by Shanna Mallon
I’d been a mom for a few short days the first time it hit me. Sore and sleep-deprived, recovering from a long labor and emergency C-section that had the hospital suggesting I get a blood transfusion, I rode a wheelchair down to the parking garage, watched my husband, Tim, snap our barely six-pound newborn’s car seat into the backseat and then, moving slower than I’d ever moved before to get into my own seat, braced myself to be driven home. That was when I started to see what I continue to see now, months later with an active baby bouncing in the living room: Becoming a parent is bewilderingly sweet and undeservedly good. But, as every new parent would attest to, becoming a parent is also hard.
In those first few weeks tucked in at home, family members making our meals, days turning into nights as we planted ourselves on the sofa caring for our beautiful boy, it took all my effort to move from the living room to the bathroom, from the bathroom to our own bed. Tim had to pick up Rocco and bring him to me every few hours during the night; I couldn’t get up on my own. Tim had to change diapers for me; I couldn’t bend over. And without other people nearby to see what we were facing in the especially hard work of those early weeks, how much effort it took for us to get from one day to the next, that was when I first heard the temptation: If you’re sacrificing and serving and no one notices, what you’re doing must not matter at all.
Affirmation for Mothering
Jesus says to the disciples, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Parenting has long been a practice that demanded unseen sacrifice. Who remembers all the times their parents changed their diapers, got up with them in the middle of the night, comforted hurts, cared for injuries? How many meals does a mother cook for her family throughout their lives? How many of the kind words and thoughtful conversations given from loving parents get logged permanently in a child’s memory bank?
But today, thanks to the world of social media, practicing the daily sacrifices of mothering doesn’t have to be hidden. It is easier than ever to share. And in the monotony of cleaning spit-up, cooking another meal, responding to another tantrum, we can unknowingly begin to resist entrusting our unseen service to the one who knows all things. We seek affirmation from one another instead of from God (John 5:44). Right at our fingertips is a way to post a status or picture and, right that moment, feel the satisfaction of reassuring likes.
Made to Delight in Jesus
The allure of immediate validation is obvious, especially to someone who’s facing new challenges at home. Motherhood can feel isolating and lonely and, with its constant demands, discouraging in ways a woman has never before experienced. In my short stint as a mom, I’ve already wondered, more times than I like, if I’m doing it right. But looking to the reward of others’ approval on social media is not the answer to my heart’s questions. When I find myself wondering if my days have value, how to have joy, there is only one source I can trust.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
Because I was made to delight in Jesus, the one who demonstrated perfectly what it means to give up life for another, I don’t have to trade the temporal satisfaction of being noticed for the eternal glory that is to come. Instead of looking to hearts on Instagram to fill me up in quiet moments while the baby sleeps, I can look to the one who sees every momentary, little sacrifice and uses it for good. I can fight for faith that the hidden work of motherhood matters — because nothing we do or think is hidden to him. Nobody else has to see this moment; he does.
So as mothers, when we’re wiping another mess, making another meal, losing sleep, or wondering if this quiet work matters at all, we can take hold of delight — not just in the affection we feel for our precious children, but also in the truth that serving them matters to our God. This is why our humdrum, ordinary, simple days are important: Because we believe they are important to him. In every moment, he is with us. He is in us. He hears us. He sees us. He is, in our days at home as anywhere else, working out his purposes in a thousand ways we cannot see and like and comment on in this life.