I remember visiting my sister-in-law when her babies were little. She had four children in just over four years and there were babies and toddlers everywhere. When you walked into her kitchen there would, without a doubt, be someone calling for mom, diapers on the counter, spilled cereal on the floor, and laughter or crying at any given moment.
I was childless in those days and while I still had much to do at the farm, I would often make my way over to see the nieces and nephews. I loved all the chaos and sweet snuggles of diapered babies. I enjoyed drinking coffee with their mama and scooping the bigger kids into bear hugs.
I never really thought about the fact that they were almost always home.
Someone mentioned the other day that they barely see me anymore. I nodded. I barely see myself these days. But I know where I am.
I’m at home.
Even though my children aren’t toddlers, now that I have two of them, I’m cemented right in the home-years. I can’t just pick up and go visit someone. I can’t just make a quick trip to the grocery store.
There is laundry (lots of it!) and dishes (endless) and while I might have made the choice to leave them for later if it was just me, now I have children to teach.
We wash the dishes after meals. We sweep the floor when it’s dirty. We switch the laundry so we all have clean underwear. We do our work without complaining or arguing because this is part of life and we all need to do our part. Yes, you need to pick up your socks. No, you may not play with kittens until the heifers all have hay. Of course we can’t go to the park—not when you haven’t finished your chores.
And then tomorrow? We go over it all again.
It’s easy to resent these years. By the fifth time I’ve turned down an outing with friends, to instead stand in the kitchen and teach my children (again!) how to wash the dishes properly (ex: use hot water, dish soap, and actually scrub them) it can feel a bit overwhelming. I’d like some time off now and then. I’d like to get out of the house once in a while. I’d like to just jump in the car and run to the store for more half-in-half so I can actually enjoy my coffee.
Facing infertility hasn’t made me indifferent to the daily stress of mothering through the home-years. It certainly hasn’t made everything a blissful dance. I do pray that it has made me more thankful than I might have been, but it is still work.
Yep, mothering is work. And I want to remember to celebrate it.
I’m home right now.
It’s just where I am. I’m homeschooling and mothering and that means when the battery dies in the van and it takes my husband a week to get to hauling the battery charger out… it doesn’t really even matter.
These years won’t last forever. This is true for anyone, but especially true for me.
I started this journey with eight-year-olds. If you want to feel like your children are growing up fast, just start with an eight-year-old girl who is so tiny you can still scoop her up in your arms without thinking about it—watch her hit a growth spurt that lengthens her fingers to longer than yours, her feet from children’s 2’s to women’s 9’s, and her hair from chin length to waist length. In just two and a half years. Oy!
She was still a baby girl in so many ways and now, suddenly, I can see glimpses of the grown woman she will be and I don’t want to be so busy sighing over the home-years that I miss all together the tiny pieces of her childhood that I’ve been granted.
Instead, I want to celebrate these home-years.
Y’all, I have a son that wears muddy socks through my house.
I have a daughter who fusses when I brush her hair.
I have children who wake up and pretend like they have no idea what their chores might be today, even though they are the same exact chores they have done every single morning for the past three months.
I have a son who redid five math pages last week because he was refusing to make them neat enough to read.
I have a daughter who acts like she can’t remember how to sweep a floor, or wipe down the shower, or put her dirty clothes in the laundry.
Y’all… I have children.
This. Is. Glorious.
This. Is. Incredible.
This is God’s grace and mercy and redemption.
And if you have little ones as well, I don’t care how they came about—no matter what your story is, it’s glorious. Mothering is a brilliant calling. Whether you birthed your babies, adopted them, foster them, or are a nanny for your neighbor’s kids, it’s still incredible.
Elizabeth Prentiss, an author who live in the 1800’s, wrote about one’s perception on motherhood in her book Stepping Heavenward,
“She says I shall now have one mouth the more to fill and two feet the more shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure or visiting , reading, music, and drawing.
“Well! This is one side of the story, to be sure, but I look at the other. Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery. Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worth all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant.
“I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ’s name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! O, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!”
It’s so true. I barely see my friends these days. (I am thankful for Voxer and Facebook and email!) But I have these little hearts right here in my home who need me. They need to learn about love (it’s not self-seeking), they need to learn about grace (it gives you what you don’t deserve), they need to learn about mercy (it doesn’t give you what you do deserve), and they need to learn about Jesus (who is the ultimate Father and Comforter and is actively present in our lives).
I’m in the home-years and I’m learning to celebrate them. To enjoy the cadence of each day with its familiar patterns and predictable hiccups. I’m learning to allow myself the challenge of finding the places where we all struggle and working to smooth them out with prayer and wisdom and thinking-ahead.
There’s a balance, I know, to getting time for myself to regroup. But these days I have to be careful. It’s so easy to listen to a world that says, “Take care of yourself first, so you have energy for others!” Those words sound so good. They make sense! Like putting your own oxygen mask on first if the airplane loses pressure.
But they aren’t Kingdom-words.
In the Kingdom of God we live upside-down from the world. We serve others first. We choose to go last. We do need to slip away for quiet moments of prayer, to revive our hearts, but if the crowd follows us—we still take care of their needs. Like the story of the feeding of the five thousand, where crowds had followed Jesus into “a desolate place” where he meant to escape for a bit—we can give thanks to the Father for the little we have (be it food, time, or patience) and trust that He will multiply it to be enough.
This is Kingdom-living. Right in our homes.
And there is enough of Jesus for the home-years. There really is.
We can trust Him to fill in the gaps of our abilities, fill in the gaping holes that are left from constantly tearing out our selfishness and pride, fill up our hearts to overflow with love.
Not the feel-good kind of love. The 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. The kind that changes hearts and transforms lives.
The kind that changes me, from the inside out.
So to all us moms who are living in the home-years, let’s not lament the work of them—let’s rejoice instead!
For our lives, as simple and mundane as they may feel at times, are the perfect platforms for Kingdom-living—for knowing Jesus and making Him known.