Monday, January 25, 2016

What do you line your nest with?


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?” 

 With leftovers. 

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.

14 comments:

  1. Amazing article Jus. Thanks for sharing & stay strong!

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    1. N.: Thanks for popping by! And yes, taking it one day at a time!

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  2. That was a beautiful post which really spoke to me (because I am feeling very overwhelmed too!). I'm sure it isn't easy juggling everything with a big belly. Go easy on yourself! You are a wonderful mama duck :)

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    1. Debra: Hang in there fellow Mama duck! I can imagine the overwhelmingness, plus you have to juggle work too!

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  3. Amen, Jus. I pray the current struggles do not cloud the overall joy, nor subtract from it. God strengthen you and be with you.

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    1. Mamawearpapashirt: Thank you June, for the prayers! I've always been encouraged by your posts, to continue to find joy and meaning in parenthood. Take care!

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  4. Was going through the same emotions this week.. thanks for sharing..

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    1. Peiling: Big hugs! Continue to press on!

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  5. Hi mummy,
    Touching analogy here! Stay strong & positive! :)
    But in the process of this motherhood, I find that many mummies tend to forget 1 extremely important aspect...that is taking care of your own health would be the best gift to your kids too! My mother passed away due to sickness when I was only 7 (my siblings were younger). Life at home was never the same after that, and it also led to the straying of my younger brother due to the lack of parental guidance (father was always working since he was the sole breadwinner). Sometimes scheduling some mummy me-time for much needed rest, seeking alternative options for meals such as tinkgkat etc would give the mummy much needed rest...& a healthier mummy! :) Never take your health for granted...especially with kids in tow. just a penny of my thoughts. :)

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    1. Anon: Thanks for that very real sharing, and thank you for that pertinent reminder to take care of my own health. Indeed we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others!

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  6. I struggle w all these thoughts with my teen and pre teen. This article spoke to me. I need to release my anger and resentment. Is really difficult w an adhd teen. But Im gonna to trust the Lord. Just like u.

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    1. Anon: Oh, ADHD and adolescence can't be easy to manage! Hang in there and let's jiayou together!

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  7. I feel you Jus! Totally get it - the craziness and all. But what a timely reminder. Thanks!

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    1. Colortypes Sophie: Hang in there and take care!

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