I Don’t Want to Survive Motherhood

I Don't Want to Survive

The secret stash of chocolate in my laundry room. Netflix streaming. A cold glass of Chardonnay at week’s end. Some of my worst kept secrets right there: my coping mechanisms. On those days when the toddler tries to flush his church shoes down the toilet, or the baby won’t nap for two minutes together, or we’ve hit a homeschool wall, or there is nothing–nothing on all this good green earth that I want less to do than wipe one more sticky handprint off the kitchen counter… yeah, those days… well then, at least I know I can survive.

There’s nothing wrong with a bite of chocolate–aw heck, a whole bar!, or an episode of Gilmore Girls behind my bedroom door while the kids watch Frozen in the next room, or a Friday night wine o’clock when the hubs rolls up from work. Personally, I fully intend to keep these tools in my arsenal of sanity savers for a good long time.

But I don’t want them to become my crutches. I don’t want to need them.

Because, see, there was a time when I did. There was a time when every day was a battle: my one woman war waged against entropy. Every day I fought ’til I dropped, and lying there defeated, I realized the work still wasn’t done.

Isn’t that the way it goes? A mother’s work is never done. 

I’d get so discouraged that I could never call in sick. That I never got weekends off (or even nights!). That from 8-6 each day, I had no back-up, not even one lousy coworker–heck! I didn’t have a single person in the building who contribute to a conversation more stimulating than the contents of Dora’s backpack.

I never got a paycheck, a raise, or so much as a thank you for all the work I did. Most of my projects (i.e. tonight’s crockpot curry) were met not with accolades but with whining, ridicule, and a fistful of rice to the wall. Which I would later have to clean.

Such is the life of a mama of littles. And surviving seemed like the order of the season. At least that’s what all the mom blogs told me.

Trouble is, when you go from being a mama of littles to a mama of many littles, then you start to get this ominous feeling. It starts as a cold, creepy sensation right in the pit of your stomach. You start to feel weak and also cranky and you’re snapping at everyone and you don’t know why–and then suddenly you realize. There’s no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel. The end of the tunnel is so far away, and with every birth, it stretches 18 years further into the future. You’ve already been at this for a decade, and there’s no end, none at all, anywhere in sight.

That’s the moment you realize that you’re not going to survive this thing.

I’m here to tell you: that’s okay.

I’m not going to survive it, either. In fact, I don’t want to. I’m not even going to try.

Because motherhood is not my job. It’s my vocation. And my children’s childhoods? Well, they’re not something I want to merely survive. They’re what I want to savor.

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See, I realize now that the end of the tunnel isn’t the goal, and there’s plenty of light for the journey. I just wasn’t always looking in the right places. Truth is, if I’m looking daily (multiply times a day) to that chocolate stash or the TV or my cell phone or Facebook or or or or–well then I’ve missed the point.

There was a time I was trying to survive what I was supposed to be diving deep down into. I was relying on my own strength to “hold it all together,” rather than relying on His strength to hold me up.

Then–thank you, God!–something snapped and my bleary eyes popped open, and I could see:

Motherhood is not about getting all.the.things. done, it’s about doing every thing with great love.

I’ve still got my stash of chocolate hidden. My latest streaming binge is Homeland. And I’ve got a bottle of Kendall Jackson in the cupboard waiting patiently for Friday night. But if I don’t get to pop that cork, that’s okay, too. That bottle’s not for survival these days; it’s for celebration!

Another week that I have the blessing of being mom all day…and all night…all week…and into the weekend.

Another week of loving and living and learning side by side with the little people I love best, even if that means yet another under-stimulating discussion their favorite TV show or the ten millionth game of Hungry Hippos or another shoe fished from the bowl of the toilet.

Another chance to live into this calling of mine where the only accolade I ever have to worry about is waiting for me at the gates of everlasting joy and rest.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

That’s who I’m working for. And, no, I don’t expect I’ll survive what He has planned. But that’s okay. It was never about survival, anyway.


  1. Jodi says:

    “Well, they’re not something I want to merely survive. They’re what I want to savor.”
    This. So much truth.
    And one that I am working so hard to remember daily. You know when the bathroom is covered in glitter and the rest of the house in paint!
    Writing this quote in my commonplace b/c I want to see it daily. Thanks Bethany!

  2. Daisy says:

    When I only had two kids, I was definitely about survival. Then, sometime after kid… three? Four? I too realized that we still had at least 18 years of this in our future – and hopefully even more, if we were able to have more children. I’m not sure what snapped into place, but I’m definitely enjoying the ride more instead of worrying about “getting through this season.” Because, honestly? Once we get through this season, it’s not like it’s going to come around again. Might as well enjoy the difficult, long days of THIS season before they’re long gone. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to rabidly Enjoy.Every.Moment!!!, but it does mean that I’m not trying to rush through it, either. It seems like every other week I see a mother writing a totally frustrated FB post about how hard it is to deal with the sleepless nights of newborns or the toddler tantrums, and while I totally get it – I’m dealing with those same frustrations myself – and I have boatloads of sympathy for their struggle, like you, I’ve been at this for a decade now. Time definitely helps put things into perspective.

    • Bethany says:

      Oh, All.of.this., Daisy! Exactly. I wish I could go back and tell Me from 10 years ago how GOOD it really all is! I am enjoying motherhood sooooo much more now than I did then.

  3. Ariana W says:

    Oh, what a wonderful post, I have four children (9, 7, 4, 1) and I always feel swamped and need to remind myself of what you’ve written. Every so often I fall into the toxic, worldly trap of seeing your children as these burdens that you endure for 18 years and then you are free to live your own life again. Soooo sad to think that. My mother constantly tells me that you have to put your life on hold when you have a child. But happiness comes from realizing children are a blessing and its a wonderful journey and something, as you said, to be savored. Wonderful post – thank you!

    • Bethany says:

      I’m so glad this post encouraged you, Ariana. It’s a philosophy I often have to reestablish for myself. It can be so easy, as you said, to just struggle through. So important to remember that my kids are not something I’m merely enduring while waiting to get my “real life” back. This *is* my real life! And will be the bulk of my adult years.

      Also: We have age twins! So fun!!

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