Don’t Turn Motherhood Into an Idol (When Children Come First Before God)

“One thing I have asked of the Lord, and that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” – Psalm 27:4a

While expecting my firstborn, I was so focused on the pregnancy that I went into motherhood with few fears or expectations. After getting through the early months of trying to figure out how to keep my son alive and thriving, we got into a good rhythm. The fog of sleepless nights and my anxiety about his growth gave way to new worries about the future. The weight of my role as a mom set in- I was not only responsible for his physical health, I was responsible for the whole of his health. What I did or failed to do would affect him into adulthood.

I needed to be intentional about these early years to give him the best chance for success. It was my job as his mom to prepare him well for the future. So I spent the first two years of my son’s life chasing a perfect vision of motherhood. I had to feed him the right food, provide the right toys, read him the right books, go on the right outings, cultivate the right values.

I didn’t always get it one hundred percent right, but for the most part I felt like I was doing well. I was winning at being a mom. My son was happy, healthy, smart, and sweet.

No such thing as perfect motherhood

Then I became pregnant with my second child, and my carefully curated mothering began to crumble. Depression, chronic pain, and fatigue made those nine months seem endless. We spent most of our days at home; me laying numbly on the couch while he played. I will never forget the afternoon my son awoke from his nap to find me sobbing in bed. He wasn’t afraid of my tears. He wiped my face with his chubby little hands and held me like I had done for him so many times. In that moment I felt like a complete failure. I was supposed to be his safe place, and I was falling apart.

A few weeks after my daughter arrived, I was at the end of my rope. My sweet little man had morphed into a whiny, clingy tornado of emotion. Getting through each day felt impossibly hard. I sat in bed one morning trying to pray. There were so many things that weighed heavily on my heart. I simply prayed: “God I can’t live like this anymore and I have no idea what I’m doing. Please help me.”

I had known that those first months with two small children would be challenging. I had been through the newborn phase once already- I knew it would pass. My friends and family assured me that my son would mellow once he got used to his sister. But none of this was any consolation. With my firstborn, I had proudly and determinedly carried the weight of motherhood. Now, the load of doing all the right things for my children was breaking me.

For the first time since becoming a mom, I admitted to God how clueless I was. I opened my bible and turned to Psalms. My eyes fell on a familiar verse: “One thing I have asked of the Lord, and that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life.” Psalm 27:4a (AMP)

I had read this verse countless times before. I had memorized it years ago. The phrase “one thing” jumped off the page and took on fresh meaning in that moment. What was my “one thing”? What “one thing” had I been seeking?

God is better than life; even way better than the calling of motherhood.

I could not deny the truth. In my zealous effort to be intentional in my role as a mother, I had lost my zeal for His presence. I had spent countless hours researching all the right ways to raise my children, but I never surrendered motherhood to the One who had made me a mom.

That realization hit me hard, but it has been so freeing.

I am not saying that gaining insight from others into how to parent my kids is unnecessary and unimportant. I haven’t thrown out everything I believe about what is best for my children. What I am saying is that our ambition to be good mothers should lead us to the feet of Jesus. Our choices as moms ought to be fueled by a desire to steward the gift of motherhood well, not by a laundry list of burdensome ideals.

To the mom who is tired, overwhelmed, disillusioned, or anxious- I encourage you to take up this challenge- that Jesus would be the one thing you seek before all the other things.

Time spent purposefully seeking God’s presence doesn’t always have to look the same. For me in this season it often looks like praying, singing, and reading my Bible while nursing my baby. In six months it may look different; there is no formula that is “right”. The point is to show up.

When we show up in His presence, we will be able to show up for our children. We will see His beauty in our kids even on the toughest of days. His perfection will keep us humbly on our knees. His wisdom will equip us to be the mom our kids need.

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IMG_20200101_160011 - Bethney Stanberry-JacobBethney Jacob is a stay at home mom of two, worship leader, and writer. She is author of Greater Grace: 21 Devotions Inspired by Timeless Hymns. You can connect with her on her blog thewholeheartedlife.blog or on Facebook and Instagram @bethney.sj.

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