Children are burdens.
"They cost a lot to bring up. They leave you with almost no time to yourself, and you don't get much of a life, unless you are able to get help to watch them. Don't have more than one or two kids, since they'll suck you dry. How do you think you're going to cope with four and homeschool? Much better to just pack them off to school."
I have been struggling through the week. As I stumbled through each day, with sick me and sick kids who pick at their food, with juggling sorting out house buy/sell matters and having bankers over to sign this or that, with homeschooling distracted little boys and wrestling with chores, with power struggles of a strong-willed child... these little voices, ingrained in my head by well-intentioned friends and family, kept nagging at me.
I have been losing my temper a lot this week. There are so many messes, messes that no one bothers to pick up except me, the one who can't bend over because I am 36 weeks pregnant. The pregnancy hormones are raging, the children keep fighting over tiny things and refuse to give in. The nagging little voices continue in my head.
And yesterday, after another power struggle with a strong-willed child, I snapped. I wondered if those voices were right. Why do I even bother?
I texted a friend to pray for me. I paused to think about the past two weeks. Weeks that have been exhausting, because we've been settling house matters, while caring for sick kids that keep us up at night. Weeks that have seen more than their usual share of messes, because of kids throwing up. Weeks that have forced us to our knees to pray because so many things are beyond our control.
Then I happened to read about drudgery:
"But the messes and the crying children and the electricity problems are just the individual puzzle pieces... When I step back, I see that the cooking and the homework and the messes are part of the much more glorious picture of what God is doing in our family."
And I was reminded about a post I read about mother ducks lining their nests with feathers, plucked from themselves. Not leftover feathers that have been shed, not scavenged materials from the ground. But feathers, pulled from their own bodies.
"But it’s those words that mesmerize me: “Mother ducks pick feathers from their chests, to line their nests.”
I lay my hand on the page, on a duck breast puffed, mother plunging beak in deep, and I say it out loud: “How else did you think nests were lined?”
That’s what I thought.
With feathers discarded, the molted, the not-so-necessary feathers. I thought mother ducks picked feathers up from what was laying about, scraps, lining nests with what simply could be mustered after the fact.
But no. No, a mother duck plucks each feather out from the heart of her bosom. She lines the nest with bits of herself — the best of herself."
And I realized that I really needed to pray. To guard my heart against bitterness and resentment. To find joy in the journey, to enjoy the littleness and messiness of my children, to find meaning in staying home and caring for the kids. Some days are harder than others, and our work is never finished, but God's grace never runs dry.
This screwtape letter came at such an apt moment (I shared it on the FB page and I know many of you identified!):
"Along those lines, be sure the Mother starts to value productivity above everything else. Have her wake up early and work non-stop until bedtime. If the husband relaxes in the evening with an hour of computer gaming, be sure the wife notices the pile of unfolded laundry or unswept floors. Do not let her grab a book and relax alongside her husband. Diligence, often one of the Enemy’s virtues, when overdone can be used to our advantage as well. Convince her that as long as there is a shred of work to be done (and there always is), no one should be resting. Then, as she folds and sweeps and he sits, you can introduce the sweet bitterness of resentment.
... Now, onto the children. Lovely little opportunities for us, the children, especially the little ones. We all know that children are a favorite tool of the Enemy. He calls them Blessings and Gifts and calls parents to lay down their lives for them, just as his Son did. Insane, I know. We must convince her that the obnoxious little people she has charge of are not really worth her sacrifice. When the Mother first dreamed of having children, she probably imagined large, innocent eyes and chubby, happy grins taking up the majority of her days.
Do your best to shatter those expectations. Instead, draw attention to how much they take from her. Let them take and take and take… And need and need and need, until the Mother feels totally spent. Let them start crying at the same time for the most irrational of reasons. Let the noise bother her. Let their bad behavior surprise her. Do your best to make the day-to-day monotony of diaper changes, meals, and baths seem simultaneously overwhelming and beneath her. Let her think of all the better, more important things she could be doing with her life, if only she didn’t have the children."
Reading this whole letter helped to silence those little voices in my head. It helped me to focus beyond our current struggles and our present messes, and reminded me that motherhood is a sacrifice that is worth making.
So I'm back to doing the next thing, and trying to focus on the things that really matter. And praying that I can joyfully line our nest with more of me, because that is what mother ducks are made to do.