|Family vacation to Disney World in 2003|
I love being a mother! I have loved every stage of it--from being pregnant to having a son turn thirty this year! Reflecting on motherhood is something most mothers do on this special day known as Mother's Day. This reflection, coupled with my husband and I working on many parenting presentations lately for our parenting seminar ("Raising Kids With Character") and for homeschooling conventions, has led me to this blog post.
We mothers need all of the help and support that we can get in order to do our jobs. When I look at my mothering, I realize that the greatest support and help that I have had throughout the years has come from my husband. I don't say this lightly or as a cliche'. I truly mean this.
Here are six ways that my husband has helped me to be a better mother, ways in which he has invested in my life and the life of our family that have resulted in my having the time, confidence, strength, inspiration, and vision to do what I do every day.
1. Giving great value to what I do
When I had five kids ten and under, the days were long and hard. I remember feeling like a failure many evenings when Ray walked through the door. At that time, he would take me by the hand, lead me to couch, and ask me questions that gave worth to my day: "Did you read the Bible to the kids today? Did you rock the baby? Did you do story time? Did you meet the kids' needs? Did you spend time with the kids?"
When I answered yes to these things, he would say, "Then you did exactly what you were supposed to do today. The other things don't matter."
Suddenly, the dishes in the sink and the unfinished lesson plans seemed insignificant. He had truly brought worth to my day, to my efforts, to my life.
This is one small example of how my husband, year after year, has given great value and worth to what I do. How he has always made my job as a mother, a homeschooler, and even a homemaker feel important and worthy. And this has made me a better mother.
2. Seeing needs and meeting them
My husband's primary love language is serving. I have always felt especially blessed to be married to someone who has "servant" as his native tongue. As a servant, he has never been able to just see things around the house or with the kids that need done and leave them. He believes, and has taught our children to believe, that if you "see a need, you should meet it."
In practical terms, this means that dishes, trash, laundry, picking up, cooking, bathing, putting kids to bed, tutoring kids at night, etc., were always jobs that Ray picked up the slack on.
I can remember when company would be at our house on Sunday night, and as they left, we always started scurrying around to clean the house, etc. One night a guest suggested that since it was Sunday, we could just leave the work for Monday. Ray quickly answered that "the ox is in the ditch."
After the company left, Ray explained to the kids: "The ox in the ditch means that it is okay to work on Sunday if the ox is in the ditch, and you need to pull it out. When the house is a mess on Sunday night, and we leave it like that for Mommy on Monday morning, we are leaving the ox in the ditch."
By seeing needs and meeting them, besides teaching our children a spiritual truth, Ray has also helped me have time for important heart training, homeschooling, and outreaches that I would not have had time for. And this has made me a better mother.
3. Helping me not to over-schedule
This one has been met with limited success (but not for lack of Ray trying!). I can remember fifteen years ago when I had six kids in school and more work than I felt I could humanly handle, Ray sat down with me with little sticky notes and a large piece of tag board. Before "Managers of Their Home" and other scheduling programs were even popular, Ray was laying out my day on sticky notes in thirty minute increments!
He tried then, and continues to try, to tame my overzealous tendencies. He laid blank sticky notes throughout the day in strategic locations--telling me that I HAD to put in thirty minutes of flex time here and there. I always tried to put too much into each day and was often frustrated that things didn't go as well in any given day as I had hoped it would, based on my tight schedule with little flex time.
There are countless other times in which Ray has tried to help me not to over-schedule. When I listened to him, my schedule went more smoothly. Bless his heart, he is still trying to reign me in schedule-wise. :) And this has made me a better mother.
4. Focusing more on relationship than role
So many husbands, in trying to lead their family according to their interpretation of Scripture, spend a great deal of time focusing on everybody's "roles." This often results in a hierarchy-emphasis that does not lead to the husband as the servant leader, but only as the leader.
Ray is confident in his role as head of our family. He doesn't need to remind his family of it. He doesn't need to focus his attention on his headship. He doesn't need to flex his leadership muscle.
Instead, he has always focused on relationship--his relationship with me, his relationship with his children. He focuses on meeting our needs rather than on guarding his position. And guess what? His attention on relationship and meeting our needs continues to cause us to respect his role.
An attention to relationships has resulted in greater heart-reaching and heart training of our children than i could have ever imagined--both by Ray and by me. And this has made me a better mother.
5. Loving me as Christ loved the church
Ray has always taken the analogy of "loving his wife as Christ loved the church" seriously. As he sees it, when a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, he will give everything for her. He will not seek for his own gain or his own needs. He will instead love selflessly.
In practical terms, this means that he gives me his time and attention. It means date nights, one-on-one time, long discussions, and lots of ballroom dancing. Obviously, we haven't always been able to have evenings out, and we certainly didn't ballroom dance while we had a houseful of little kids, but he has always sought to love his wife selflessly. And this has made me a better mother.
6. Being available
One of Ray's favorite "parenting stories" that he shares in our seminar is that of Absalom, who, the Bible tells us, "stole the hearts of the people of Israel." Scripture doesn't say that he did anything fantastic to win the people. It only says that every day he stood by the gate and heard the people's complaints and needs.
In Ray's words, "Absalom was available." We both believe that if we want to win our children's hearts; if we want to be their primary influencers; if we want to be the ones they come to when they are facing difficulties, we must make ourselves available to them, much like Absalom did to the people of Israel.
Even when Ray worked sixty hours a week in the automotive industry (fifteen years ago, before he took a "normal" job to be available more to our family), he still "waited at the gate" every day--making himself available to me and the kids. And this has made me a better mother.
Six key things that have had significant impacts on my parenting. For me, these things, day in and day out and year in and year out, have truly helped me to be a better mother. And this Mother's Day, I am more grateful than ever.