I wonder how many parents go into parenthood unarmed, with this vague idea that there are certain glamorous aspects to parenting. And at first, it might well appear to be so. Especially in homeschool circles, it’s the “Godly” thing to do to get pregnant. Everybody and their uncle congratulate you and are thrilled for you the first time you get pregnant. Most first-time moms are center stage the whole 9 months. Everyone wants to know how they’re doing, what they think of pregnancy (and generally, how miserable they are), birth plans, nursery plans, etc., etc. You get at least one baby shower, sometimes more. Then the birth day finally arrives, and again, everyone wants to see pictures. Tons of people visit, wanting to see your first baby, and lots even bring meals. And the first month or so you’re totally caught up and enamored by this precious little one, hardly able to believe it’s actually yours.
But suddenly, somewhere in there, things change. Suddenly it doesn’t work to stay places till 11 pm. You find yourself rejecting invitations you would normally love to accept, because it’s past baby’s bedtime. You tell friends that this activity or that doesn’t work, because it falls at naptime. The number of diapers you change soars into the hundreds, and it’s not quite so new and fun anymore. Dishes pile up, and babies have fussy days. Teething kicks in, and you spend days and nights soothing a fussy baby. You walk around in zombie mode, because the most consecutive sleep you got the previous night was 30 minutes. As the baby gets older and becomes a normal part of life, others aren’t as excited about all the new milestones. Growth spurts, illnesses, long days, frazzled nerves, cranky babies… And then, your womb is filled again. And this time, it’s not quite so exciting for everyone else. You won’t be quite so coddled and center-stage. A few close friends will ask how you’re doing, but no one else really cares. Baby number two arrives, and there isn’t quite the rush for everyone to see him there was the first time. After all, they’ve already seen one of your babies. You might get a few meals, and you might not…there isn’t the novelty and need for an excuse to visit the baby, this time. Baby number 3 goes further down that line, and just try being pregnant with number 10, and see what kind of reactions you’ll get.
I’m not saying it’s always like that. Nor am I implying it’s been that way for me this time around, or that I regret not getting all the attention we got when I was expecting Vivi. The people that care about me still want to know how I’m doing, and how the pregnancy is going….but they wanted to know about me when I wasn’t pregnant, too. The people that love Vivi most still get excited about all her new milestones. Vivi’s still as precious as she was when she was a newborn, and I still catch my breath and enjoy just watching her. And honestly, parenting never was about the glamour for me. We’re still enjoying it just as much as we did when we started this journey, over 1 ½ years ago…more in fact, because everyday uncovers new blessings.
No, it isn’t glamorous…it isn’t sparkly and untouchable like a beautiful diamond….it doesn’t put me at center stage or make me popular or looked up to- if anything, it’s removed me from society. Instead, it’s a soft, beautiful joy….like a perfect day. It’s like uncovering new secrets and treasures in an open field, or deep in an undiscovered wood. It’s like peeking around a tree to discover a patch of violets you never saw before. Every day grows more beautiful, as I add more items to my collection- tangible, touchable items. No, they don’t all sparkle, but they’re far more beautiful than that, and I cherish the memories we’re making. Someday, when all the children are grown, and I am (hopefully) surrounded by grandchildren, I’ll miss this…and I’ll look back through old scrapbooks and read old journals and relish the memories. I’ll be grateful that my job in life never was glamorous- because my reward is much richer, my memories much deeper. If people pursue parenthood for the glamour, not only do they end up sadly disappointed, they also miss out on such incredible wealth and depth and beauty. Their children miss out, too.
Parenting involves many sacrifices. Sorry to burst your bubble if you were pursuing parenting with glamour in mind. Parenting is beautiful, but it’s a deeper beauty than diamonds. And if you’re ever going to get anywhere near discovering the deepest depths of it, you have to understand and embrace the sacrifices. If you can make this one step- tossing out selfishness and embracing sacrifice for the sake of your children- you can find rewards that are unimaginably beautiful. I know, because I’m tasting. I don’t know fully yet…it’ll be a great many years before I can understand the full depth…but as much as I can with 1 ½ or so years of parenting under my belt (and that counts pregnancy), I know.
I might write a lot about sacrificial parenting, and being willing to sacrifice your desires for the sake of your children, but it isn’t to elevate me. Because honestly, usually it isn’t that hard. It’s a lifestyle Ben and I decided to embrace a long time ago, and so it’s just life. It’s the way things are, and we don’t feel sorry for ourselves, or feel like we’re missing out on the “great” life when we have to make little sacrifices. No. I write firstly because I desire so much for other children to experience the joys of living with sacrificial parents….because it’s so important to me to see children treated like people. And I write secondly that other parents may taste the joys we taste- the inexpressible joys that come when selflessness can become a part of day-to-day life. This is important to me as well, because if the people I see day in and day out are any indicator of people in general, most people miss out. And that’s terrible….parents could not only be giving their kids so much more, but also getting so much more out of their lives, and they don’t, because they’re still clinging to glamour and selfishness. They’re still mourning that life isn’t as it used to be…still trying to cling to the old life, make this new life as much like it as possible. In the process, they hurt their children and they hurt themselves. They might get to hold onto some aspects of their old lives…but the sacrifices they absolutely have to make will hurt them far worse than they would if sacrificing and embracing the new life’s challenges and joys were the norm.
And no….even if you do live life with abandon, and do chose a sacrificial love for your children, it isn’t always easy. I would venture to say it’s easier, and even often easy. But not always. Sometimes it’d be fun to stay out later at an event. Sometimes it’s frustrating to not get to carry out evening plans with Ben because I had to spend the whole night getting Vivi to sleep and/or back to sleep. Sometimes, the sleep loss catches up with me, and I wonder if I can handle it. Sometimes, I’d like to shut my eyes and imagine away everything I’m behind on, in hopes a fairy maid will come and do it all. But those are the hardest days. And they don’t happen everyday, or even every week….unlike the blessings.
And the blessings….are so deep, and so wonderful, and so exquisitely beautiful….that I honestly don’t know how to put them into words. I don’t think I can put them into words that someone who hasn’t already embraced this journey would understand. They come in the small things, like whispering grass…small things that light up this mommy’s whole day!
It’s living with a little girl who is so happy and cheerful, so well connected and emotionally stable, so beautiful and content….because of the choices we’ve consciously made for her. It’s watching her sleep- seeing her sweet lips curl into a partial smile, watching her chest move up and down, admiring the way she clasps her hands like an angel- and knowing this little girl is ours, our gift from God. It’s communicating with her through sign language- enjoying her fast growing repertoire, and trying hard to stay ahead of her. It’s having conversations while we go for a walk, discussing all the beautiful things we see. It’s knowing that Vivi loves and trusts us. It’s seeing her develop and grow everyday. It’s sharing life together. It’s realizing Vivi’s a real person, and as such, enjoying time with her as much as I’d enjoy time with my mom or any other adult. It’s spending countless hours sharing small joys. It’s seeing her light up when she learns something new, or discovers she can communicate clearly with us. It’s seeing her excitement when we prepare to do something she enjoys, like heading outside. It’s seeing Vivi sign “play” excitedly when she sees that Daddy’s getting ready to start their daily job (filling up the vaporizer) together with her.
It’s knowing that this is where God has me. It’s realizing that nothing else in the world could offer rewards as great as mine. It’s laughing just because life is that wonderful. It’s living stress-free, because I’m enjoying this life of mine. It’s enjoying today while looking forward to tomorrow…and looking back on yesterday with fond memories. It’s conquering a large to-do list with Vivi on my back or at my side…enjoying good company and a productive day. It’s feeling small kicks in the womb, or noticing a growing belly, and smiling with thankfulness for this new life God’s blessed us with. It’s anticipating the upcoming birth. It’s planning for a super-long babymoon, and making plans for how Vivi and I will prepare beforehand to make it possible. It’s looking forward to being a mommy of two, and enjoying lots of relaxed time together with my 3 favorite people.
It’s living…loving…sacrificing…enjoying. It’s beautiful, deep and magnificent. It’s my life.