Not too long ago a young mom stopped me at church. She was smack dab in the middle of that mom phase that means consistently interrupted sleep and never being able to sneak away to the bathroom alone. You know the one I’m talking about? (Maybe you’re in the middle of it right now.)
She had a question for me. She wanted to know if it was more exhausting when they’re young or when they get a bit older. She was tired. Joyful and thankful for her sweet ones… but tired. Basically, she needed to know if she should just buckle in for the next 20 years of caffeine-induced mornings or if it was going to get a little less demanding.
A pretty great question, in my opinion. It wasn't that she was complaining or hating being a mom. She just needed to know.
I had to stop and think about it. It’s really a yes and no. I think the demands of mothering never really stop. They just change. Our kids’ seasons mean new seasons for us.
So, is it always so exhausting? No.
For me, those early years were demanding in two ways. Most of the weariness was physical – a lack of sleep, hormones all out-of-whack, doing EVERYTHING for my very dependent children, and then chasing them down when they became mobile but weren’t smart enough to stay out of harm’s way. It’s a very physically demanding phase of mothering.
It was also hard for me to give up my time. I struggled with the loss of solitude and quiet that came with parenting. My “free” time was no longer my own. And that was hard for me. It wore me out.
Those early years come with a truly physical kind of weariness. It’s the kind of tired that you just beg God to get you through, asking Him to give you vision for all those small things that need done but no one else sees.
So, is it always so exhausting? Clearly, no. But sort of, yes.
Here’s the thing. At some point, you do get uninterrupted sleep. Eventually your kids even get old enough that you can go on a date with your husband and not have to find a sitter. And even leave the house without organizing a bag full of cheerios and sippies. Those days do come.
But there is another kind of weariness that comes – a labor that comes with trying to guide these little people that are starting to think for themselves and aren’t with you ALL the time anymore. As their decisions become weightier and they begin to move about a wider world, your labor actually becomes more intense. It’s a work that is mostly done on your knees and then also in one million teachable moments along the way. It’s an exhaustion that comes in shed tears and heart-to-heart conversations.
It’s hard work to be an intentional parent – to screen movies and books and songs, to sniff out good friendships and steer them away from the unhealthy ones, to teach them discernment and a Biblical worldview, to help them cast aside their selfish orientation and see a hurting world when all they want is an iPad, to open your own home to all of their friends, and to help them cultivate a love for God that is not just religious duty but true relationship.
These things do not just happen. They take work and, I’ll just be honest, sometimes that is just plain exhausting. Even when you get a full night of sleep. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy. And rewarding.
So, is it always this exhausting? Yes and no.
But, here’s the beauty of those weary days – whether they are the teen ones or the toddler ones – the beauty is that it reminds us that we come to this mothering thing with needs. We need God to intervene and parent through our weakness. When I am tired and weary from a lack of sleep, He is strong and patient and well-rested. When I don’t know if my teen is making good choices at the football game with his buddies, God is there. In a nutshell, when I am worn-out, I am forced to enter into His rest.
That's a kind of exhaustion that is... well, it's just plain beautiful.