How Could a Mom Regret Having Children?

Unprepared-when-mothers-regret-having-children

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article that I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around. The author was investigating “the growing movement of women who wish they’d never had kids.”

I read every word of the article, completely bewildered. The notion that enough mothers feel remorse over having had children to constitute “a movement” is tragic and heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking for the women themselves, who are missing out on the joys normally associated with motherhood. But it’s especially heartbreaking for their children, who are growing up with mothers who, given their druthers, would wish them out of existence — and are increasingly vocal about feeling that way.

As a mother of twelve who is delighted she had children (and would gladly have more), I admit I cannot relate to the emotions expressed by the women interviewed for this article. But after mulling it over, I’ve come up with a few reasons why, perhaps, some of them feel the way they do.

Of course, reasons will vary from woman to woman and may encompass causes far beyond anything mentioned here, but if “motherhood regret” is on the rise — if it has indeed become a social movement, as this article implies — then we should be able to look at current cultural trends to help explain it.

I can think of several cultural norms likely to color the way a woman views, accepts, and carries out the responsibilities of being a mother. These include the following:

  • Fragmented families
  • Parenting was meant to be a 2-person project, but with skyrocketing rates of divorce and single-parent households, the full responsibility for child training is often born by the mother alone.

    That’s a heavy task for one set of shoulders, and I can see how it might cause a woman to question some of her life choices.

    As tempting as it may be to feel sorry for ourselves in such a situation, a lifetime spent blaming innocent children for our own unhappiness is no kind of solution. Instead, we need to embrace the life we’ve been given, learn from past mistakes (many of which were undoubtedly made before children ever arrived on the scene), and do our best to make wiser decisions going forward.

  • Altered emotional states
  • The past few decades have been marked by an explosion of prescription drug use. Four out of five sexually-experienced women have used hormonal contraceptives. One in four are currently taking some form of antidepressant. Both of these drugs have been shown to lower libido and to adversely affect the feelings of love a woman has for her mate.

    Is it possible that these drugs might also interfere with mother-child bonding and have a negative effect on the love a mother feels for her child? Could the growing trend of “mother remorse” be more reflective of the drugs circulating in women’s bodies than of the secret desires of their hearts?

  • Desire for instant gratification
  • We live in a society that hates having to wait for anything. We want what we want, and we want it now: Instant rewards, with all the bells and whistles.

    But child rearing is an endeavor more akin to constructing cathedrals than to playing Candy Crush. It takes grit and determination and perseverance.

    Building a family is a multi-generational undertaking. Although we can take joy in watching the slow, steady progress made in our lifetime, we know from the beginning we won’t likely live to see it to completion. The work will continue long after we’re gone. Why not entrust it to God from the beginning?

  • Loss of faith in God
  • I don’t know how anybody can muster the level of devotion required by parenting without maintaining a vibrant faith in God. God grants wisdom and strength for living. He provides a beautiful example of the kind of self-sacrificing love a mother should have for her child.

    Belief in God gives life purpose and meaning. When we throw God out of the equation, we throw out hope and reason, as well. Is it any wonder that life seems pointless and despairing to creatures cut off from their Creator?

    Where there is no understanding of eternity and accountability, life devolves into a continual striving after fleeting temporal pleasures, then feeling cheated when we can neither grasp nor hold on to them.

  • Devaluation of life
  • Since 1980, over 1.4 billion babies have been aborted worldwide. Nearly 850,000 have been killed in the US this year (so far). As a society, we have decided that babies are more of a burden than a blessing and are therefore expendable.

    Unfortunately, that wrong-headed but pervasive attitude trickles down and affects how even the lucky children who are given a shot at life are treated. It has become fashionable for mothers to try and outdo one another with complaints about how much trouble they have with their kids. The “Mother Regret” described in the aforementioned article is just an extreme form of what many of us do every day — and all within earshot of our children. Think what messages we are sending them!

    Meanwhile, there are women who are single or struggling with infertility who would gladly lay down their life for the privilege of having a baby all their own. It hardly seems fair that someone who has children could so deeply regret ever giving birth, while another who so desperately longs to be a mother might never be given the opportunity at all.

  • Hectic schedules
  • Perhaps the “trapped” feeling some of these remorseful moms describe has something to do with the misguided brand of parenting they are attempting.

    If I were constantly having to run my children from one extracurricular activity to another to another to another, I think I’d feel trapped, too — but it would be in a prison of my own making. Constant activity is not a prerequisite to raising successful, well-rounded children. Kids need downtime, too: Time to think and wonder and dream and plan. Time for unstructured play. Time spent at home, totally unplugged from the digital devices that so permeate our lives these days.

    They also need the stability that comes from Mom reserving a good portion of her energy to build up her husband and invest in her marriage — for that should be the central relationship of the home. Things get thrown off kilter fast when we try to make everything revolve around the children, instead. That endless state of go-go-go and more-more-more that has become characteristic of so many households tends to separate the family in unhealthy ways and ultimately does more damage than good.

  • Lack of knowledge and experience
  • Most women in our society — myself included — are woefully unprepared for the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood when we first take them on. The home economics and child development classes of yesteryear have been replaced by women’s studies requirements that do nothing to help us become better wives and mothers (in fact, they actively work against it).

    The good news is, on-the-job-training is still quite effective for motivated students, even though the learning curve may be pretty steep. Look for a good mentor — an older woman who is further down life’s road than you and has a good track record in the marriage and motherhood department (Titus 2:3-5). Read books and blogs by authors who love husband and children and embrace their roles with joy and grace.

  • Differing notions of success
  • How do the women’s studies courses we find on university campuses today “actively work against” our becoming better wives and mothers? They do it by pushing a social agenda that turns traditional family structure on its head.

    Women are taught they must enter the workforce to realize their full potential. Those who would opt to stay home baking cookies for their kids instead of climbing the corporate ladder are cast as brainwashed dummies with no drive or vision.

    Society at large echoes these sentiments, and many women have bought into the lies without question. Is it any wonder that a mother who has been conditioned to think in such a vein would feel trapped and miserable in the role of stay-at-home-mom?

    I’m not arguing that career women can’t do meaningful, fulfilling, and important work. Many of them obviously do, and I’m grateful for all the dedicated women whose work has both directly and indirectly impacted my own life.

    What I am saying is that there is a much broader scope for industry, influence, and meaningful work in the home than our current culture seems willing to recognize, and that — for mothers of young children especially, the potential that exists in the home for shaping the next generation should not be minimized, ignored, or surrendered to others without careful consideration.

  • Unbridled selfishness
  • It would be oversimplifying to blame the “mommy regret movement” solely on selfishness, but selfishness definitely plays a part.

    As a society, we have become so self-absorbed and me-focused that we often lose sight of the needs of others. In doing so, we’ve neglected our God-given responsibility to take at least a portion of the gifts and resources He’s given us and use them to invest in the lives of others.

    One of the many benefits of becoming a mother is that raising children helps root such ugly selfishness out of our hearts.

    Or, at least, it will… if we let it.

When mothers regret having children. So sad!

Chores: A Fresh Perspective

Chores as Training

When making moment-by-moment decisions throughout the day, author Kim Brenneman suggests that we ask ourselves the following two questions:

  • “Is this activity glorifying God and serving Him?”
  • “Are my first priorities taken care of?”

She suggests that routinely thinking through these questions is a habit Christian women should deliberately foster, and I’m inclined to agree.

To be honest, though, it’s the second question that is most convicting for me. I’m fairly good at finding ways to glorify God and serve Him in the extra-curricular things I do. But tending first to those mundane, repetitive responsibilities such as laundry and cooking and cleaning? That is where I can really trip up if I’m not careful.

I can get so laser-focused whenever I’m working on a project—especially something creative, like writing, drawing, music, sewing, etc.—that I lose all track of time. If left to myself, I won’t stop to eat or sleep or shower until I finish whatever it is I’m working on.

I’m pretty sure that’s why God gave me twelve children and a husband who is quick to tell me when enough is enough -— to save me from myself. It’s hard to get too swept away in the creative process with so much flesh and blood anchoring me to reality.

For me, the solution (in addition to getting up extra early to tackle creative endeavors while the rest of my family sleeps) has been to recognize that the things I have to do are the training ground for the things I want to do.

This concept was beautifully illustrated in the 1984 classic, Karate Kid. In the movie, a bullied boy by the name of Daniel LaRusso seeks help from martial arts master, Mr. Miyagi, who puts him to work painting fences, waxing cars, and sanding floors, with very specific instructions on how the tasks should be done.

Daniel chafes at doing these chores and wonders when the karate training will commence, little suspecting that the chores are the training — or at least a substantial part of it.

Through all those long hours of sanding, painting, and waxing, he is unwittingly learning discipline, building muscle, developing endurance, and committing to memory the smooth, fluid body movements that will ultimately win him the martial arts championship (provided he sticks with the “training” and doesn’t quit in disgust).

That imagery does wonders for my perspective. Those mundane, repetitive chores like folding clothes and washing dishes and brushing tangles and sweeping floors? What if those are the tasks God is using to shape and strengthen and teach and refine and prepare me for the something bigger?

Will I chafe and grumble about His chosen methods, or will I tackle my tasks whole-heartedly, trusting that the Master knows exactly what He is doing?


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Note: This post was adapted from my new book, Balance: The Art of Minding What Matters Most, now available for pre-order in both print and digital versions through Amazon. Reserve your copy before November 27 and receive some terrific free bonuses from the publisher.

Housekeeping Matters: 5 Habits that Help

5 Habits of an Effective Housekeeper | http://lovinglifeathome.com
I’m not trying to chain anybody to a vacuum cleaner here, but I believe, to the best of our abilities, we should try to maintain a clean and orderly home. We should seek to make it a haven of rest for our entire family.

Whatever chores we do, whether the lion’s share or an even split with our spouse, should be done consistently, cheerfully, and as unto the Lord. Although our families certainly benefit when we keep a tidy home, our faithfulness in this area is ultimately a service to God (Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:23).

God holds us accountable for everything entrusted to our care (including our home), and He expects us to use it in a way that blesses those around us and glorifies Him.

God is not the author of chaos and confusion, so messes and mayhem should not be the pattern for our homes. Rather, He is a God of order. He has set the stars in their places and has numbered the hairs on our heads.

And since God has created us in His own image, we should make it our goal to reflect this orderly aspect of His character in our daily lives.

There are several habits that almost all good housekeepers have in common:

  1. A good housekeeper has a reliable method for dealing with clutter.

    Rather than letting junk mail pile up on her desk or kitchen counter for days or weeks at a time, she tosses it straight in the trash or recycle bin as soon as it enters the house.

    She deals with broken toys, outgrown clothes, leftover food, and anything else that has outlived its usefulness in similar fashion, purging her home of worthless junk and keeping everything in it in good working order.

  2. A good housekeeper designates a place for everything and keeps everything in place.

    She rarely needs to spend precious minutes hunting car keys or purses or shoes when she’s in a hurry to go somewhere, because each of those items can be found exactly where it belongs.

    She stores the most frequently used items in the most easily accessible space, making it a simple matter to return anything to its proper home. She also stores things as near their point of use as possible (coffee mugs and creamer close to the coffee maker, garbage bags and dust pan beside the trash can, copy paper and computer ink next to the printer, etc.).

  3. A good housekeeper is a good problem solver.

    She’s not afraid to think outside the box. If one approach isn’t working, she’s not afraid to try another.

    If dirty shoes keep tracking mud onto clean floors, she’ll put a shelf or basket by the door so kids can shed their shoes before coming inside. If the clothes rod in the coat closet is too high for her little ones to reach, she’ll install hooks at their level so they can hang up their jackets that way instead of dropping them on the floor.

  4. A good housekeeper routinely enlists the help of others.

    She realizes she cannot do everything herself. This is especially important when children are part of the picture.

    The greater the number of children in a household, the more frazzled the homemaker will become unless those children are trained to pitch in and help. Some mess is to be expected when sharing a home with little ones, but if you are always inside the house working while your children are outside playing, then something is amiss.

    I know, I know. It often seems easier to do the chores yourself without little ones under foot, but the cost of this perceived convenience is too high: Not only are you missing out on the opportunity to make precious memories with them, both at work and at play, but you are forfeiting an opportunity to teach them important life skills.

    When everyone pitches in to get the work done, the chores are (theoretically) finished faster, and then you can all relax and have fun together as a family.

  5. A good housekeeper makes wise use of whatever time is available.

    She doesn’t wait until she has a full day to devote to house cleaning to get started. She realizes that little by little will add up over time.

    She also recognizes the value of a job half-done. If she doesn’t have time to deep clean, she spot cleans. If she doesn’t have time to spot clean, she straightens.

    She knows no matter how thoroughly she scours a cluttered house — washing windows and vacuuming rugs and polishing doorknobs — it will still seem dirty if the beds aren’t made or there’s paper strewn all over the floor.

    Conversely, she understands that an uncluttered house, one where everything’s picked up and put away, will look clean, even if the furniture still needs dusting or the floor hasn’t been swept.

Here, as in so many other things, there is a need for balance. Keeping a tidy house should be a means to an end, not the end goal itself.

I view housekeeping as a way to serve God by being a good steward over what He has given me, to care for my family by creating a pleasant place for us all to live, to show gratitude to my husband for the home he has provided, to honor him by keeping it neat and clean the way he likes it, to train my children to be conscientious and competent workers, and to reach out to others by extending hospitality.

But if my desire for a clean house makes me irritable and impatient with the people inside it, then my priorities are misplaced. If I go berserk when a child spills milk on my freshly mopped floor, instead of gently coming alongside to assist and instruct in wiping up the mess, then my clean house has become an idol, and I’m sending my family the message that it is more important to me than they are.

Keeping an immaculate house (in the strictest sense of the word) is not really possible this side of heaven, so it’s futile to make that our goal. Keeping a tidy house, on the other hand, is entirely achievable — even while maintaining a proper and loving attitude toward everyone who lives there.


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Want to Have a Happy Home?

Make up your mind to be happy. Choose joy.Martha Washington once noted, “The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstance.” And she was right.

Did you know that whether or not your home is a happy one largely depends on… you?

As wives and mothers, we have the power to transform our homes from what might have been a vortex of negativity and darkness and despair into a refuge of joy and radiance and hope. Shouldn’t we be using that power for good?

The answer is yes. Yes, we should.

Our outlook on life has a profound effect not only on our own happiness, but on the happiness of our husband and children, as well. We have a duty to our families to maintain as cheerful an outlook as possible. We do our loved ones a grave disservice when we cultivate a perpetually sad or sour disposition.

Such a disposition has little to do with life circumstances, and everything to do with choice, for as Abraham Lincoln once noted, “most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

When I say that wives should “choose joy,” I am not suggesting that we be dishonest, “fake,” or insincere. Being joyful is not about smiling on the outside when we are shattered on the inside. It is not about pretending that life is hunky-dory when serious problems exist and we need help.

Choosing joy is not about putting on a show for another person’s sake. It is about changing the way we look at things — for our own sake.

Being joyful is not about repressing feelings, but about attacking negativism at the root — in our heart and mind and attitudes. It is about being selective in our thoughts.

In every circumstance in life, there can be found something good, as well as something bad. Being joyful is about choosing to dwell on the good instead of on the bad. It’s about being grateful for what we have instead of upset over what we don’t.

That Scripture repeatedly urges us to rejoice implies that joy is indeed a choice:

• “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
• “Always be joyful.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, NLT)
• “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3)

It's never too late to live happily ever after.
This sort of constant, abiding joy has at its root an outward rather than an inward focus. It asks not, “What can others do to make me happy,” but “what can I do to make others happy?” Personal happiness is seldom the result of the former mindset, but it is a natural byproduct of the latter.

Showing kindness to others and doing things to bring happiness to those around us is one of the surest ways to find happiness ourselves.

As Helen Keller so wisely observed, “Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves.”

You want to live happily ever after? It’s never to late to begin. The choice is yours; choose joy.

Home Shows and Show Homes

Home Shows and Show Homes | Loving Life at HomeI once walked into a house I thought was on a holiday tour of homes and wandered through several rooms before realizing in embarrassment that I was at the wrong address. Fortunately, the home owners were hosting a party at the time, so I was was able to slip away quietly without making too much of a scene.

But the reverse has also happened: Another year I visited a home that really was on the tour, but had a hard time shaking the feeling that I’d come to the wrong place. It was almost as if the owners weren’t expecting us: “You’re here for the Open House? Tonight? I thought that thing was next week!”

Not that the home wasn’t lovely — it was. But, unlike most of the private residences I’d toured during these holiday fund-raisers, this house had dirty dishes in the sink, newspapers scattered on the floor, and sticky little handprints all over the bathroom mirrors.

In other words, this house looked lived in.

Moreover, the folks who lived in it were still there. They had not been spirited away for the duration of the tour, as was the usual custom. The owners of all those sticky little fingers spent the evening sprawled across three sofas watching television, seemingly oblivious to the steady stream of people parading through their home.

I’m not sure where their mother was that night, but had I spotted her, I would have shaken her hand, for she did me a huge favor (and possibly many of the other ticket holders, as well): She demonstrated unselfconscious hospitality. If she were worried about what others might think of her housekeeping, it didn’t show, and it certainly didn’t keep her from opening her home for a good cause.

I used to get really uptight whenever I was expecting company. I’d clean and scrub and polish and organize (and sometimes even sew and paint and landscape) for weeks in advance, snapping at anyone and everyone who got in my way or undid my work. I was much more of a Martha than a Mary, and I consequently missed out on many opportunities for sweet fellowship, joyful service, and gentle encouragement.

But over the years, God has changed this attitude. Maybe that home show assured me the world would not come screeching to a halt if I opened my house to guests when it was less than picture-perfect. Maybe adding eight or nine more children to the mix convinced me that having a picture-perfect home is not my highest goal, anyway.

I still love to entertain, and I still love to tackle big projects before I do, racing the clock to see how much I can finish before the big event. The difference is that now I do it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart — and a lot of helpers, young and old, at my side. And if the guests arrive before we finish loading the dishwasher (or planting the pansies or painting the baseboards), we leave the work for another day, grateful for what we got accomplished, but happy to take a break and fellowship with good friends who, after all, have come to see us, not our house.