The truth about motherhood as a profession is that it can be a bit of a thankless one, especially when our kids are very young. In a traditional workplace, the boss passes out “employee of the month” awards. Or she dangles a Christmas bonus in front of our noses to motivate us. My toddlers have dangled a variety of objects in my face at times, but most of them have been slimy, and none have remotely resembled dollar bills (unless they’ve been digging through my purse again).
Or maybe, if we are our own bosses, we reward ourselves with a “treat” when we have reached a certain goal. One of the authors at a conference I attended said that once she achieved a certain career objective, she treated herself to a trip to Oprah’s favorite spa, an experience that had been on her professional bucket list for years. In her eyes, this trip meant she had “made it.”
So how do we keep trudging along through the trenches of largely anonymous motherhood without losing heart? (I’m not saying motherhood always feels like a slog, but it can.) How do we know when we’ve “made it”? After all, everybody needs an “attagirl” every now and then, right?
The short answer to this is a resounding yes. But the longer answer is a bit more complex.
If we truly believe that we cannot continue to do good work without recognition, we will often find ourselves disappointed. Maybe our husband won’t notice that we mopped for the first time in months, and it will get us in a funk about what an unappreciative lout he is. Or Aunt Mildred will make another passive-aggressive comment about how much better so-and-so is at keeping her kids looking decent (hint: She’s probably saying the same thing to so-and-so), even though we have been making a monumental effort to run a hairbrush through the tangles every day while keeping our own personal laundry Vesuvius from erupting.
The truth is, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Our sparkling floors and pristine French braids mean very little if our hearts are full of irritation at not having our best efforts noticed. On the other hand, when we choose excellence in motherhood (however the Lord has revealed that to us, because this can look very different from a perpetually clean house and tidy hair), we always have an “attagirl” waiting for us in the pages of Scripture.
In Ephesians 6:7-8 (esv), Paul exhorts slaves to render “service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.” We know from Romans 6 (and many other passages) that we are “slaves to Christ” in the best possible way, which means that this act of working for God’s rather than “man’s” approval applies to everyone. And it comes with the promise of a return of good from the Lord: the best kind of “attagirl” there is.
Not only that, but we have a biblical model in Titus 2 for surrounding ourselves with the kind of women who will encourage us in our goal of “killing it” in the profession of motherhood. Sometimes it’s hard to find that kind of wisdom in person (I’ve already talked about how I prayed for this kind of mentorship for years before the Lord brought along several women who were willing to pour their wisdom and encouragement into my life), but that’s what books, podcasts, and blogs are for. (I mean, I’m sure glad Ruth had Naomi because she certainly didn’t have access to all the resources that you and I do.) Above all, that’s what the Bible is for.
The above excerpt is from the new book M is for Mama by Abbie Halberstadt. Abbie, a mother of ten, encourages women to reject the cultural lies of mediocre motherhood and strive for biblical truth and excellence as a mom. You can read more about Abbie below or visit misformama.net for more details.
Abbie Halberstadt is a writer, fitness instructor, and mama of ten children, including two sets of identical twins. Abbie lives by the motto that “hard is not the same as bad” and encourages woman to dig deep to meet the challenges of everyday life through her blog and Instagram posts. She, her husband, Shaun, and their children live in the Piney Woods of East Texas.