The Mother I Meant to Be

In Gals, Home and Family on January 17, 2014 by The Spillover

Staci Eastin:

I’ve had two goals over the last decade or so: lose weight and be a better mother. And every morning in the mirror I see that the weight is still there and I’m still not the mother I meant to become.

My oldest is 17, and I’m running out of time. For him, the mother I was during his growing up years—the one who yelled too much and couldn’t stay on top of the laundry—is pretty much in the books. He’s gathering the trappings of an adult life: job, car, bank account, and W-2s. His days are filled with tasks accomplished without my help or input, things he would have needed me for just a couple of years ago. How did this happen? When did he become capable of this?

I’m proud of the man he’s becoming. And I know I’ll still be needed—I certainly still value my parents’ advice—but I won’t be directing the show. I have a few more notes to sing, but soon my spotlight will fade and I will exit stage left. I’ll still be in his life, but it will only be in cameo roles.

As a young mom, I despised being told to treasure the time when they were small. I didn’t want to hear that it gets harder later. Treasure this time? Right now? I was so exhausted that buttoning a shirt was a challenge, how could it possibly get any harder?

This advice typically came from a middle-aged woman who spent her evenings sipping herbal tea while her older children performed amazing feats like feeding and bathing themselves. Who was she to say that mothering gets more difficult? Surely she’s forgotten. Perhaps senility had set in, and she was remembering a time that never existed.

I can’t speak for all mothers, but what I think we’re trying to say—what I’m trying to say, anyway—is to treasure this season when time is still your friend rather than your enemy. I want to go back to when my list of regrets wasn’t quite so long and I didn’t have a ready answer for the things I wish I’d done differently.

The young years were hard. But there were Band-Aids for the skinned knees, dishtowels for the spilt milk, and fresh pages for the ruined crayon drawings. But now the stakes are higher. There are no Band-Aids for these grown-up hurts, and the failures have bigger consequences than a bare space on the refrigerator door.

His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22–23). I know this. The grace that was there when they were 6, 4, and 6 months is still here when they’re 17, 15, and 11. But now I’ve got new things to learn, and the dance steps required to shuffle offstage feel awkward and tricky. I’d rather repeat the songs I already know.

Be the best mother you can, but sanctification—for you and them—comes slowly. You will not be enough, and the good in your children will sometimes be in spite of you rather than because of you. That may sound depressing now, but it will be a relief later.

I still hope young mothers treasure the time. I hope their list of regrets is shorter than mine. And I hope I do a better job treasuring the season I’m in now, because I realize now I didn’t treasure it enough when they were small.

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