"No, I don't want children!" I declared to my shocked newlywed husband. Even though I had played with dolls and pretended to be a mommy as a young child, time had drastically changed my wanting a quiver full of children to wanting zilch, zero, none.
Time and counseling (ha) were followed by one, then two babies. Yet, as a new mommy, the days and many nights were painfully long. I lived for nap-time and bedtime just trying to sanely make it thru each day with little ones needing my. every. waking. second. I loved the title of “Mommy” but I didn’t love being a mommy.
Looking back, I realized I had bought into the lies the evil one had whispered into my heart. These lies, while different from Eve’s, were just as deadly: children are a hindrance, they’ll keep me from climbing the job ladder, they’ll steal my life, etc. etc. etc. These lies were sucking the joy out of my mommying.
I came to a crossroads during my third (surprise!) pregnancy. It was as if God had turned the light on in my parenting, and showed me I was just surviving rather than thriving. I realized something had to change. I needed to flush out the lies and fill myself with truth. I would have to reinvent myself and there was no better place, then in God’s life-giving Word.
“He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children.” Psalm 113:9
“A joyful mother.” Ha! That didn’t describe me except at bedtime! Webster’s dictionary defines joyful as: merry, glad, and showing joy.
I had to look at myself to see if I matched the description,
1. Am I merry? Nope, more like mopey!
2. Would my kiddos say I’m glad? Nope, more often sad or even mad!
3. Does the world see joy in my mothering? Nope, they just hear grumbling and complaining!
Ugh! My answers showed me I was sleep-walking through one of the most amazing blessings God grants women: motherhood. Well, this sleeper wanted to wake up! “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” Proverbs 23:7 What follows are the steps I now realize are outlined in Dr. Caroline Leaf's excellent book Switch on Your Brain. I purposely set out to retrain my brain to choose joy in my mothering, to “think the way God wanted me to think” about mothering. (SOYB p. 53)
1. Choose Joyful Motherhood
“Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 obviously includes mommying, so I had to train my brain to rejoice in the blessings of motherhood. Rejoice means to be glad, be well, thrive. “Whatever we think about the most will grow!” (SOYB p. 63) Therefore, I needed to not only love my children but
2. Mimic Joyful Motherhood
Secondly, I looked around at those who were joyfully mothering. Proverbs 31:26 was my criteria, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Countless women were mommying well. So, I intentionally:
Takeaway: To thrive as a joyful mother, I changed my perception by watching, listening, and mimicking other joyful mothers.
3. Exemplify Joyful Motherhood.
Thirdly, I had to train my brain to fully immerse myself into each season my kiddos walked through. “Change takes place over time through continual persistence.” (SOYB p. 67)
- Thoroughly Enjoy - I found myself longing for different seasons, therefore I made myself choose to revel in my kiddos current season of life. I reminded myself on the hard days, “The days may be long but the years are truly short. Choose joy, Tammy!”
- Be Thankful - “In everything give thanks” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I remember crossing the floor from my bedroom to theirs for the tenth time one night, schooling myself, “Be thankful, Tammy. You are blessed to be their momma and to have to walk across this floor for the tenth time to tend to their needs.”
- Be Intentional - “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 This is my appointed time to be a momma, therefore I told myself, “Be intentional, Tammy. Pour into them while there’s time. Put down your phone, look into their eyes, and just listen, for the day is coming when they won’t be under your roof.”
Takeaway: To thrive as a joyful mother, I needed to “pay attention to my thoughts and purposefully focus my mind to lead to a great transformation!” (SOYB p. 67)
4. Champion Joyful Motherhood
Lastly, I now feel the call to champion joyful motherhood. Society bullies us to believe that the best mommies dress their kiddos in the latest trends, put them in the most activities, and take them on the best trips. But that’s just not true, for the world’s mommying standard is always changing, thoroughly exhausting, and a completely unattainable pursuit for mothering.
Rather, our hearts should allow the life-giving beauty of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Proverbs 31:10-31, & 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 be our mommying standard.
“Our minds can powerfully and unexpectedly change our brains in positive ways when we intentionally direct our attention.” (SOYB p. 92)
We need to believe:
5. Joyful Motherhood
God, in all His kindness, has transformed me into a joyful mother. Are there hard days? Absolutely! But I now see those hard days as bumps, rather than roadblocks.
“I saw the greatest changes in patients who willfully, determinedly, and persistently chose to focus their attention on improving their skills and restoring function.” (SOYB p. 102)
I now strive to laugh with and enjoy the little and the big with my kiddos. In a blink of an eye, they will be driving off to the new adventure of adulthood, and all I’ll be left with are fading memories. By faith, may those memories be warm and full of contentment, because I chose to believe that I was given one of the greatest titles this side of glory, Momma, and I lived out that title joyfully.
How about you? If you're blessed with physical children (or grandchildren, or nieces/nephews), would they describe you as joyful? If not, what changes can you make to become more joy filled during this season of life? Who around you exemplifies joyful mothering? If you are joyfully living out this season of life, who can you come alongside and mentor? A sweet momma is out there longing for you to reach out to her and breath life into her. Do it, my friend! You both will be blessed!
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Confidante. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, deep talks, lively laughter, and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.