Meeting the Challenge of Motherhood
Since children represent the future generation, then the women who mold them, their mothers, certainly deserve respect, honor, and support. Although the modern world sends mixed messages about motherhood, the Bible affirms that children are a blessing from God and can be a source of happiness for parents. (Psalm 127:3-5) Yet, the Scriptures are not blind to the realities of motherhood. The Bible records many of its challenges.
The decisions parents make about parenting and motherhood have a deep and lasting influence on the life and character of their children. These decisions can bring large changes in the parents’ life-style, so they need to be made carefully. They include such questions as: Should a mother work outside the home? If yes, how much? Who is to care for the children while the mother is away working? In the end, parents must do what they believe is best for their children and also what is right before God.
However, mothers need not feel alone in the struggle to make wise decisions. They can take great comfort in the words of Isaiah 40:11, which indicates that God takes special interest in the needs of mothers with young babies, whom he “will conduct with care.” God manifests such keen interest by providing in the Bible a number of guidelines that can make motherhood enjoyable and successful.
❖ Be reasonable: Christians should be known for their reasonableness. (Philippians 4:5) Janet Penley, a writer and mother, learned the value of this principle. “I began motherhood with the highest of expectations,” she says. “I was going to do mothering better than it had ever been done before. I read all the books and listened to all the experts. But instead of feeling successful and competent, I ended up feeling inadequate and stressed-out.” She observes that “tuning into others’ expectations and trying to fit yourself into some ‘ideal’ mold weakens the spirit and creates worry and guilt.”
❖ Simplify: “What families risk losing in this insane frenzy,” wrote Newsweek magazine, “is the soul of childhood and the joy of family life.” That is why many mothers long for a simpler life. How can you achieve this? First, establish priorities, giving attention to “the more important things,” including the time and personal care your children need. (Philippians 1:10, 11) Second, analyze your life-style. You may have to put aside activities and possessions that are not really necessary.
What is most important in your life? Is it having everything at once, or can some goals be postponed while you pursue others? Carolyn, a mother of limited means, tells how she copes: “I keep things simple and cut down on expenses.” Gloria, a mother of three, recalls: “We didn’t have any money for designer clothes, but I made clothes for the children, and I told them that these were special because no one else had them.”
God’s Word says that the person who “is guarding discernment is going to find good.” (Proverbs 19:8) Discernment is needed to sort through the unending range of leisure activities, gadgets, and trends that overwhelm mothers and children. Judith, a mother from South Africa, exclaims: “We are constantly being bombarded with new products, better technology, and more services!” Here is how Angela, a mother of four from Germany, copes with that challenge: “You have to determine what is essential and useful to you, and help your children to do the same thing.”
❖ Make the changes that are possible: “Use common sense and sound judgment,” admonishes the Bible. (Proverbs 3:21, Contemporary English Version) If you are currently working outside the home, can your family live on just your husband’s income? To help answer this question, determine how much your actual take-home pay is after subtracting taxes, child care, commuting costs, wardrobe, meals out, and extras. Also, your husband’s income may be taxed at a higher rate if your combined income puts you in a higher income bracket. You may be surprised how little is left over.
Some work fewer hours or closer to home, which may mean less money but more time with the children. If you decide to stop working and if your job has been important to you for your self-worth and sense of accomplishment, think about how you can maintain these important elements while staying home.
❖ Get help: God’s Word repeatedly shows that a “cry for help” can bring results. (Exodus 2:23, 24; Psalm 34:15) A mother’s cry for help should elicit the help of the husband. With his cooperation you may be able to establish a system of sharing the housework so that you have the time to fulfill the goals that you have set together—such as being available for your children. If possible, a mother should also establish a support network of people, including family and trusted friends, who share her interests and goals.
Many mothers find valuable support from the local Christian congregation of fellow believers. María, a mother of three, realized that “getting close to the congregation” is one of the ways that “God shows us love and compassion and shows us that he is concerned about us.”
❖ Make time for relaxation: Even Jesus, a perfect man with abundant stamina, invited his disciples to go “privately into a lonely place and rest up a bit.” (Mark 6:30-32) Success as a mother depends on your ability to stay balanced throughout demanding times. It is true that your children need you, but they also need you to be happy and content. You need reasonable relaxation.
Angela, mentioned earlier, has a plan for relaxation: “I set aside quiet time in the morning. I take at least half an hour for myself. And my husband and I have one or two evenings a week when our children are expected to go elsewhere in the house and do something quiet there. Thus we can have an hour to ourselves.”
❖ Give priority to spirituality: It has been observed that the challenges of motherhood are aggravated by a loss of focus and a lack of priorities. Christian families experience happiness when they work together to put God’s will first in their lives. The apostle Paul wrote: “Godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) A family that lives with godly devotion and that follows God’s guidance as contained in the Bible will find happiness. Even if only one member of a family applies Bible principles, things are better than if no one does.
Adele, a Christian mother who works full-time, has seen the benefits of being spiritually-minded. She says: “We have a tremendous amount of guidance and information in the Bible-based publications that educate us as to what our children are facing and how we can help them. Seeing your children responding to what you feed them spiritually makes it all worthwhile. When you see small, positive things in their behavior and way of reasoning, you realize that they are taking it in and that your efforts are paying off.”*
Yes, it is possible to run the hurdle race of motherhood successfully. God himself provides the comforting reassurance that the efforts of diligent and self-sacrificing mothers who trust in him will not be in vain. Mothers who cultivate a personal relationship with him can take solace in his promise to ‘give to the tired one power.’—Isaiah 40:29.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have published a number of Bible-based publications designed for training children. These include My Book of Bible Stories, Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, and The Secret of Family Happiness.
[Box on page 10]
A Mother’s Influence
As a mother, you may sometimes wonder how much of an impact you are having on your child’s life. At times, the influence of peers, teachers, entertainment, video games, and music may seem to outweigh yours.
Consider the example of Jochebed, the mother of Moses. She lived in extremely hard times and had limited say over what would happen to her son. Yet, she used the opportunities she had to mold his development. First, she exercised courageous faith by refusing to allow Moses to be put to death. God rewarded her faith not only by preserving the baby’s life but also by arranging circumstances that allowed Jochebed to serve as his nurse—and mother.—Exodus 1:15, 16; 2:1-10.
It is evident that Jochebed helped to shape her son’s personality. The fact that the adult Moses identified with the Hebrews and their God despite his royal connections in Egypt testifies to the influence of his parents during his formative years.—Hebrews 11:24-26.
As a mother, you probably have more opportunities than Jochebed to influence your child. Are you taking advantage of the few short years of your young one’s childhood to provide lasting, godly instruction? Or are you allowing the prevailing culture to have the dominant impact on your child’s development?
[Pictures on page 10]
Involve others in housework, reserve private time, and give priority to spirituality