I talked with some young mothers at a child’s birthday party. A mother of five young children, one a new baby, was full of guilt because she could not manage to spend individual time with each one of her children each day. She said she woke up guilty every morning, wondering how she could give enough attention to them. She was under the impression that she should give an hour of her time to each one individually every day.
Children thrive on Mothering Moments.
I encouraged her saying, “You don’t mother in hourly time-slots, but in moments.”
Just then her six-year-old boy came in from outside and talked with her. She responded with a smile and encouraging words and off he went out to play again.
“There you go,” I exclaimed. “You have just experienced a mothering moment.”
This little boy went out with a smile on his face, self-assured and happy, knowing that he could come and talk to his mother when he needed her. Children do not need big time slots! They thrive on mothering moments. They need to be able to come to you when they need you – to ask a question, tell you about something that has happened, be comforted when they are hurt, or receive a cuddle. If you were to try to spend a designated hour with them, they would be bored before it was over! All they need to know is that you are available.
One of God’s names really helped me as a young mother. Jehovah Shammah is one of the salvation names of God. It means “the God who is there.” God is always available. He is always available to listen to our cry. In the same way, we can reveal the character of God to our children in always being available for them. We do not have to continually give them attention, but be there for them when they need us.
I remember racing in from school as a child. (We didn’t know the blessing of homeschooling back in those days.) My mother would be there, in the kitchen or in her sewing room. I would throw my school case in my bedroom with “Hi, Mum” and rush out the door to play with my friends. Because my mother was there, I was secure, happy and ready for adventure. I knew she was there for me the moment I needed her. However, on the few times when she was not there, perhaps late home from shopping, did I rush out to play? No. I moped around the house. I felt sad and empty. I couldn’t put my mind to anything –until she arrived home. I was free again. Secure, free and happy.
Children can receive individual attention even in the corporate setting.
In a corporate church service, you can receive individually from God. In the same way, in a corporate family, each child can also receive individual impartation from the mother as she mothers the whole family. A special time to receive individual attention, even in the midst of corporateness, is when fellowshipping at the family meal table. Parents may ask the family a question such as, “What was the most important thing you learned today?” and give each one a turn to answer. All eyes and ears are on the one whose turn it is to share. They receive undivided attention, not only from mother and father, but every member of the family. They can feel important and respected as they are given their opportunity to speak.
Some parents refrain from having more children because they do not think they can give enough time for each child. This is a humanistic trend. It is normal and God’s original plan for children to be brought up in big families.* Jesus Himself, God’s only son, was placed in a big family. Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus had four other brothers, plus sisters. The word ‘sisters’ is plural. Even if he only had two sisters, there would have been seven children in the family. He could have had four or five sisters. He could have belonged to a family of 10 children!
We all need each other. In the course of family life, children also receive from one another as they play together, learn together and care for one another. Children receive impartation from grandparents, uncles and aunties and friends. Family life is not just mothering individuals. We are a family. The concept of family is togetherness and each one gains from this togetherness.
Of course, we need to watch out for the quieter ones in the family who can get lost in the crowd and make sure they receive some special mothering moments throughout the day.
Not even a mother can meet all the needs of another person!
I have often observed that children in larger families are far more content than the two children member family. They do not expect constant attention. They receive security, stability and love from the togetherness of family life. They are not miserable and whining like many children today. They are also being prepared for relationships in the future. No one person can ever meet all the needs of another person – not even a mother! This applies in marriage too. Children who expect constant attention and are indulged with everything they want are being trained for problems later on in their marriage.
Perhaps this might be one of the reasons why there are so many divorces today. Spouses expect too much from one another. They expect to be indulged and waited on because this is how they grew up. Many women expect their husband to give them constant attention and to supply all their emotional needs. This is absolutely impossible. If you have been expecting this from your husband, let up! You are expecting the impossible. Let him be a man. Let him be who God created him to be. Give him room to fulfill his dreams. Lift off the pressure. You will find that you will enjoy each other far more when you don’t put demands on one another.
No man can do this. No woman can do this. Only God can truly meet our innermost needs. We also need to teach our children to go to God and find Him as their strength, comfort and source.
True love is not Indulgence.
There is a big difference between love and indulgence. You can never love too much. You can never love your children too much. You cannot love your husband too much. But love is not indulgence. God, who is Love and who shows us how to love, does not indulge us. God does not give us everything we want whenever we want it. He gives us what we need and what is best for us. He gave us the greatest gift that we will ever receive – salvation. God’s love caused Him to give His dearest treasure. He sacrificed His own precious son on a cruel cross because of His love for us.
Love is giving. Love is giving until it hurts. Love is sacrifice. But it is not indulgence. To give into your children for every demand for “attention” or for “things” actually hurts them. It trains them in selfishness. In some homes, if children don’t like the food that is provided, the mother will make something else. If they don’t want to fit in with parents’ plans, the parents change their plans for them. This is not godly training! Help! How will they survive in marriage, which consists in giving rather than receiving, in serving rather than being waited on?
Of course I am not talking about mothering moments for little babies. Little babies should be totally mothered. I believe that God provided the breast to fulfill the baby’s needs for food, comfort and whatever emotional need they have.
Another point to remember -- mothering changes through the years. When your children are little, they will thrive on mothering moments. As your children grow and learn to take responsibility in the home, you no longer have to do everything yourself. Life becomes easier. You have more time to spend special times with your children.
I have a dear friend who had 16 children. As their children got older, she would take one of the children for an hour on their own each day – for a walk or a bike ride or some place where they could talk and share together. Family life continued at home as there were still many older children to care for the younger ones during this time.
Forget the Guilt!
Can I encourage you again dear young mother? Embrace motherhood with all your heart. Give it all you have got. But forget the guilt. You can’t be everything to everyone. And you don’t have to be. Just be available for every mothering moment. Give your mothering moments freely – with love, joy and a smile on your face. You will be happy and your children will be happy.
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* It is true that not every mother will have a large family. Some women are not able to conceive. Although it is God’s blessing to have children, we have to face the fact that we live in an imperfect world. Our bodies do not always function perfectly. Please understand that God looks at your heart and sees your desire. There is no condemnation on you.
Perhaps, mothers who cannot have children of their own may like to adopt--there are millions of orphans in the world today who are waiting for loving families. God will lead you in the way He has planned for you. At least, fill your home with people.There are so many hurting and lonely people who need to be loved in the homes and at the tables of God’s people.