“You need to make your bed; be dressed to shoes; brush your teeth and hair; and your room should be neat and tidy before you have breakfast. Oh and remember breakfast time is over by 8:30, so you only have about half an hour. Let’s work diligently today—we can’t get behind,” I said with my warning-tinged voice.
“Yes, Ma’am,” answered my first-born humbly, as she left my room to pass along my instructions to her siblings.
And then I turned around.
Staring back at me were at least three piles of laundry needing to be folded, an unmade bed, a pile of homeschool books still waiting to be put away, clothes to go to the local charity, and myself still in my PJ’s. And nope, neither my hair nor my teeth were brushed.
Yes, as the Mama I do have more responsibility than my children—I could easily justify my own sleeping a little later than usual on the fact that I needed to tend to my toddler in the middle of the night. I could even make myself feel better about the laundry, since I do take on the brunt of the housework, while also homeschooling, meeting writing deadlines, and helping my husband with his company. And I know I could easily find at least twenty of my closest girlfriends to agree with me.
But in that moment, only one thought came to mind.
Attitudes and character are caught, not taught.
Now I absolutely believe that mamas of many little ones should extend some grace to themselves during these years. Mothering these precious ones is both rewarding and challenging. If we’re not careful, we can run ourselves ragged, and I still find comfort in the Scripture, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)
But my heart broke on this morning.
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
I realized that I’ve recently spent much more time “telling” than diligently “doing.”
While my eldest daughter is very responsible and I often say she could run this house if I needed her to, I also feel convicted about the example I’m presenting.
I tell my children that our home is a training ground—that none of them are put into this family by accident and each one has a unique purpose. And one day, Lord willing, they will have families of their own. But in a culture in which families of conviction are often ridiculed or criticized, what example will they have to look back on when times get tough? Who is doing the training?
As a parent, I’m not only called to be a living, breathing example of a loving wife and mama, I’m also charged with being an example of Christ and living out his instructions, pointing my children to the Gospel, and sharing His love for humanity.
The fact is that I can attend fifty homeschool and parenting conferences throughout the year, I can spend thousands of dollars on parenting books and CDs, and I can read all of the wonderful blogs to try to gain inspiration, but none of that matters if I’m not putting it into action and being the example my children need to see. There comes a point when it’s time to stop reading and start doing.
Was I tired that particular morning? Yes. Could I have set my alarm just a few minutes earlier and still gotten extra sleep? Yes. But looking back, instead of giving my sweet children their morning to-do list via my “get down to business voice,” I needed to show more compassion, understanding that they also may have had a rough night. I could’ve even completed a few of my own morning chores. And in doing these together, I would’ve demonstrated how to compassionately greet and respond to others, even when tired, as well as demonstrating that our usual morning routine is important and not a responsibility that excludes mama.
And as a note to weary mamas, while my own heart was convicted during this time, please understand that there is a time and season to motherhood. We are all in different stages with our little ones. There’s no such thing as perfection this side of Heaven and His mercies are new every morning. I’m grateful for the grace that means I do not have to be perfect, and that makes each new day a new opportunity to set a good example for my children.