Motherhood brings so many different phases. Places we never thought we would go, decisions that seemed so far away when the baby was born, and dreams that we thought were simple to attain. We all have dreams and goals as mothers – whether working out of the home or working in the home. As my oldest just reached her ninth birthday, it has brought a sense of reflection of my role and place as a wife and mother. It took me a long time to understand my role as a mom. Yes, it was exactly what my husband and I had wanted and we were so excited to begin a family, but until baby number 4 graced our family, it was a whirlwind experience.
Each pregnancy was so different and each child was even more different. I look back at those early years and I was just surviving. Surviving to wake up for the eighth time in one night to nurse an infant. Surviving to stay awake until nap time and entertain the toddler. Surviving to stay on top of the laundry, the cleaning, and the cooking, while also wishing for the next step of motherhood.
But what was that next step? Have you noticed that we always wish for the next phase in our lives, but we never know what that entails -- and somehow we still desire it?
Looking back, those early years of toddlers and infants were extremely difficult. It was all a new experience for me. My beliefs of what motherhood really included were only slightly true. Somehow, in my dreams, I failed to imagine the screaming two-year-old who only chose to express himself with a long, loud wail. I envisioned laundry, but somehow I forgot it has to be put into the drawers or hung on a hanger. The thought of cooking for a family sounded creative and fun, but I never thought of the little picky eaters who wouldn’t appreciate the effort (luckily, my husband is very appreciative).
But I eventually learned to call these disappointments “graceful moments.” These "graceful moments" of motherhood are not what I envisioned. Instead these are moments of self-sacrifice – a true act of love for my family. I don’t have much to give the world through material items, but I can give my love. And isn’t love the greatest gift of all? It is what we all desire from one way or another.
We seek love in our spouses, our family and friends, our children, our neighbors, and even from a stranger. A kind word or smile goes a long way. So, if I have any advice for young moms, it is to love. Love through all the "graceful moments" of self-sacrifice. And ultimately, each of these moments became small prayers offered for my family, friends, and the conversion of souls. Let's not waste these sweet crosses sent by God specific to the vocation of motherhood.
So through all these small moments, I have realized that motherhood is even better than I imagined. Those sweet kisses and hugs from my children wouldn’t mean as much if I was never tired. That screaming 2-year-old knows his mama needs a kiss (even if it’s on my knee while I’m cooking dinner). The self-sacrifices that mothers give and give more each day of their lives is what makes this world beautiful – it continues an ongoing story that has lasted through the ages. So don’t view frustrations and exhaustion as disappointments; they are only small moments of time, but they give us the opportunity to embrace the experiences of motherhood and offer them to God.
This may sound like a dream, because in the moment of doing the fifth load of wash with a screaming toddler, it’s difficult to find joy. But we must remember that eventually the laundry will stop, the cooking will slow down, and the screaming toddler will become a fourth grader and we will look back at those struggling days with joy, because motherhood wouldn’t be such a beautiful vocation if it didn’t involve hard work and self-sacrifice: a true act of love bestowed on us by Almighty God for the common good.
Copyright 2018 Danielle Heckenkamp
Photos copyright 2018 Danielle Heckenkamp
About the Author
Danielle Heckenkamp is a stay at home mom and freelance writer who lives in Wisconsin with her husband and six children. Danielle writes about her daily experiences as a mom and love for her Catholic Faith. Danielle is the co-author of a nonfiction book about manners and common sense. You can find more of Danielle's writing at Homegrown Living or step inside her daily life on Instagram.