Spiritual Sundays: When Nurturing Doesn’t Come Naturally

 Editor’s Note: The Power of Moms is a website for mothers of all religions (and for mothers who are not necessarily religious). Each Sunday, we post a spiritual essay, and we would love to gather a wide variety of perspectives and ideas.  Our goal is to be respectful of all beliefs while simultaneously offering opportunities to share meaningful, spiritual thoughts with one another.

 

 I was a lawyer once.

Now I am a full-time wife and mother. I never thought my life would turn out this way. To be honest, I never knew if “mothering” was in me. Even now, I’m still trying to figure out how to do it well. Why? Because I am not, by nature, a nurturer. Or maybe I am, but my “instincts” have abandoned me somewhere along the way. It just doesn’t come naturally to me. I am much too task oriented. I like to do things, to accomplish things, to check things off a list.

I never thought much about motherhood while growing up. I mean I always assumed I would be a mother, but I never dreamt about it. I never played with dolls or babies. I didn’t even like to babysit! I always had other ambitions. I loved school, wanted to be a lawyer, eventually get involved in politics, and maybe even run for office. You know, something important! (Plus my parents always told me I was really good at arguing, so I might as well become an attorney and get paid to do it.) Why did I have to be a mother anyway?

Now, I knew that there was nothing wrong with ambition. And I knew there was no reason why I couldn’t be involved in politics, or run for office, or have a career when the time was right. But, I needed a reason to be a mother.  Fortunately God must have known that, because one day he gave me one.

Shortly after I graduated from law school (and was already married), I was listening to a program on TV. I cannot remember who was speaking, but he said something I will never forget: women are meant to be mothers because they have special abilities, given to them by God, that are unique to them and enable them to nurture and care for their children.

Oh. Whoops.

Well, that hit me right between the eyes.

I had seen, even known, women who had those abilities: women who were sensitive, warm, empathetic, and caring. Women who loved being mothers. In fact, I have a sister-in-law who loves nothing more than to sit and hold babies. I never loved to sit and hold babies. I have never even loved to sit! Could I become one of those mothers?  Did I have some of those special abilities somewhere inside me? At that moment, on that afternoon, my faith led me to believe that it might be true.

And so despite my perceived nurturing weakness, from that moment on I became a dedicated mother–to no one. Our first child, in fact, didn’t come to us for another four years. But I knew then that whenever they came, I would be their mother. Any career choices or ambitions I had at that time would simply have to wait.

I realize not everyone comes to that same conclusion. I realize not everyone can. And I know that those mothers who choose paths different from mine are good mothers too. But I also know what is right for me.

Now just because I know doesn’t mean it has been easy. My nurturing instincts did not just “kick in” because I brought babies home. I confess that much of my mothering career has been spent doing what comes naturally to me–busying myself with tasks such as cleaning, shopping, cooking, sewing, scrapbooking, carpooling, etc. All good and necessary things to be sure. Nonetheless, over the years I have come to realize that children need more than that.

They need warmth.

They need love.

They need me.

God has helped me become more like the mother he intends for me to be. In every effort I have made, he has met me half-way. I have found that good mothering, like everything else, requires practice and effort. The more I practice, the better I get. The more I slow down and enjoy the moments, the more moments there are to enjoy. The more empathetic I act towards my children, the more empathy I feel. The more I focus on my children, the more I enjoy being their mother.

And do you know what I discovered?

I never knew I could feel that way. I never knew I could be that kind of mother. It takes work, a near constant daily alignment of priorities. I have to consciously let go of all the things that come naturally to me and focus on nurturing my children. But I am getting better.

And do you know what else I discovered?

It’s important.

QUESTION: Does nurturing come easily to you?

CHALLENGE: Find one way that you can better nurture your children, and put it into action for one whole day. Then evaluate. Did it make a difference? Do you like yourself better when you make this effort? Did your children respond?

 

Image by Photostock @ www.freedigitalphotos.net

Comments

  1. April Perry says

    Thanks so much for submitting this great post, Stephanie! It was fun to learn more about you. I didn’t feel like a natural nurturer at all, but God has helped me so much. I like how you referred to “a near constant daily alignment of priorities.” That is exactly what I feel! Thanks for your great thoughts.

  2. 5greatkids says

    Great post! I never even planned on being a mother. I grew up in a time and place where motherhood was considered bottom of the totem pole “stuff”. I had a tough time relegating career below motherhood and learning the nurturer role was really hard for me! Still a definite work in progress.

    Its nice to know there are others out there like me who didn’t always love to hold babies! I have 5 of my own now–adore them (still don’t go gaga over other people’s babies though….)and am working full time on being a great mother–instead of full time medicine. I found I couldn’t do both–medicine was just too hard for me to prioritize below my family. Life is great now! I still have a hard time working on homemaking and mothering skills but I feel more at peace–and I WILL get it!

  3. says

    I can totally relate to this post. I thought I did not have it in me to nurture and I still struggle everyday as a mom of 4 kids. I found that I had to broaden my definition of nurture, be patient with myself, and not compare myself to other more natural mothers.

  4. says

    I have one 2.5 year old boy and not a natural nurturer either…However, I feel terrified of having more children even though I’m improving as a mother. How did other moms who found nurturing hard found the guts to have more kids?

    (P.S. I am not religious, so family planning happens in our family and I actually need to make a conscious decision to “try for a baby”…somehow I feel I may never change my mind…which for some reason makes me sad)

  5. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this post, Stephanie. I too was never one of those teens who loved to babysit and hang out with kids — in fact, I was always somewhat scared to hold/look after babies for fear I’d do something wrong! :) So while I knew that I wanted kids someday, there was such a huge learning curve with my first son. I appreciate your honesty as I think so many women are in the same boat.

    EVS, I’m glad you brought up this question. I have two kids and I actually found that the second one was so much easier than the first. The first step (going from having no kids to becoming the mother of one) was so much more disorienting and life-changing than the the second step (becoming the mother of two). I honestly think you’ve done the hardest work already. That’s just my two cents’ worth, but maybe it will help in some small way. Best wishes as you discern.

  6. says

    Very good post. It is hard not to compare myself to others, especially when you read mommy blogs that mostly focus on the good moments. I always wonder if my kids know I love them. Sometimes I think I’m just not good at showing them I love them. I want to play with them but there are also things that need to get done. It is so hard sometimes. I need to work on showing more love. Because oh how I do love them.

  7. Melissa says

    Wow… I literally prayed for help in becoming a more patient and nurturing mother, then turned on the computer, and here was this article. God led me right here to read exactly what I needed to tonight. Thank you for writing this, it is just what I needed to hear.

  8. srnash says

    Thank you! I don’t feel like a “natural nurture-er” either! I have a hard time being patient and not focusing on getting things done. I prepared lots to be a mom and find a lot of gratitude in that, but no matter what, nothing prepares you for the difficulties of motherhood and the realization that your kids aren’t tasks, they are people! They won’t always do what you want, when you want or think they should! :) I’ve learned that over and over with my 7 children. I do sometimes wish that the definition of nurturing could be a little more inclusive of all kinds of personalities. You know the love languages idea might apply here that some of us show our love in different ways, but we love no less! I fiercely love my 7 kids, but not their messes or their noise all the time! I heard a quote about giving up our lives to save our kids, but do we give up our time each day? I thought to myself, that I give up my life one day at a time to do my best for my kids and sometimes, not having the same outward show of warmth and cuddles makes it appear to myself and others that I’m not nurturing. Thanks for the article!

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