I originally wrote this post in March of 2022, but in light of recently welcoming our fourth child into the world (she is 11 days old today!) I have been again reminded of how challenging these first few newborn weeks can be! I hope this can be an encouragement to other mamas with newborns, as well as mothers in any stage of life.
It was 2am when I heard it. A soft rustling of sheets began to whisper through the baby monitor. Slow at first, then louder, followed by some quiet cooing. I thought if I held really still, perhaps I could stop any potential noise vibrations of the air in the house and our newborn might fall back asleep. But the cooing became whimpering, and the whimpering became wailing. She was awake, and I knew it was time for me to get out from under the covers and take care of her.
I could lay there, pretend to still be asleep, and see if my husband would get up to take care of her instead! “Yes!”, I thought to myself, “that’s a much better idea.” After all, I hadn’t slept in days and I always take care of her. It’s only fair. Right? Right?
I suspect if you are a mother who has endured the newborn season, you may have had similar sentiments as I did in that moment. As I have spent time with many new moms since that night, I have come to realize I indeed was not alone in my way of thinking. I began to wonder if at the root of this common mindset lies more than simply a desire for more sleep or fatigue from hearing constant baby crying. While I would certainly tell you I believe the Bible to be true when it speaks of men and women being made in the image of God and having differing roles and responsibilities, my actions in so many areas of motherhood (especially at 2am) actually often say otherwise.
What Our Thoughts Show About Our View Of Motherhood
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.”
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone;
I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Men and women were created in God’s image. The Bible speaks of this throughout the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 1-3, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy, Colossians 3, 1 Peter, Proverbs 31, and so many other chapters and books within the Bible…there is not enough room to list them all!).
Yet even Christian culture has discarded distinctions between men and women to promote the idea that men and women are the same in every way- that they should have the same roles and the same responsibilities. Instead of teaching that marriage is a blessing and illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5), culture is telling us that marriage is actually more of a friendly partnership where sameness is to be held in the highest esteem. Instead of teaching the Biblical foundation of fatherhood and motherhood, we are told that there really isn’t much of a difference between the role of mother and father.
While we may say that we, however, are not like culture and we of course align with the Biblical view of men and women having differing roles and responsibilities, I think our thoughts and actions often reveal that perhaps we aren’t so different from the culture around us:
-We silently stew in anger as the baby cries at 3am: “My husband always gets to sleep while I always have to get up and change the diapers.”
-We allow bitterness to take root in our hearts: “He gets to come home and leave work at work, while I am working 24/7 taking care of the children.”
-We cultivate resentment: “We both are out at our jobs all day, but when we come home I still have to care for the children and do laundry.”
-We feel sorry for ourselves while he is out in the evening and we have to spend another evening at home getting everyone to bed by 7pm.
When we allow these types of thoughts to creep into our hearts, we are rejecting the distinctions between fathers and mothers as we long for roles and responsibilities we think would be better for us. These thoughts will cause us to grow resentful and bitter towards our husband, our children, and our view of motherhood. While we certainly should communicate with our husband about our thoughts and feelings, allowing these thoughts to perpetually run through our minds steals our joy in marriage and motherhood and prevents us from loving our families with a Christ-like love that is unconditional and sacrificial.
The Sacrifice In Sacrificial Love
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who,
although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men.”
When I became a mother, I knew that a mother’s love is a powerful, sacrificial love. I praise God that motherhood allows us to tangibly experience even a mere glimpse into the deep love God has for His children. As mothers, we have the opportunity to imitate Christ (Eph 5:1-2) as we love sacrificially. We are constantly emptying ourselves as we glorify God and love the families He has given us, and at the same time the Spirit fills us to overflowing as we do so (Romans 15:13).
But there is a problem.
See, I realized that night as I pretended to be asleep that I actually don’t like loving sacrificially. I really like the idea of sacrificial love, but not the reality of counting someone else as more important than myself. I like sacrificial love when I am seen and applauded by others, but when it comes to love that is truly sacrificial (especially at 2am), I’d often really rather avoid it and hope someone else will deal with the problem.
Our culture promotes this idea of rejecting sacrificial love…not just in motherhood, but in many aspects of our lives. We are so surrounded by this rejection of sacrificial love that even within Christian culture we often have trouble distinguishing it. We are told to love ourselves, to prioritize “me” time, to elevate self-care, and to rest often. And while we should be diligent to care for the bodies God has given us, this focus on self actually encourages us to count ourselves as more important than others instead of living out Philippians 2.
This is not to say it is bad for husbands to help us with the daily tasks that come with caring for our little ones, or that we should never have time away. But are we as mothers embracing the sacrificial love within motherhood, or trying to avoid it? How easy it is to cultivate bitterness towards our husbands. I suspect this is because we often struggle to see the beauty of motherhood. If we are honest, we often don’t think it is a glorious, God-given role. Instead, like Eve in the garden, we actually think our husband’s role is more glorious.
The Glory of Motherhood and Fatherhood
But our role as mothers is glorious! It is beautiful! It is hard, and it is messy, but it is good.
“Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
We are raising up an entire generation of young men and women for God’s glory. And our husbands’ role as fathers is likewise glorious! Ephesians 5 says our husbands are called to love us as Christ loved the church…they bear a weight and responsibility for us and the children, and will one day present us in glory to our heavenly Father!
The roles and responsibilities of fathers and mothers are different, yet they are both important and glorifying to God.
We have to trust God to help us love as He loves us (1 John 4:19). We have to ask God to help us joyfully and sacrificially love and care for those around us (Romans 15:13). We have to ask God to fill our hearts with truth and help us fight for real sacrificial love (John 14:26).
Don’t be afraid to love sacrificially. It is hard. It is messy. We will fail at it. But we are deeply loved by a God who loves us so much He sent His Son to die for us (John 3:16). Jesus was willing to sacrifice His own life so that we could experience forgiveness of our sin and live with Him eternally (John 10:28). Our God who loves and knows us so intimately has given us a Helper who will help us love sacrificially if we will ask Him (John 14:26).
Because God does see when you get out of bed to feed the baby at 2am. And 4am. And 6am. God does see you caring for and loving your children day in and day out. God does see when you sacrifice your ambitions and desires to love your husband and children.
He is the God who sees (Psalm 139, Psalm 33:18) and He meets our needs…even at 2am, and 4am, and 6am.