If you’ve got two X chromosomes, you can be a mother. The standards are so low-key that fully 50 percent of the world’s population aces the qualification test before they’ve even taken one breath outside their own mothers’ bellies.
But the physical ability to bear children does little to lessen the pang of panicked inadequacy almost every new mother feels upon being handed a tiny mewling infant to take home mere hours after forceful eviction from her body. We buckle their fragile, twiglike arms into a contraption made of plastic and foam and wonder if it should even be legal to grant someone with so little experience the primary task of raising another person from birth to adulthood.
I mean, think about it. People go to school for years to clean teeth. And yet it’s okay to be given full responsibility for an actual human being with literally zero required reading, certifications, degrees, or crash courses of any kind.
And therein lies the mystery of motherhood.
We’re expected to simply “get it.” To “go with our guts.” To be a natural baby whisperer. That all-encompassing rush of intense mother love we experience when we first lock eyes with our newborn covers a multitude of sins, right?
Well, yes. And no.
Because no matter how attached (or not) we feel to our babies, the fact of the matter is that instincts do little to combat silent reflux or calm a baby who refuses to latch or take a bottle. Or how about convincing the sweet little gal who thinks it’s hilarious to wake up at 3:00 a.m. to pat your face and play that sleep is a better idea?
And then there’s the fact that they’re only babies for approximately 17 blinks of the eye before, suddenly, they’re walking and talking and expressing opinions like “Ew” and “No” and “Sto-op!”
And yet again, the game has changed. And you’re faced with an entirely new set of challenges and joys.
As a mama to many, with children in every age category from baby to teenager, I can assure you that the game never stops changing. At least, not in its particulars. There will always be some new wrinkle to iron out—that one child who breaks the mold entirely.
However, I firmly believe that the Bible has given us clear principles to live by that can make this whole motherhood gig a lot less intimidating and isolating. If Eve and Ruth and Rachel and Elizabeth and Mary and millions more in between were able to muddle through this mess of motherhood by God’s grace, then so can we.
But we must be willing to heed the words of Proverbs 4:6-7: “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Hosea 4:6 (esv) states it even more dramatically when it says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” The world may not officially require a degree for motherhood, but when we approach it with the same air of studiousness that we would any other profession at which we want to excel, we exponentially increase the likelihood of our not only surviving but thriving in a household of peace instead of chaos.
So where do we get this wisdom worth every penny we’ve got? Job 12:12 says, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” My favorite source of mama know-how is those godly women who have gone before me and “crash tested” so many different scenarios with their own kids. My own mother, who raised my brother and me. A precious friend and mama of twelve, almost twenty years my senior. Another wise mama of three who is a few years older than I. Sally Clarkson. Elisabeth Elliot. Ruth Bell Graham.
All these women have different numbers of children, mothering philosophies, personalities, and preferences. But they also have at least one thing in common that I want to emulate—something every godly mother should: a desire to “conduct [themselves] in a manner worthy of the gospel… without being frightened in any way by those who oppose [them]” (Philippians 1:27-28). That last bit is just as key as the first because, in a culture in which women clink their wine glasses in celebration each night for “surviving my kids for one more day,” there will be many who oppose a view of motherhood that says that we can do more by Christ’s strength.
Not only that, but there will be many who resent a perspective of motherhood that chooses to grasp hold of something other than the hard and the loss of “me time”: namely, the abundant gems of joy and fulfillment that glitter amidst the everyday landscape of lunch prep, potty training, and sassy attitudes. Sometimes we just need someone to remind us of what an incredibly rad undertaking this whole motherhood gig really is.
Which is where I come in. I’m not even forty yet, so I don’t qualify as “aged,” but I am a mama of ten children. And I’m volunteering to be your cheerleader, your boot camp coach, your friend, and your fellow journeyer—“all things to all mamas,” to paraphrase Paul. Because, while I do not have this whole mothering thing figured out or nailed down by any stretch, I have had enough practice applying some of the wise biblical principles I’ve learned from the women I listed above (and others) to get a pretty good feel for some strategies that are helpful to all mamas. For it is “a truth universally acknowledged: that a child in possession of a sinful nature must be in want of a mama who loves and seeks the Lord.” (Sorry, Jane Austen. I had to.)
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.
SPECIAL PREORDER OFFER: It’s not too late to preorder M is for Mama and get some great extras to go with the book. Click here for more details: M is for Mama book
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.