The mere thought of trying to be a successful mother can elicit overwhelming stress and tremendous pressure for today’s modern woman. With 70 percent of women who have children under the age of 18 working, and some also single, many mothers have to juggle their jobs along with the demands of child rearing. Added to that, the growing community of home schooling, now numbering 2 million children, finds both stay-at-home and working moms also carrying formal teaching responsibilities.
Today’s moms do benefit from modern amenities. Technology, with its robot vacuums, the ability to work from home, and online help with homework, seems to make tasks easier. Yet the case remains disputed. To begin with, moms must now monitor their children’s Internet and smartphone use. And while the modern flexibility of working from home is wonderful, it contributes to the stress of balancing work and caregiving demands. Finally, while having more involved fathers is certainly a blessing, it still doesn’t even out the workload for moms, many of whom work more weekly hours outside the home than previous generations, while still doing the great majority of the child care and housework.
As for coping with these challenges, there is no shortage of mom blogs, Web sites, parenting books, and unsolicited advice from any number of well-intentioned people. The problem may be a lack, not of information, but of finding what works for you and getting the support you need. Salaried work leaves little time to get together to support one another. And the real mother work—caring for our families—rarely allows time for anything else.
Some of the challenges I cite have been my own. With my boys now aged 14, 17, and 20, I may be nearing the end of my “every-day-all-day” mothering journey. The decades have taught me by multiple means—as mom, as clinical social worker, family therapist, and family life educator. I hope that sharing what I have learned may help someone else in their own mothering journey.
The first, most foundational resource for moms is our heavenly Father. He knows the concerns of careworn mothers and is eager to answer our prayers, if we but ask. The mighty God of the universe is just a prayer away! He loves our children infinitely beyond what we can imagine and will always guide us, especially when we acknowledge to Him that we don’t know what to do. While He might impress our hearts during prayer, He speaks to us most directly through His Word. The Bible is filled with treasure troves of wisdom that continue to apply today. Isaiah 40:11 tells us that God “gently leads those that have young.” Each book of Scripture offers gems awaiting our search.
With extended family members living far away and so many moms working outside the home, finding the necessary support becomes essential. Enter, the church community. Our love for the Lord and our desire to raise our children in the way of heaven draw us to church. As we take our little ones to church to learn about Jesus, we are met with the knowing glances and smiles of fellow moms who are also in the trenches. Their looks say
”Me too!” Automatically we sense kinship and a growing bond with these fellow moms.
In addition, churches can be a great place to learn parenting skills through parenting workshops and similar events. Many churches also offer Mommy and Me groups. Getting that support from other moms who are going through similar joys and sorrows is necessary to surviving the difficulties we all face. Church is where I met all of my mom friends. We have supported each other through regular home meetings when our children were young, sometimes camping together, going on picnics, and even an occasional moms’ night out!
Another way to diminish the stress of mothering is to accept who we are as individuals. Each of us is a product of genes and life experiences that make her beautifully unique. There has never been, nor will there ever be someone just like you. Though there are societal expectations for moms, the way we go about meeting them is uniquely individualized. And that’s OK! Feeling free to “be yourself” makes being a mother much more enjoyable.
When people ask how I manage my busy life, the first thing I say is “Scheduling!” If you have multiple responsibilities you know how important it is to plan out your day, week, maybe even your month and year ahead. That is how you know where to be, and if you can say “Yes” to additional responsibilities.
One problem women often have is that of being “pleasers.” But overcommitting leads to a crash sooner or later. So take advantage of smartphones and computer apps that help keep your schedule. This is especially important as our children get older and start getting involved in extracurricular activities. While it is good for children to participate in these activities, it can be difficult to manage without a plan.
In our harried days, whether running to shuttle our kids to school or sports, or juggling work and home responsibilities, we often forget to show love to our children. Motherhood involves having to tell our children “No” to what they want and discipline them if they break the rules. Kids will push the rules—and you!—to breaking point. The best salve for these difficult moments is simply to love your children through these issues, in real and tangible ways, however difficult it may prove.
One way is to spend quality time connecting with children so they can feel your compassion and tenderness. Connections change as children grow: when they are babies, it is easy to show love through the frequent touch and holding they require. Entering toddlerhood, they start to enjoy reading time and cuddling at night before bed. Joining them in play is another significant connector at this stage. As children get older and start spending time with their friends, regular family meals and car rides become an excellent time to connect and show love.
There has never been, nor will there ever be someone just like you.
Ask how their day went and what was the best thing that happened. Listen with compassion, always trying to put yourself in their shoes. It may feel as if your teenager is pulling away and doesn’t want you around, but this may be when your child needs you the most. Pray for wisdom, choose your words wisely, and God will give you a good strategy to show your love without smothering them. Remember that your support and approval continue to be important even as they enter early adulthood.
Ellen White wrote: “Next to God, the mother’s power for good is the strongest known on earth.”
1 Mothers typically are children’s first and primary caregivers. This gives mothers a powerful influence in children’s spiritual development: the love we give them shows them God’s love. Our patient loving with them makes God’s love for them more real. So does the judicious spiritual training we give them throughout their development. As much as we think they may not notice, they are watching: mothers should try to be the role model they wish they had as children. Such a large responsibility compels us to seek the Lord in prayer daily, even moment by moment, for guidance.
As a family therapist, I have seen many families in which fathers feel isolated and disengaged from the parent/child relationship. This can happen when mothers become so consumed with their role as supermom that they push away their most valuable support, their husband. The coordinated parenting team of father and mother together is still God's ideal for the family.
Today, mothers provide more to the household income than they did in previous generations, but men are still the primary financial providers. Fathers should be appreciated for their role in providing and child rearing, as well as for the love and support they give to their wives. Because marriage satisfaction typically declines as children join the family, it is doubly important to find time to spend alone together as husband and wife. While date nights and weekend getaways are easier when children are older, try to find moments to reconnect and rekindle your affection at every stage of your children’s lives.
In single parent situations, the father is still very important to the mother. One of her biggest stressors is having to parent alone. The single mother plays a powerful role in maintaining the partnership between mother and father. Being civil and finding common ground in raising the children will go a long way toward keeping the father engaged. Where he isn’t available, Big Brother Big Sister and other such organizations may be able to provide some of the needed male support, and mothers should acknowledge their appreciation for the help received.
Mothers can get so busy with mothering that they forget to take care of themselves. There are simply not enough hours in a day to do all they feel they must and still care for themselves. But they will be better, happier moms if they prioritize their own needs: take a nap while baby sleeps or when someone else can care for the baby; see the doctor for regular medical checkups or when an illness doesn’t heal; eat the healthful meals you make with your children, or (if it’s a bit chaotic) find a quiet time to enjoy your food and digest it properly; exercise on a consistent daily schedule—if not daily, then at least most days. Try exercising with the kids. Be creative!
Motherhood requires health of body and strength of mind. Relaxation and fun are serious elements of that. Relax when the kids are out, or stage getaways with hubby or good friends. Most importantly, time for self, body and mind, means time for spiritual health. Spend time with the Lord, ideally first thing in the morning.
With so much that mothers have to do, we are bound to make mistakes, mistakes that may harm our loved ones and leave us with overwhelming guilt. The burden of guilt can negatively affect our emotional and spiritual health, even our relationships. But God reminds us that whereas “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Forgiveness is one of the most precious of all gifts that God offers mothers throughout—and beyond—their child-rearing years. Knowing we’re forgiven for the blunders assures us that our efforts have not been in vain.
Alina M. Baltazar is an associate professor of social work at Andrews University, and mother of three sons: two teenagers and a 20-year-old.