I’ve been a mother for seven years—not that long in the grand scheme of things, but long enough to realize a few crucial lessons.
1) Motherhood doesn’t change my identity
Deep down, I’m still Anna. When my son Nathan was born, I became a mother. I had longed for a child for several years, and when he arrived, my life changed. But my identity didn’t.
I’m still a child of God. I have the same passions and interests and the same strengths and weaknesses. I think I expected to be good at or passionate about different things when I had children. But I’m still the person God created years ago. Of course my experiences have shaped me—now I care about philosophies of children’s education more than I did before—and parenting has grown me in some areas. But I didn’t morph into some “mommy form” of Anna with a different personality and interests. To me, this was a comfort even though it was also a surprise.
2) Motherhood is not a one-woman show
I need help. I’m not sure who coined the phrase “it takes a village,” but it’s a wise saying. Raising kids is too big a task for parents alone. It always has been. One of my favorite parts of motherhood is seeing my friends develop relationships with my kids. When friends want to hang out with my kids, not just to help me out but because they enjoy their company, my heart swells. My kids may only have one mother, but they have lots of spiritual mothers in addition to aunts and grandmothers. And I’m thankful, not just for the practical help, but for the influence of other women in their lives.
3) Motherhood builds daily faithfulness
Much of motherhood, at least during the little years, involves repetitive tasks. And I’ve realized I don’t much enjoy repetition. I am more of a project gal. I like forward momentum and love the feeling of completing something. But motherhood is rarely like that. There’s a dailiness to motherhood—the laundry, dishes, packing of lunches, wiping of bottoms, brushing of teeth. It can be tedious and exhausting.
But frankly, it’s good training for faithfulness in the dailiness of practicing our faith. Many of our days with Jesus may feel ordinary or even repetitive. There are peaks and valleys, but there is also the steady, daily journey of faith. Motherhood and its repetition of tasks are training me for the practice of my day-in, day-out faith. Faithfulness in small things, with kids and with Jesus, is valuable.
4) Motherhood reminds me I need grace
Motherhood shows me my sin. I mess up all the time. I have lofty ideals about how I want to parent, and I fail regularly. Guess what? My kids mess up too. A bunch. Life lived in close proximity shows us our need for Jesus. As my kids and I practice giving and receiving grace, we grow in our awareness for God’s grace in our lives.
5) Motherhood requires faith
I like control. I’m a hard worker and I’m results-oriented. I like tasks and efficiency. But kids are not projects or tasks to be completed. They are not machines programmed to respond “correctly.” Because they are humans, created in the beauty and complexity of the image of God, I must relinquish control.
This requires lots of faith. I must entrust my children to God—they are his anyway. I release them to the Lord, asking and trusting him to provide for them, protect them, and grow them up into him.
I’m still me. I need help. And grace. And faith. And faithfulness in the small things. That’s what motherhood has taught me.
Anna Moseley Gissing is a recent transplant to Bethlehem who researches, writes, and speaks about family, faith, and culture. She currently serves as Associate for Engagement with InterVarsity’s Women in the Academy and Professions and as a writing instructor for Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Anna is married to Jeff (Director of Discipleship) and is mother to a first-grade son and a preschool daughter.