The Myth of Maternal Bliss

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Some days I feel like a natural as a mom, like I’m well-suited to this mammoth task, like a momma duck with her ducklings waddling in a neat little line behind me.

But most days I feel more like a fish out of water. I love calm and quiet, reading and thinking. I often like ideas more than people. I like an ordered, methodical existence. I am not a great cook, nor am I motivated, in the least, to decorate or design. I will never have an Etsy shop because I have no marketable skills in the craft department.

And yet I find myself, in this season of life, to be a homemaker and stay-at-home momma. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and yet many days mothering feels like a stretch. It’s not nearly as sexy and cute as the Christmas cards and Instagram images seem to show. It’s a choice, a very regular choice — a choice that is stretching to say the least.

Not Always Natural

Oftentimes I feel crazy that this choice feels so unnatural to me. I used to wonder why I didn’t have a stronger maternal instinct. I realize now that the choice to stay home and be with the little people God has entrusted to me may mean even more because it oftentimes feels less natural.

In her book Plan B, Anne Lamotte’s honesty regarding her own experience of motherhood helped me feel less crazy. She observes that “moms get very mad and they also get bored. This is a closely guarded secret; the myth of maternal bliss is evidently so sacrosanct that we can’t even admit these feelings to ourselves.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate motherhood — and I do adore my children. I just find this to be both the hardest thing I have ever done and the thing I often feel least fit or qualified to do. My children are great kids, but they are not always worth it. On the hard days, when the wheels come off and things fall apart around here, I choose this because I believe Jesus to be worthy.

Unless We Die

In John 12:24, Jesus says something astounding to his followers: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

I like the way that sounds — it reads like poetry. But if I am honest, in the day to day, I do not like how that feels. My hope and prayer, what I am hanging my life upon, is that in laying down my rights — rather than claiming them — in seeking to give my life away, true life will be found, not only for me, but also for these little men of mine. That is, after all, the way of the Master.

The life of Christ was one of incomprehensible accommodation. The unlimited, all-powerful God became man, identifying himself fully with his people. The one who wound up time knew the limitations of time and space. The one who could see all in all limited himself to binocular human vision and a body of flesh and bones. The incarnation of Christ is a staggering and scandalous reality.

He Gives Life

While walking this earth, he spent his adult life primarily investing in the lives of a small band of rowdy, unpolished men. He literally invited these men into every aspect of his life as he joined them in every aspect of theirs. It is quite evident from the Gospels (which only cover a handful of the most memorable, impactful encounters) that the men could only understand and appreciate one one-hundredth of what was happening during those three critical years spent with Jesus.

Those years were not flashy. I imagine the days felt incredibly long, even for the Christ. However, he faithfully stood at his post and fulfilled the calling that his Father had given him.

Christ did not merely drop pithy statements about grains of wheat and picking up crosses; he lived and modeled his teaching to the point of actual death on an undeserved cross for an undeserving people. As if that weren’t enough, the risen Christ poured out his Spirit on his children that we might be divinely empowered to join him in acts of loving, sacrificial accommodation.

Weary mommas, take heart, for the path you take is not unlike the one trodden by your Master. The daily deaths and the unnoticed investments are seen, known, and celebrated by the Father. Every piece of grain that falls to the ground will bear fruit.

I feel lonely in this house of mine,
The walls seem to shrink by the day.

But I stay to create a home for them,
A place to grow, to rest, and to play.

Limitations need not define me,
For none was as limited as you.

A grain of wheat, you fell to the ground;
From your death, all of life grew.

So let me hold my grain loosely,
Let it fall in death to the ground.

And in these limiting choices,
Make greater and more life abound.

is a mother of three little boys and wife of G’Joe, who directs Campus Outreach San Diego. She has a passion to see women trained to love God and his word, and is author of Demystifying Decision-Making.