It has recently occurred to me that childbirth can be one huge metaphor for motherhood. We “labor” day in and day out, moment by moment—scrubbing, brushing, wiping, flushing, buckling, holding, washing, folding—it’s a wonder more mothers don’t drop dead from pure exhaustion!
So here’s my theory: Heavenly Father knew how challenging motherhood would be for each of us—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. So He sends us “mother mercies.” You know the moments—the ones that sneak up on you and make you smile or laugh—or teary-eyed. It’s like the time I caught a whiff of my five-year-old and realized he’d put on his daddy’s deodorant that morning. Or when he used to pray nightly, “Please bless that morning will come in five minutes.” It’s the time I found a bar of soap in my bathroom with one (and only one) set of teeth marks in it. Or when my preschooler asked me, “Why did Jesus cover our bones with skin?”
Perhaps these little mercies are like the pauses between our contractions of motherhood—the moments that make us say, “Oh yeah. I really love this mothering stuff.”
Contraction: Baby spits up.
Mother Mercy: Three-year-old cries in alarm, “Mom! She’s spilling!”
Contraction: Five-year-old climbs on counter to find sweets.
Mother Mercy: He explains he was simply finding desert for “Family Home Ming-Ming.”
Contraction: Patting your squishy tummy left over from pregnancy.
Mother Mercy: Patting your baby’s squishy tummy that you got in return.
Contraction: Feeling overwhelmed and grumpy.
Mother Mercy: Oldest child says sweetly, “Mommy, if you say a prayer, Heavenly Father will help you feel better.”
Think about it—what an interesting phenomenon—in our very hardest moments of mothering, Heavenly Father sends us these little flashes of reprieve to help us keep going with a smile. True, we have diapers and back-talking and tantrums and spills, but we also get kisses and first steps and stick-figure drawings and hand-pulled bouquets.
Look for the Mother Mercies in your own life. I promise they will pop up everywhere—when your toddler trips the alarm at the library (like mine did) or when he pours pop down the bowling alley lane (yes, mine) or when you find your envious child stripped down to his nothings at the park, staring longingly through the fence into the city pool (Whose kid is that? Oh, it’s mine). The Mother Mercies are always there. Don’t miss them!
One Sunday while I was juggling my three little ones, an older sister in my ward leaned over and said, “This will all end someday, believe me.” To which I replied, “Oh don’t tell me that! I’m having so much fun.” Who knew that doing something so hard could bring me so much happiness? And just like the finale of childbirth, I’m hopeful that this mothering thing—this exhausting labor of love—will someday bring us joy we could never comprehend was possible.
By Whitney Permann