Friday, March 21, 2008

Mothering With Gentleness

Maybe it's the fact that I have a very strong-willed preschooler, maybe it's pregnancy hormones, maybe it's the fact that we're too much alike or that we're just human beings in general that struggle with sin, but lately I've found myself SEVERELY lacking in gentleness. As I go over the love chapter (1 Cor. 13) and review the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5) it is my hope and prayer that God would help me to exhibit more gentleness, kindness, and patience in my mothering these days. I've been less like the softspoken, wise mothers portrayed in books and movies, and more like a "Drill Sergeant Mommy." I know the reasons for this. It's because being a mom is a job that is endless, with no days off, no breaks, and duty around the clock, whether you feel like it or not. Not only that, but motherhood is physically and mentally exhausting, especially in my condition. Kids can also be frustrating. It's not just that they spilled their milk, but that they spilled their milk for the 10th time this week, and did it after smearing jelly everywhere, 5 seconds after you cleaned the whole house AGAIN and mopped the floor. It's not that they have wasted 5 minutes of your day looking for socks and shoes but that they do the stalling/dinking/whining routine about 5 times a day when you are getting ready to go out or when they want to play outside or go to the laundry room with you. It's not that you hate feeding your kids, it's just that you get sick of filling sippy cups about 12 times a day and fixing 5-6 snacks per day per child and then doing the clean-up afterward.

It's easy to see why mothers, myself a the top of the list, struggle with gentleness. We have SO MUCH to accomplish in a day, that it's hard not to feel frustrated, angry, harsh, and snappy when little someones are doing everything they can, or so it seems, to make our lives harder and more difficult as they create more and more work for us.

Which is why I decided to occasionally post on this subject, to keep myself accountable to grow in this area and to seek ideas from my blog readers on growing in Gentleness as a mother. Here are some of my ideas for getting a start on this:
1. Memorize Scriptures about Gentleness.
2. Post a few little notes around the house with verses/one-word reminders about being gentle.
3. Cut down my schedule. Every now and then I find that the boundaries I've worked hard to create have slipped again and people are taking too much of me. I need to be better about screening calls again (as I have a frequent caller who takes up too much of my time for no reason) and saying "No" to friends who invite us to playdates that will just wear me out. A less-hectic schedule means less hurrying and stressing and less being snappy with the kids.
4. Play more soft music. I had been doing this, but recently we got out of the habit. Playing classical music or soft instrumentals really sets a more peaceful tone for the home.
5. Continue to read books on rearing children and discipline. Sometimes I find myself getting all worked up and treating childish behavior like outright defiance even though it's not the same thing. I need the refreshers on how to be consistent in dealing with disobedience, but not being a harsh taskmaster that expects more out of a child then they can developmentally do.
6. Ask my husband and friends to keep me accountable to this and to check up on me and see how I'm doing in the area of Gentle Mothering.
7. Clean-up the patio and get a sandbox ready for the kids so that they can spend a lot of time outside, wearing off energy without destroying the inside of our house!
8. Me Last. Moms feel like slaves on many a day, but it's interesting how we can still be selfish in spite of our constant chores, constant service, and their constant need for us. Even if I "think" my day is all about the kids, sometimes I have to step back and realize that it's really all about me. It's about getting their needs taken care of us as quickly as I can so I can move on to tackle "my" cleaning list, "my" blogging, "my" reading, "my" agenda for the day and how it should go. I need to re-adjust my attitude so that I see each day as a chance to serve my family with a cheerful heart, realizing that some good things or desirable things may have to go or be saved for a later time when they are in bed.

8 comments:

Jason and Beth said...

I can relate to exactly what you are saying. I'm 36 weeks pregnant with a 3 year old (turned 3 yesterday) and a 19 month old. What you said resonates with me right now. I'm struggling to be gentle and nurturing and not to withdraw emotionally. I'm glad you chose to share these things. I think maybe i'll check out the verses on gentleness as well and memorize them.
take care,
Beth

Teresa @ A Life At Home said...

This is something God is working on in me right now too. It is a character trait I have always desired to have, but I am a take charge kind of girl.
Just keep praying and memorizing those scriptures. God will start to show you when you do not have that meek and quiet spirit.

BarbaraLee said...

This is hard for mothers to do. I think this is how the woman lib movement came about. And these are women who aren't married. But as we all know the rewards are greater then a paycheck and our boss will never fire us. In stead we can rely on Him for continuous help. Take care of your self and nap when you can. Children are just as easy to forgive your short temper as God is.

Fruitful Vine said...

Hi
I found your blog through Crystal's Making Your Home a Haven. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading some of your other posts as well. Keep on working on the gentleness. I know I am. I've come a long way but when I look closely there still are times I find that I should be more gentle with my boys. I hope you had a wonderful Resurrection Sunday. Enjoy the rest of your day.
Jenn

Anonymous said...

I have also been working on a softer and gentler tone to my mothering.

Here are some things I find helpful:
* reading Dr. Sears books on Discipline and Christian Parenting. He has raised eight children with his wife, Martha, and is very encouraging. As a pediatrician, he seems to have a handle on age-appropriate behavior, the differences between children (see The High-Need Child, which was helpful with my firstborn!), and maintaining a gentle and loving relationship with children...while also expecting good behavior!!
* websites like www.gentlechristianmothering.com
* reminding myself that God is providing opportunities for me to "wear out my mothering instincts" on my children...after all, they will grow up...so this is my time (season) to throw myself unabashedly into mothering them well
* asking myself if I will be proud of my mothering in the future, or look back with regret
* asking myself if my children's memories will be marked with the warmth of a relationship with a lovingkind mother
* asking myself if I am parenting in the way I wish my grandchildren will be parented :)
* asking myself if I would be pleased if Jesus arrived as a guest in my home...and took note of my mothering!...egad!
Blessings to you, and thank you for your honesty in opening up this discussion!
I am mother to three beautiful children and seek daily to be someone they will "rise up and call blessed!"

REAL ME said...

Wonderful post!!! I needed this so much. I love the ideas to help me get started on this! Thanks so much for sharing!

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Kate said...

What a wonderful post. I struggle with this also and you so accurately hit on many of the things that we do have to deal with as mothers that steal from our gentleness. I am constantly working on myself in this area.

Your list is wonderful, and I am right thee with you. I, too, need to remind myself of those things everyday. One thing I do, although it only works sometimes (unfortunately), is to try to catch myself before I let any negative spirit show to my children. I will close my eyes and take a deep breath for the 1/2 second it takes to say "Lord HELP!" Sometimes, I do get a wave a peace through me when I do this.

It has been very convicting for me to see my 8 year old treat her younger brother and sisters in a way that she has learned from me. How can I get upset with her when I realize that she is just copying my bad behavior? Like you, I need to make myself accountable for this on a daily basis.

Thank you so much for this post. I have really enjoyed visiting your blog.

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