The Holy Work of Motherhood

Jennifer Slattery Spotlight

Lying on a cold, hard doctor’s table in the middle of the night, too scared to utter a cohesive sentence, I began bartering with God. If only he’d allow this child to live to term. If only he’d stop my sudden bleeding and keep her safe, healthy and strong.

If he’d protect this baby, I’d give her back to him. I’d parent with passion and focus, cherishing every moment like the priceless gift it was.

Prior to conceiving, I’d wanted to be a mother so badly, there were times my heart literally hurt. So how was it, less than three years after that agonizing night when I pleaded for her life, I felt as if I was losing mine? Sitting on a hard, tile floor in a much-too-large and oppressively silent house, trying to stir up the enthusiasm to play Polly Pockets for the 100th time that week, I felt insignificant. Invisible. And … common.

How I longed for adult conversation, to actually stay on top of a to-do list, and to have that list comprise of more than washing laundry, cleaning lunch spills, and tossing toys back into their baskets.

I knew every second we spent in “floor time” was a holy moment. I believed our story times, snuggles and playdates created an unshakable foundation that would carry her through the rough and uncertain teen years and into adulthood. But sometimes, like when the “successful” women in my neighborhood caught me unshowered and in stained sweatpants at 6 p.m. or peppered me with questions regarding, “just how” I spent my time, I forgot.

In those moments, I allowed the unintended barbs and my constant insecurities to dull my vision. My desire to please others – to look good and smart and valuable in their eyes – stole my passion.

In essence, stole that very gift I’d begged God, during that emergency doctor visit, not to take from me.

One negative, self-defeating thought after another, I began to lose the very core of who I was, what made me me. Until one afternoon, I said, “No more!” I refused to give strangers and acquaintances, or even friends and family, power over my emotions and my day. I chose to focus on truth instead. I began tucking verses and encouraging phrases in my pocket. I pulled them out whenever that inner battle arose, and I reminded myself, again and again, of those things I knew to be true:

  • Our daughter needed me.
  • Our time was precious and necessary.
  • Whether showered or in my jammies, I was doing holy, eternal work.
  • Every tear or snotty nose I wiped, every mess I cleaned, every rhyme I recited was creating not a building or a program, but a little human. A little human that would one day be a big human who perhaps would erect building or institute programs, or maybe even launch ministries.
  • My work, whether others called it that or not, had immeasurable, immutable value.

 I had value.

Remembering this, choosing to believe it even on my hardest, most “unsuccessful” days helped me rediscover my passion and bring joy back to my life and our home.

That was almost 18 years ago, and as I’m waiting for our daughter to return from a study abroad trip, I don’t regret a second she and I spent together. Whether one works in the home or outside of it, relationships take time. They require sacrifice, hugs and countless choices that may seem to go unnoticed. I’ve found, however, the converse is true. It’s the moments not spent that, over time, become the most noticeable, because you can’t go back and build a foundation that was never laid.

You can, however, build upon an established foundation for the rest of your and your children’s lives.

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Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor and speaker across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace and live out who they are in Christ. She is the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries. Contact her through her blog to invite her to speak at your next MOPS or women’s event, and sign up for her free, quarterly newsletter here.