I grew up in a German household where working hard without complaining was a huge value we learned. When I complained about having to do a task, my mom used to say to me, “Kopf Hoch,” which is basically German for “Keep your head up.” What that meant to me, in the context of our family life, is to keep a positive attitude and to not complain.
I believe the underlying truth my mom was trying to instill in us kids was to be grateful for what we have and to always appreciate our lot in life. We have been given so much, so when we have to do something that is not our favorite thing to do, it’s important to do it with a positive attitude.
This philosophy is something that has sustained me for most seasons in the journey I am on.
But, let’s face it, life is hard and parenting is especially difficult; I have five kids with twins in the mix, and being a mother drains you and wears you out. The schedule, the making daily school lunches, the signing of permission slips, the helping with homework, the carpooling to basketball and youth group, the cheering at soccer games, the juggling of band events, the late nights, the early mornings, the refereeing of arguments, the making of countless meals, the navigating talk-back. It’s hard, it’s draining, it’s exhausting.
There are days when you just want to crawl back in bed.
But, please don’t’ get me wrong; I am a mom’s mom. I absolutely love being a parent, so much that it hurts, but we all need reminders in the hustle and bustle of daily life, of the amazing privilege it is to be a parent.
I have found three ways to help me remember the inner joy of being a mom, in the midst of the sometimes craziness.
One is share meals together with your family. So many families eat meals on the run or in front of the television, but I think it is vital to sit together, sans TV, at the dinner table as a family as a way to regroup, to recharge, to catch up. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy or home made; it just has to be together. It is a time to ask your child how their day went, perhaps what a high and low moment were, and to tell them about your day. Some of our best memories together for our family are from our shared meals at the dinner table.
The second thing I do to help remember the inner joy of being a mom to stop at the end of the day or week and write down something your kids said or did that may have initially been a hassle, but then turned out to be a blessing. I remember having a morning where I was supposed to be at a conference by 9:30 and I was no where near able to get there by then because I was helping my sixth grade son; I had to sign permission slips, make his lunch, help him find his things for the school dance and get his breakfast; and then he missed his school bus so I had to drive him, and while driving him to school, I mumbled under my breath that it was already 9:30 and I had gotten nothing done that day so far that day, and my son said to me, “But Mom, you’re helping me this morning.” Enough said. Pure joy. I turned this reminder from my son back towards him to affirm how important he is in my life, and that every second with him is worth it.
The third way to tap into your intrinsic sense of joy is to connect every morning and every evening deliberately with your kids. It can be as simple as a one to two minute hello and acknowledgement that you are glad to see your child, to a longer bedtime routine, with books and prayers, depending upon the age of my kid. Somehow, in the midst of starting and ending our day, it is vital to be there physically for our children. If all is going crazy in the world, kids need to know we as parents are there, that there is security right here, right now, in the place that they call home.
I remember a young mom of three children said to me recently, that she used to read my Mom newspaper column when she was in high school, and by reading my writing, she saw how much I seemed to enjoy being a mom; she added that she instinctively knew that her own mom, while a good person, just didn’t enjoy motherhood. I was really surprised-- and thrilled, of course--that a teenager who was not my own child read my work and saw the inner delight I had in being a mom.
And, then, this young mom said to me, that she absolutely loves being a mom, “just like you do.”
Kids see that joyful spirit in us, even when we don’t realize they are watching -- or reading--our lives.
I used to tell my students when I taught English at Horizon Christian High School that, “Attitude is everything.” Yep, I choose joy.