Overwhelmed. That seems to be the most common response to the question of how mothers across our nation are currently feeling. At a time when we are burdened with added financial stress, fearful of the health of our near and dear and now heaped with the education and care of our children day-in and day-out, we seem to be carrying burdens that are too big to bear, yet no rescue is in sight. With more questions than answers, trying to navigate a work/life balance, ‘me’ time and not robbing our children of an ideal standard of education seems to be a precarious juggling act. So, what does God have to tell us at a time such as this?
I find it an interesting time- one where the previous battle lines that have been drawn have had to cease- you know the lines I’m talking about? Those battles between the Homeschooling Mother and the Pro-School Mother (I have written on this previously) and the battles between the Stay-at-Home Mother and the Working Mother. All mothers, aside from those in essential services, have been called home. And in droves homeward we have come. Some of us dragging our feet, sharing memes of aging 20 years in a day, resorting to alcoholism or inventing a vaccination ourselves. Others of us feel a little more optimistic, seeing it as a chance to further share our domestic capabilities, already planning the posts of serene schooling days with a side of carefully made bone broth soups, getting us some more likes for affirmation that we so crave. Regardless of which stereotype we find ourselves relating to, or somewhere in between, we are about to reap what we have sown and be confronted with our fears, living with our husbands and brood, 24/7, with little escape. And so, what does God have to tell us at a time such as this?
Theological Base of Motherhood
First and foremost, we need to look to God for wise direction and guidance. Throughout His Word, it may surprise you that it is fairly minimal when it comes to instructions to just mothers. We know that there are examples of exemplary (and not-so exemplary) mothers, think Proverbs 31 verse Rebecca’s favouring of Jacob. However instructions are generally given to parents or in particular to fathers as the spiritual leader of the home.
In the very beginning, humanity was given the task to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28.) A comment I heard once was that the multiplication is generally not the most difficult part of this mandate, rather the fruitfulness is the challenge. As image-bearers of the Creator God, we were instructed to procreate, bear children and raise them in a way that would bless our lives, and the lives of our families and our communities (Psalm 127:3, Proverbs 31:28, Psalm 113:9).
After the giving out of the Ten Commandments, God also spoke to the people of Israel to bind God’s word to their hearts and on their souls, teaching them to their children in all circumstances, “talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19) Here, we are told that a key ingredient as part of our procreating is holding fast to the word of God and teaching his ways to our children. Like Timothy, we are to be teaching our children counter-culturally, sharing God’s ways with them from their infancy (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
As we come home, many of us will be confronted with the reality that perhaps we haven’t done this as faithfully as we should have. Many of us across this nation may have a rude awakening to the fact we have outsourced not just the impartation of knowledge to our schools, but have relied on them for the instruction and discipline in the character of our children too. In an age of the professional, we may have been prone to blame our teachers when our children misbehave at school, shirking authority; or blame our teachers when our children miss the mark and so with the call home, we find ourself terrified that perhaps it is not the problem of our schools at all, rather we have been so filled with striving for ourselves under the guise of giving our children everything they need, that we have missed the most important thing of all- teaching them that knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord and that character is taught and developed as we spend time together, faithfully training our children in the way they should go.
Repentance and Restoration
In occasions of crisis, we see the motivations of our heart laid bare. Fears we may carry need to be examined under the light of the Gospel. For we all fall short, each one turning to our own needs, demanding ‘me’ time, using whatever form of escapism most alluring- socialising, social media, workaholism, affirmation, alcohol, beauty, fitness or financial gain. So when the house of cards that we have neatly built crashes all around us, our souls are exposed.
Dear sister, at a time such as this, the call of our God is the same as throughout the Bible; perhaps a little louder than the gentle whisper it may have been in the past; the call is there- repent. For as we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9.)
COVID-19 and the social distancing that calls us home, presents us with an opportunity for a redeemed start. As we are forced to spend time with our immediate family, we are given the opportunity to redeem the opportunities we may have previously let slip. Our over-scheduled lives have had our calendars wiped overnight. Our outsourcing of parenting has come abruptly to a halt and a clean slate beckons.
Articles like this however, have a tendency to make it seem easy, creating some superficial bandaid for a problem that is deeply entwined in our very fallen nature. It isn’t easy; it is a daily bringing to God the sin that has surfaced. For as we spend more time with our children, out of our normal routines, our tendency is to become navel-gazes. We get frustrated with the bickering amongst our children, we feel hemmed in by the consistency of parenting; we come to the end of ourselves, over and over again as we recognise our inability to live up to our idealised goals of motherhood perfection. And we are- unable to do it. Yet in our weakness, God is strong. Press into Him at this time. As we feel convicted of our irritations, our self-centredness, our pride; may we humbly come to the Father in repentance, seeking to allow the Spirit to lead us back to the foot of the cross tightly grasping the truth of the gospel; for this is what brings life.