A good mom changes everything. When my firstborn came careening into our world, I didn’t know what to expect. What was my new role as “mother” in my family?
I did know, of course, sort of. I had read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” at least three times through, plus 5-10 other parenting, nursing, birthing books, plus oh, about 1000 online articles about being a mom and caring for a baby.
I had listened to advice at baby showers: “sleep when the baby sleeps” and “it’s life-changing” and “cherish every minute, it goes so fast.”
But I still didn’t know what to expect.
At first, it was all consuming just to keep this tiny miracle alive. To stop her screeching, to get her latched properly, to keep her comfy, to hope I wasn’t irreversibly screwing her up.
As the intensity of the first months faded,we came up for air, and my role in our family had shifted.
I wasn’t just Katie anymore. I wasn’t just a wife. I was a mother. And it more than any other role changed me. I lost myself in it for a bit, it felt impossible not to, but I also found myself: stronger, gentler, more alive than ever.
Now as I look back on seven years of mothering I see three major roles emerge….the role of caregiver, nurturer and guide for my children.
The Caregiving Role of a Mother
- As my body made space and sustained her from the size of a strawberry to the size of a small melon.
- As I broke myself to bring her into the world alive.
- As I tried to stuff my nipple just right into her ever, moving little bird mouth.
- As I changed yellow, gag-inducing diaper one after another.
- As I bathed her in the perfect temperature of water when the poop exceeded the power of the wet wipes.
- As I pushed her little arms into the thick snowsuit, zipping her snug as a bug against the elements.
- As I steadied her arms as she walked, and spooned baby food into her mouth.
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I became the caregiver.
For my unique circumstance being a caregiver looked like providing hands-on care as a stay at home and work from home mom for most of my children’s lives. It made financial sense for our family and fit really well with my husband and I’s callings and abilities.
That’s not to say if you’re not a stay at home mom you aren’t caregiving or you are caregiving LESS. (I’m calling major bullcrap on that lie, so don’t you even think about believing it for a second!)
Working moms are caregiving SO much by bringing home the money needed to make everything possible while also caring for the day to day needs when they are at home.
Whether you are at home full time or working full time or anything in between, this role of Caregiver is an incredibly exhausting, breathtakingly beautiful miracle.
It is most intense while your children are small, but it will dissipate. For the first time in years, my husband and I are able to sleep in again on Saturday mornings. There was a time in my life–I mean seven years really– when we had all the babies and I thought that dream had died to never live again.
But NOW a new day has dawned, God’s mercies are new every morning, and hallelujah our kids can get up and get themselves a pop tart and turn on the tv and watch cartoons until 9 am and it is glorious!!
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My role as a Caregiver is shifting. Sometimes that makes me sad, and sometimes it deeply thrills me–the complicated and mysterious joy of motherhood.
The Nurturing Role of a Mother
While I am meeting those little physical needs as caregiver, I also took on the role of Nurturer, meeting my child’s emotional needs.
When I answered her squawks at 3 am, I told her I would always come for her.
When I picked her up and kissed her ouchies as she learned the messy business of walking upright, I told her I cared about her pain and I would do anything in my power to take it away.
I became the Nurturer.
As a nurturing mother I am entrusted to the emotional needs of my kids. I hold them when they’re sad, I cheer with them when they’re happy, I talk with them when they’re scared, and help them with their big angry feelings too.
While my role of a caregiver gets smaller and smaller as my kids grow, my role as a nurturer is steady. All along I have been nurturing, the physical caregiving WAS meeting an emotional need when they were small.
Now I don’t change diapers anymore. I don’t scoop baby puree into their mouths. But I mediate a lot of disagreements. I validate their feelings. I ask questions to help me and them understand how they’re making sense of the world. I meet a lot of emotional needs and I will keep meeting them their whole lives long.
As I was lay on the floor at 6 weeks postpartum feeling completely exhausted and overwhelmed, all I wanted was my mom. A mother’s nurturing never stops being needed by her children. I never stop learning from my own mom, never stop needing her and neither will my kids.
The Guiding Role of a Mother
My final role as a mother is as a spiritual guide, teaching faith and morality to my children. This is perhaps the most weighty of the roles, growing in an opposite trajectory as the Caregiver, starting small and growing larger.
There isn’t much spiritual conversation happening with a baby. But, as a Christian mother it was important to me to be guiding my children and teaching them faith, even when they were too little to understand it.
I read them Bible stories as babies. I actually read the Jesus Storybook Bible out loud to my daughter during my last month of pregnancy. I sang hymns and worship songs over them. I clapped their chubby hands to songs in church.
Now that they’re bigger I get to have bigger conversations, bigger teachings, and most important, bigger modeling of what a life of following Jesus looks like.
Answering my kids questions about faith has grown my faith in such big ways. They ask questions I haven’t thought to ask in a long time. I’m so grateful for their questions and that God’s Word can stand up to their childlike scrutiny.
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I’ve learned so much about God’s heart for me through mothering my kids: forgiveness, kindness, unconditional love, PATIENCE, perseverance. I’m so thankful that as I guide them spiritually (both in my Christian faith and in morals in general), I’m also learning and growing right along with them.
My role as a mother is one of my biggest and most important in life. It’s such a gift to be a caregiver, nurturer, and guide to these sweet souls.
You are that gift to your kids too. You are the perfect mother, the exact right one, hand picked by God to provide for them physically, emotionally and spiritually.
I know being a mom can be exhausting and thankless, but keep your head up sister, you are doing a massive and indispensable and beautiful things “just” by being a mom.
If this post resonated with you, I’d love it if you’d share it with a friend!
How do you define your role as a mother in your family?
What has being a mom taught you?