight of it all!

Mandi Ehman is the blogger behind Life Your Way. She and her husband have four beautiful girls plus one baby boy, and together they live, work and homeschool on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia. Mandi loves coffee, chocolate, easy meals, beautiful things and minimalist spaces.
  • http://theartofsimple.net/ Tsh Oxenreider

    Love this, Mandi! Well said.

  • Claire

    Thank you for this post! Yes, motherhood is hard, but it is not necessarily the hardest job in the world. And the joys far outweigh the struggles. And yes, we have every right to share our struggles and seek support for them, but I totally agree with you that focusing on the joy should trump that.

  • http://swirlsandspice.com/ Aiming4Simple

    I think part of the reason people focus on the hard parts of parenting is that we value comfort and convenience too highly in our culture. Children are not going to make us feel comfortable, nor are they convenient, but they are a great blessing! Furthermore, there is joy in sacrifice. It’s not supposed to be me-centered existence that we live.

    It’s much more fulfilling in the long run to make room in our lives for others!

  • http://www.livingthesimplelifenow.com/ Robyn @ Living the Simple Life

    I think this one of the harder aspects of motherhood!! While I love my children to pieces, they also see my discipline side that appears mean and maybe sometimes is.

    I am working to simplify parenting as much as possible. It’s an experiment as much as possible (and will vlog about it….lol!!). But my son has a serious health issue we are dealing with and I want to focus more on quality time and making memories and less on things like a perfectly clean house!

    I think parenting is a constant learning experience!!

  • Miranda

    Spot on, Mandi. It’s often all about perspective and having a positive attitude. And I’ll be honest, I fail so many times. Parenting is hard but oh man — there are so many sweet, sweet moments!

  • http://joyceandnorm.wordpress.com/ Joyce (and Norm)

    I love this, Mandi!! Thank you for sharing. Like you, I don’t like to dwell on the negatives or mistakes of my children or my hubby…they’re not perfect, but I’m also not perfect. I hate that people see it as being fake if we choose not to expose every single mess that our kids (or hubby) create. I love the stage my kiddos are in now (7 and 4), but I’m also excited for those teen years. People look at me like I’m crazy when I say that. I’m not that naive to think the teen years will be all flowers and butterflies, and I had worked with youth long enough to know there will be lessons to be learned, but I love watching them grow and discover more about themselves and the world around them.

  • http://LindseyMarie97.blogspot.com/ Lindsey

    Thank you.

    As a 17 year old today, I am so excited to be married and have a family someday, and nothing could change that. But it IS so discouraging to hear how marriage and motherhood is so hard and annoying and no one ever sleeps. I know it’s wonderful, but I feel like there’s way more “How to deal with the hard times” stuff online than “how to relish the good.”

    Thank you for choosing joy.