Poopy Undies: Finding the Allegory in Everyday Mothering

We have kittens here at the yellow farmhouse...the official harbinger of summer, this first litter of the year. Mama cat is our independent, skittish one, and she is alarmingly protective of her two tiny charges. We've just recently started retrieving the kittens from the rafters of the garage for daily taming sessions in the arms of the children.

It only happens with young mama cats, and usually only with their first litter: if you take the kittens away too soon, Mama will quit nursing them. The growing bond is broken, and just the smell of people on those kittens can cause the mother to abandon them.

I watch Mama Cat pacing up and down the porch while the children play with the kittens in the sunset. I wonder if I'm like her. I remember 2005, when my 2nd baby was a fuss-budget who learned to crawl at 4 months, a lot sooner than she learned to listen. Shaken by many near-choking scares as my mobile infant explored the house, and worn out with chasing two toddlers around, I brought up the subject of returning to work as an R.N. Aaron was decidedly not in favor: not only did it make financial sense for one of us to stay home, he felt the children were better off in my care, however worn out and frustrated I was feeling.

That one conversation turned into months of verbal battles on the subject. I had my 3rd baby when number 2 was only 18 months old - 3 children 3 and under. Faced now with sort-of triplets, I really started to lose traction. Then, when my 3rd was only 4 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. This heralded a maelstrom of grown up temper tantrums the likes of which I had never seen and didn't know I could throw. For some reason, potty training brought out my absolute worst as a mother - I found it frustrating beyond frustrating, and I was also grossed out by the whole process. I attempted to potty train my 3rd while her sibling was in utero because I thought the only thing worse than potty training was having two in diapers! Boy, was I wrong! Forcing her to train early meant month after month of daily poopy underwear, which are the world's most impossible item to clean - especially without gagging when you have morning sickness.***

That was my wake-up call - poopy undies. I was at the absolute end of my physical and mental resources, and I had to do something to get my temper tantrums under control. The wife of my pastor - a wise and very gentle woman! - talked about her own struggles and pointed me in the direction of some key Scriptures as I battled my frustration. I memorized Proverbs 29:11: A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. I'm sure my girls will have hilarious memories of waiting in trepidation for me to reprimand them while I muttered this verse under my breath over and over until my head quit steaming!

Eventually, I gave up. On all of it. Potty training. Being supermom/Merry Maid/Julia Child. I even acquiesced about going back to work. After all, I couldn't imagine having the energy to keep clean scrubs folded for myself, let alone gather my wits to perform well at a job.

A few brief months after I waved the white flag in the employment battle, a graduate school opportunity landed in my lap, clearly providential. Next, I was diagnosed with cancer, and my treatment demanded separation from my kids (and household duties) for weeks on end. I stretched my intellectual wings online each day as I began working on my doctoral degree. And breathed an "aaaah" of relief when I got a mini-vacation from mothering.

I've often wondered if God wanted me to give in before He blessed me with opportunities to continue my career and life aside from my children. Looking back, I think I would've pulled a "Mama Cat" move if I had chosen to go back to work when Rosy was an infant: not only relieved, but feeling guilty for the relief, of the task and intimacy of at-home mothering, I think I would have pulled away from my children emotionally, and perhaps even physically. I think it was good to tough it out, learn to deal and control my temper. If I hadn't done the work then, I'd probably still be doing it. In the midst of that frustrating period of mothering, I had little hope for fulfillment of my prayers for my career. Had I acted on my wishes instead of waiting for God's timing, I may not have gone back to graduate school, homeschooled my kids, or had such a delightful time with them once I overcame my temper issues.

Thus says the Lord, "In an acceptable and favorable time I have heard and answered you, and in a day of salvation." (Isaiah 49:8)

How about you? Do you work outside the home? Do you or your spouse do full time childcare? How do you keep your mind engaged when spending a lot of time with children who can barely speak? Do you have career dreams that are (or have been) put on hold for the sake of family?

***I didn't get Amy trained before Caleb was born. The two of them were in diapers until Caleb was 10 months old (and Amy had just turned 2). And no, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought to have two in diapers!