Gifts, we all have them. Things that we gained, either by nature or nurture, that show our individuality. I believe that God gave us each a purpose and helped us acquire gifts to fill that purpose. You might say, " I have gifts that I bring to work, to church or volunteer work but not too many mothering gifts." I say, "au contraire!" You bring a great many gifts to mothering and you are the perfect fit for your child. There are gifts and ways of being that are unique to you and perfectly built to help you raise your unique child. It may seem to you sometimes, or often, that you had a hospital mix-up, someone took home your baby. If you are supposed to be a perfect fit for this child, whom you cannot seem to understand, that must be the case. But let's take a step back and look at it with a different perspective.
Let's go from the assumption that you are in FACT the right mom for the job. What would that change for you? I am still in the trenches on this question so we can work it through together. If I was the perfect mom for my messy, living-in-the-moment, thrives-in-a-group-child, who's love language is time spent, what of my gifts can I bring to her? My gut response is, I have absolutely no idea. My husband sure can relate, but I thrive in order and thinking ahead and quiet time to do that thinking, alone! What was God thinking giving me this child? I always feel like I am doing her a disservice because I cannot supply her needs for constant attention and creative thinking and spur of the moment projects. However, one day she will need the calming influence that I bring. She will need to learn to order her steps to complete her crazy project. She will also find that, one way or the other, her mom will always find time for her. My gifts are trying to help facilitate her creativity when I can, with planning and getting supplies. My gifts are making sure she has all the hugs she needs. She also brings me rich gifts from her storehouse. She points out things I definitely would have missed, flying off to the plans I made. This is a blessing for both of us.
Last post I asked you to think about things that made you feel strong. Today I would like you to think about things that are your strengths. I want you to see how much you really bring to the table. I also want you to think about your child's needs. Needs for love, acceptance, nurture, creature comforts, even food, water, safety. What things can you supply, in your giftings and efforts, to love your child? Next time we will list a bunch of ways moms are gifted and maybe it will spur you on think of some you have not thought of yet. You will see how they match up with things your specific child needs, even if they do seem opposite on the surface. You have no idea what good you do by giving a smile, some attention to a story or even when you take time for self-care to model that for a growing daughter. I know of a mom with a really sarcastic and witty sense of humor who will someday pass that on to her currently newborn daughter and help her laugh at a world that doesn't always make sense. IT ALL COUNTS! You get some points and you get some points. LOL. Let's think about this together. I know it is hard. I still have so much trouble thinking about what I am good at. But my trusted counsel has told me many times, I have nothing to earn and nothing to prove. So, it follows that the credit goes to the one who gave me the gifts, either by nature or nurture and some times despite (or due to) negative situations. It is all used for God's purposes. So I can brag that I have such gifts from a good God.
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What is strength?
Do you feel strong? DO you? Are you a tough mother? On the hard days? Where does your strength come from? I often wondered if I was strong. I was made to feel very weak at times in my younger days. As a mom of a newborn, I usually felt some confidence due to my many years in the daycare field. As I have mentioned before, seeing other mom's "mistakes" and having a sage guide in a very smart older mom and co-worker, I learned quickly how I wanted to parent and what resonated with me. That confidence was very surface though and only lasted through my so called expertise with newborns. As any mom knows that is a very short lived stage.
One particular time, with my first-born, when she was a toddler, I was able to identify that I had suddenly run out of experience, like you identify a Mac truck after it hits you. I was attending a Bible study group in a childless home. The hosts were newly married and all the lovely things they had gotten as gifts were on display, all of them breakable and all on end tables which, oddly enough are exactly toddler height! Also, they were pretty and shiny and my girl could not help but be attracted to them. Well, I was not able to study much of anything that night except how to outwit my daughter. I also saw how lacking I was in the ways of an energized toddler. My own strength had given out.
Strong is "showing up."
But, did you know that a strong mom keeps showing up? That should be one of the definitions of the word. An actual definition of the word is "having the power to perform physically demanding tasks" And "able to withstand great force or pressure." Ah! There is where all moms lie (HA! Moms hardly get to lie anywhere for long). Every mom I know is withstanding great pressure. It comes at us from every side, inside and out . We are pressed, but not crushed. I find my strength often in Scripture. I also find it in reaching out to those who are in my circle who can lift me up and remind me, this is hard and listen to my struggles and keep on encouraging me to "show up." They help me to get back in there and be a mom to my kids. Strong is often remembering that your style might not be the same as another mom you are comparing yourself to. It is a super power, in my humble opinion, to go the way you know your kids respond best and not the current parenting direction.
Strong is smart.
So in that way, strong is also smart. Being a detective, It means studying your children and course correcting your tactics to fit the child. I had one young child who would sit up and pay attention when I got stern, a different daughter took that as a challenge to press harder. I had to learn this and make different decisions based on my new knowledge. That is strong, that is brave! It is counter-cultural because there are moms who only do what current research says is the right way. They spent pregnancy and each hour of nap time honing a one-size-fits-all parenting method. It may have even worked for her first child but when the rule breaker comes, she is left fighting tooth and nail for the title of mom who won out (child who had to conform) or she was left feeling failure (which no mom who loves her child ever is). The former might have a false sense of strength while the latter feels defeated. The truth is the mom who "shows up" is the strong one. Playing detective is hard! Being a mom who makes mistakes and then apologizes and tries again....really freakin' strong!
What makes you feel strong?
Again, I ask, do you feel strong? Have you been down to the dregs and are still standing? That is crazy strong. Do you know who to message, what to read, what self-care to practice when you are feeling weak and worn and oh! so weary? That is a super power. Take some time today to help identify what makes you feel strong. Do that thing even when you are not down. Take that time. If there is a nap during the children's day, do it then. Dishes can wait, email can too. If they are too old to nap, make that bedroom a safe place where they can be and tell them it is one hour of quiet time. My Grammy who was my caregiver while my parents worked had this rule all through the years she took care of us. I suspect it was for her sanity but I know it has helped me as an introvert find my rest. Sometimes she had to vehemently enforce it, but we got the message, loud and clear, no negotiation on "nap time."
Strong is not putting on the mask of "I've got it all together" and telling yourself, once more into the breech. It is often in the backing off and seeing the places you need help. Super strength is asking for help in those places. It is vulnerable and awkward but if you can do it you are helping others to feel empowered to do it too. Like I learned from Grammy, I share with my children as I take a quiet break myself. Be different. I am counting on you to share your gifts with those around you. I am counting on you to be authentic. I am counting on you to be strong in these ways.
Paula is a wife and mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula