Owlhaven asks, “What advice or information do you wish you had received to prepare you for motherhood? Or, on the contrary, what advice do you think women soon to become mothers should not be given?”
I wish someone had told me just to relax and enjoy it more. I never knew I was such a tense person until I became a mother (although looking back I can see that I always was). I think the weight of the responsibility, the desire to do the best for your child, and the lack of time and energy to do the things you want and need to do all can add up to a lot of tension. Oh, we did have relaxed and carefree moments, but I wish my whole demeanor had been more relxed and less tense.
I wish someone had told me not to worry about keeping up with baby books with the length and weight at differfent ages and when they lost their first tooth, etc., but had encouraged me to record funny or sweet incidents or the cute things kids say. You think you will remember those things forever, but you don’t.
I wish someone had shared with me creative ways to have devotions with children in the house. I wrote about this earlier, but you realize early on that, with the change of schedule and energy levels and number of people in the house, it’s hard to do it like you’ve always done it, and that that’s okay. But doing anything along those lines is better than nothing.
I wish someone had told me that, although we do need to read and teach our children Bible stories, verses about sin and salvation so they’ll understand and be saved at as early an age as possible, principles about godly character, etc., we need to point out the hand of God in our everyday lives in a natural (not didactic) way. When someone’s car swerves into our lane and almost hits us, we can thank the Lord for safety; when we take a walk or putter around in the yard, we can point out the beauty and intricacy of God’s creation even in the smallest things like a little flower on a weed; when we pray for any need, large or small, we can point out God’s answer. I think seeing His hand and active care in our everyday lives will do more than most anything else, except Scripture, of course, to make God real to them and portray Christianity as an active, loving relationship rather than just a set of doctrines and rules. Doctrines and rules are important, but without the reality of the relationship there, they are empty. The emphasis when my kids were young was on instilling godly character, and that is so important. But II Cor. 3:18 tells us we become more Christlike by beholding His glory.
My husband was a physics major and loves microscopes. He likes to collect old or unusual ones and buys and sells them. Once when we were homeschooling, he gave a devotional talk at our support group on verses about magnifying the Lord (Psalm 34:3: O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together; Psalm 69:30: I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving; Luke 1:46: And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.) To magnify something is to make it big. It doesn’t change the size of the object magnified, but it makes it more visible so we can see it and learn of it better. So we need to magnify the Lord, not only for out children but for our own sakes, so they see Him, not just things about Him.
What advice should we not give mothers-to-be?
Probably anything unasked for. 🙂 For some reason, what one should do with one’s children is, I think, the source of most of the unsolicited advice in the world. I was overwhelmed as a young mother by that and especially by the fact that advice from equally respected sources would conflict. I eventually adopted what I called the principle of gleaning: I would listen, try to assume that the giver had the best motives at heart, and glean out what I thought would work best for me, my child, and my family, and forget the rest.
We should probably also refrain from any advice that smacks of an opinionated “This is THE only way to do it” mentality. There’s more than one way to do many things in life. When we do give advice, it’s probably better stated with a “This works for me” attitude instead.
We also need to spare them birthing horror stories. I think this is the equivalent of men’s war stories. When nothers get together and start talking about labor and delivery, the stories can quickly escaltae and have a “Can you top this?” feel. I think part of it is that we faced something difficult and painful that we were afraid of and survived it, and we relish that. But we need to be careful about scaring others to death and rather encourage them that whatever happens, God will be there and get them through it.
Although this wasn’t part of Owlhaven’s question, I wanted to share some advice that was a big help to me.
A lady who had taken our instructor’s childbirth class came to our class to share her experience. One thing she said that stuck with me was that if you are in labor and start thinking, “How long is this going to go on? What if I have to do this for 30 hours or more?” you can get easily tired and defeated. But if instead you think, “I only have to get through this contraction right now,” it is easier. And that has been a metaphor for me in other areas of life: I don’t have to be concerned with how long a trial will last and whether I’ll have strength or what will happen tomorrow: I just concentrate on His grace to get through this day, this moment.
Lastly, though there is a sense in which we should trust our own instincts, they are not foolproof. What I would say rather is that, once you have prayed over an issue or prayed for wisdom in raising your children, then just trust that it will be there. God wants you to succeed at parenting even more than you do! He wants to help you and wants you to rest in Him.
(Graphic courtesy of Grandma’s Graphics.)