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Effective Mothering

Motherhood! Warm, fuzzy feelings. Precious, sentimental thoughts. Proud moments. Heart-sick disappointments. Hectic days. Worry-filled nights. Crises. Unexpected delights. Contented joy.

All of these are motherhood. For some of us, these emotions and mental images are memories. For others, they are future expectations, and for still others, they are present realities. I would wish for everyone that the impressions of motherhood were entirely pleasant and positive. The reality is that they are not, mothers are humans--imperfect humans inhabiting an imperfect planet.

I'm sitting where I can have a neat perspective on motherhood. Our three daughters are now grown and happily married. They and their husbands (and our grandchildren) are special joys to us. Fortunately and unfortunately, God gave me the facility of memory. He also gave our three girls memories and the courage to tell it all as they remember it. That keeps me honest.

It could be a temptation to lean back and tell you mothers who are still in the thick of the battle that it's always worth it all. But other women might drown out my proclamations.

There's Anna, who would tell you that she and her husband poured the best of Christian training and love into their three children, but one son has turned out "bad." He dropped out of college and for a time just "bummed" around. He married a girl who left him in six months. Now he not only is a college dropout with no career, he is a divorced man who has disgrace to live with.

Or there's Betty, whose only daughter Ellen was headstrong about marrying a man Betty and her husband didn't approve of. Because of the devastating tension, Ellen cut off all contact with her parents. Sadly they found out that she had been severely beaten and abused by her husband. Both Betty and Anna feel they have failed as mothers and that all those years of child rearing were a lot of work for nothing.

Or there are the women who are frantically trying to combine mothering and a career. Besides dishing up a never-ending round of delicious meals, presenting the freshest-smelling laundry in town, providing a cozy home to bring friends to eat Mom's freshly baked cookies, attending Little League games, and driving everyone 16 directions to lessons and doctor's appointments--each weekday morning these moms hurry off to a "real" job in their dressed-for-success coordinated outfits.


What's a mother to do these days? Give up in despair, or shut her eyes, grit her teeth, and hang on for dear life while she gets swung in vicious circles by the Too-Many-Demands Giant?

Their paychecks help pay for music lessons, orthodontic braces, and allergy shots. In the evenings they oversee homework before rushing to a seminar on "Improving Your Self-Esteem while Rearranging Under-the-Bed Dustballs" or the 13th in a series on "How We Can Encourage Families to Spend More Time at Home" Most of these mothers say it's impossible to keep up with everything--or to do even one of their duties well.

Is it possible to do mothering well these days? Aren't we living in treacherous times, with temptation on every hand for our kids? And which Christian child-rearing books shall we buy? The bookstore shelves groan under the weight of so many good parenting guides.

And who shall we listen to concerning where a mother is to spend her time? One set of voices tells a woman her place is always and only in the home, baking fresh apple pies and applying Band-Aids (on the kids, not the pies). Another group tells her that she's wasting herself unless she is experiencing her true potential in the marketplace. Still others say there's no reason, with today's work-saving devices, why she can't easily do both homemaking and a career. After all, the Proverbs 31 woman did it without electricity, microwaves, or a car. But remember she had servants!

Then the sweet, old granny at the church clucks her tongue and admonishes, "My Dears, your place is with those precious little ones who are with you such a short time. In my day I did nothing but take care of my children and be a good mother." (Shame on you for remembering that none of her five children ever warms a church pew today and that none of them, but the daughter who has lived at home since her divorce 20 years ago, ever comes to see her!)

Some others don't have a choice about staying home with their children. Mothers head 35 million of our 83.5 million households, according to recent census. That's 42 percent of our homes! Most of these women must work. Because of inflation, married women often must work too. Statistics show that barely 40 percent of our country's jobs paid enough to support a family. The very kids that women stay home with, are often the causes for seeking a job. Studies reveal that, even if a career is fulfilling, the majority of working mothers are more concerned about doing a good job of raising their children.

What's a mother to do these days? Give up in despair, or shut her eyes, grit her teeth, and hang on for dear life while she gets swung in vicious circles by the Too-Many-Demands Giant?


Don't forget to include your personal needs at the top of the list. You can't give anything if you don't have it to give.


I think it seems wiser to step back a minute, survey the scene, and prayerfully set some goals for this career of motherhood. It would even be good to write a job description which will fit your particular situation. I didn't know to do this until our daughters were almost teenagers. But once I started keeping an updated list of my necessary mother functions and where I was headed in the whole business, I found it easier to keep priorities straight. I could even say no with a clear conscience when I was asked to take on some new task that would rob me from time with our girls.

You probably already hold some clear-cut, but unwritten, values about mothering. If you write them down, you will more easily keep them in mind. You may start with only a few, but you'll find that as they germinate, new ideas and convictions will grow out of them.

The following suggestions may help you in setting goals and writing a job description.

1. If you are married, you should talk about your work load and goals with your husband. If you're a single parent, talk with a trusted friend to give you perspective. And, of course, invite God to be a companion in this survey party.

2. Don't forget to include your personal needs at the top of the list. You can't give anything if you don't have it to give. You need to get the spiritual, emotional, and physical parts of your own self nourished so that you can minister well to others. Helping your kids build a healthy self-esteem is crucial, but you need to know your own value first.

3. After yourself as an individual, be sure to list your relationship with your husband. He must come before the kids. God's pattern for successful families is your marriage partner first--and then your children.

4. List everything you currently do in a week. (Don't faint. It is a lot!)

5. Think of each of your children and what you wish they would be like as they become mature adults. Be very specific and take into account each one's uniqueness as God has made him or her.


I'd take two delicious minutes and walk by myself to the mailbox, looking up at the sunny Kansas sky, breathing the pure air, and looking for wildlife--other than that in my house.

6. Next, take the years between now and your child's maturity date, divide them into two-or three-year periods, and list concrete goals pertaining to you and each child for each period. You'll find that the goals for the years farthest away are vague and long-range. That's all right, you can get more focused when you get closer to them. At least you have some idea where you are shooting.

7. Be very practical and down-to-earth in your short-range goals. Does Susie have a reading problem? What can you do to get help for her? Does Johnny tend to fly off the handle when he can't have his way? What are some specific ways for both of you to work on that problem? Does Mary need more time to talk to you, sharing some of her new dreams and questions? Plan ways for that to happen.

8. Oh, boy! Now you can see that you have far too many things for the hours in a day or days in a week. It's time to step back again and be objective. As you weigh what you must do and want to do against the time and energy you have, what are some things you can drop? Who could help with the ones that can't be dropped? Is there another way of getting the job done?

9. As you write out your job description, remember to leave time for the unexpected. And be sure to save places each week for "Time to Enjoy the Life God Has Given." You may need to grab your moments of restoration when you can get them, but you can turn them into true refreshment.

I remember times when I would become overwhelmed with all the needs and noise of our three when they were small. I would make sure they were all safe and weren't going to do anything rash, like stuff a sister into the piano bench or bathe the cat in the washer--and then I'd sneak off for five whole minutes to read some inspiring Reader's Digest story. Or, I'd take two delicious minutes and walk by myself to the mailbox, looking up at the sunny Kansas sky, breathing the pure air, and looking for wildlife--other than that in my house. It's amazing how your times of rest and restoration can give the world a different color and make your kids nicer to be around!


Use all of Scripture and the Holy Spirit as your guides. Don't try to tackle every task at once, decide on bite-size chunks--and when to chew them. You can't swallow your whole meal in one gulp.

10. Be sure your job description is for you, your family, and your circumstances. Don't let others prescribe for you. It's all right to get their input and learn from their experiences, but you are the only one who fits the shape God has cut out for you.

Use all of Scripture and the Holy Spirit as your guides. The Proverbs 31 woman is a good model, but remember that she didn't do all those things in one day--or every day! If someone were to write a biography of your life, your accomplishments would also look impressive when condensed into a few paragraphs.

Don't try to tackle every task at once. Part of the reason for writing out your job description and setting goals is to get everything out there to look at, and then deciding on bite-size chunks--and when to chew them. You can't swallow your whole meal in one gulp. Be realistic about what you can get done in a day--or in one week, month, or year.

Carol was a list-maker. Every morning she had a mile-long agenda of things to get done, and she kept adding to it all day. For every job she finished, three more took its place. (Sound familiar?) Every night she had many undone things left on that despicable list. And every night she complained to her husband about never getting finished. Finally, one evening he very quietly and wisely observed, "Maybe you start with too much on your list each day." Sound simplistic? A part of being mature is the ability to soberly evaluate yourself and how far you can stretch--and how perfect everything must be.

Besides knowing where you're aiming your kids and how to get your "little arrows" to that target, remember two more ideas. First, kids are no worse today than they ever were. You just never had any before. Your mom thought she was raising you in the most difficult day and age there was. Kids have always been going to the dogs--wherever that is. (I know some pretty nice dogs myself.)

Second, God wants your kids to turn out right even more than you do. He even wants you to be a fulfilled mother. Some of the nicest things God shows us about Himself in Scripture are his mothering qualities. (See such passages as Deuteronomy. 32:11; Isaiah. 66:12-13; Matthew. 23:37, and John 21:9-13.) God can give us love for our kids when they are unlovable, forgiveness when they don't deserve it, and wisdom when we don't know which way to turn next (James 1:5).

God wants to give us the mothering ingredients we need. His supply is also very up-to-date. This decade's culture hasn't caught him off guard. His resources for you are as timely as they were for King Lemuel's mother.

by Sally Christon Conway

Conway / Farrel Articles ~    Reprint by permission only,  ©2011

Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com


The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.

Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.