To a weary woman—
Does your time to read blog posts feel expensive right now? Maybe you’re reading this with a bottle in your hand and/or a baby sling on your shoulder, maybe in a room where you’re taking the luxury to ignore the mess for a few minutes while you sit down. Or it could be late at night: The baby is finally asleep. I would love to do something right now that I want to do — just me.
Granted, we all handle differently the shocking stress of having a newborn. But the four times I’ve been in that haze of sleeplessness with an infant who just wants to be held, a messy house with no energy or time to clean it, and a tummy that, to me, still looked like there was a little person living in it, my spare time felt precious and bone-weary. Aside from my first trimester, never had I craved rest so ravenously. I wanted to shower badly; I knew that babies were supposed to recognize their mother’s scent, and I remember wailing to my husband, “My scent is gonna be B.O.!”
According to my calculations, in breastfeeding I logged the equivalent of a full-time job. But truthfully, full-time employees in my culture would rarely be expected to get up repeatedly during the night to work, or to work during meals (and meal prep, and housecleaning) without some pretty nice compensation.
I read this lately on salary.com:
Salary.com determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $117,867 for a stay-at-home mom. A working mother’s ‘at-home’ salary is $71,868 in 2010; this is in addition to the salary they earn in the workplace.
In fact, you can calculate your “mom salary” on their calculator! But you may not have a real paycheck that says “For a job well done!” to you or a cluster of accolades. You may only have shirt with spit-up, a pile of laundry that never really shrinks, baby furniture that sprawls out all over the house in places you used to walk, and a sink full of dishes that seems to take so much effort to clean without the aid of a good REM cycle. You may be in that stage before your newborn smiles — that time when you only know when your baby is unhappy, and your body still aches from producing this child that you’re not sure likes you anyway. You may be thinking, Well, the baby shower is definitely over. Here I am, just me and the baby. I brought this upon myself, not having a clue. (Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard?) And the days are so long.
You might think like I did, I can’t believe I love you this much! I can’t believe how amazing you are! But I can’t believe how hard this is. I can’t believe the human race continues to propagate, considering there have been other women doing this around the world since the beginning of time.
Sometimes I watch people sit and talk on movies, doing whatever they want. I think things like, Look at those people who have the time just to walk around — by themselves! Or, I used to think I was really busy, but I had no idea the spare time I had.
Being a new mom can feel faceless. It can feel like an endless list of to-do’s that you’re incapable of conquering. It can feel lonely and unappreciated, even among those sweet and beautiful moments with your baby — your baby — and witnessing a miracle blossom before your eyes.
Only marriage has rivaled childbearing in causing me to die to myself.
But that’s one of the most beautiful parts about what you’re doing. From the very beginning, even en utero, our babies do little more than take from us: our rest, our peaceful digestion, our ability to get comfortable, our dignity (You want me to get on a scale?! And then give you a sample, then take off my clothes?), our figure, our time, our cash. But our babies also offer an exquisite peek into God’s love for us. And day by day, they exchange our selfishness for servanthood, our own needs for another.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, did what you’re doing. She’s not mentioned a great deal in Scripture, but she nursed Him, changed Him, woke up in the middle of the night when He cried. Her gentle, continuous care paved the way for her son to save the world. Your baby is not Jesus, but day by day, dirty onesie by dirty onesie, wet wipe by wet wipe, you are building your legacy — something that will outlast your life. You are loving someone well, and in the process, loving God well. I struggle to think of a better use of your time.
Tim Kimmel has said that in this stage of your life, the days are long but the years are short. Remember God’s words to Joshua: I have given you this territory; “I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous” (1:5b–6a). Do what My Word says — don’t turn from it to the right or the left — and you’ll have good success.
There’s a reason that people continue to have children nd end up loving it. This won’t last forever… for better, or for worse. Try to get a nap today. And be strong and of good courage.
With a big hug,
A sympathetic mom