Countless women promised me that motherhood would turn me into a morning person.
Before having kids, I was a total night owl. My standard bedtime averaged around 3 a.m., but I could never do mornings. My mind doesn’t even start working until 10 o’clock—with or without caffeine. I do not wake up happy, either. My parents used to argue over who would wake me up from naps as a child because of my intense wrath.
Enter motherhood: Where sleep is at the top of the list of sacrifices, especially at the beginning.
My beautiful daughter’s entrance into the world did a Miley Cyrus-worthy wrecking ball moment on my rest pattern. Born full-term at barely six pounds, our peanut ate every 90 minutes all day and night for five whole months—and it took her 45 minutes per feeding. So yes, my entire life existed in 45 minute intervals between nursing sessions for 150 days. And after that, she still ate three to four times per night until her first birthday.
There is not a word for the level of exhaustion my entrance into motherhood brought with it. I trudged through those early few months like an extra on the set of “The Walking Dead,” before postpartum anxiety swept in on the backside of the fatigue. Fielding all-too-familiar questions from well-meaning friends and family—“How is she sleeping?; Is she a good baby?”—only added to my feelings of inadequacy and overwhelm.
My journey had hardly begun and I already thought I was failing at motherhood. Joy was elusive. Worry was my default mode of operation. And knowing how blessed I was to be able to have a baby when so many friends around me were losing their own left me paralyzed to admit how truly difficult my experience was.
The responsibility of caring for this tiny human in my arms weighed heavily on me. I understood that she was not merely silky skin and sapphire eyes, but also a soul born into sin and eternally separated from her Creator apart from faith in Christ. I also understood the ministry of motherhood was my calling in this season—to shelter her, steward my investment in her, and shepherd her heart toward the grace of God to the best of my ability.
But in an endless sea of sleepless nights, I felt anything but adequate.
Angered by my constant anger, I wondered if I was fit to raise a child. Disgusted by my lack of perfection, I questioned, “Am I really a good mom?”
FINDING FREEDOM FROM PERFECTION
The baby girl who never slept turned into a vivacious toddler and now has a baby brother. Nearly three years into this motherhood gig, I still naturally wake up irritated, usually to the cry of another little one who needs me whether I like it or not. I’m still waiting to become a ‘morning person’, but I’m starting to learn that maybe my happy alertness isn’t the point.
If my ‘good-ness’ as a mom depends on a consistent morning routine involving an hour of prayer and made-from-scratch breakfast while I sing to the birds outside my window before my children rouse from their slumber—I’m sunk.
Yet, my Father isn’t bothered by my initial grumpiness as I weakly stumble through a dark hallway to comfort my screaming child. He blesses my consistent morning routine from Psalm 118:24:
Inhale: “This is the day that the LORD has made…”
Exhale: “…let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
He knows as well as I do that I am powerless to thrive in motherhood without His presence. The psalmist proclaims, “in your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). Coming to Him exhausted and irritable is better than never coming at all. I am free to offer myself to Him as I am—worn out and weary; tattered and torn. Simply being with Him is the goal. The aim is to abide.
Perfection is not required of me, for it has already been satisfied in the work of my perfect Savior. Freedom does not arrive when I figure it all out, know all the right answers, and make all the best choices. Despite what the best sleep-training techniques will sell me, freedom in motherhood will not appear with a solid schedule.
True freedom comes when I choose to walk in the victory Christ has already won.
HE IS ENOUGH
I am not good. That’s the bad news. And on my own, I’m not a good mom. That’s even worse news.
But the best news is that it’s not up to me to be good.
God alone is good.
There is nothing good apart from Him. He is the very creation and definition of goodness. He is the evidence and breath of it in all of the world. He is Divine. I am depraved. I am humbled before His holiness.
I will never feel enough as a mother because I’m not enough. But praise God, for I was never meant to be.
Jesus—only Jesus and always Jesus—is enough for both me and my children. He is the better Parent who never wakes up irritable. He’s never tired. In fact, the Word proclaims, “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).
When I see Him for how glorious He is, I can trust Him. I can release my tight grip of perceived control over my kids’ lives, believing He works all things for both His glory and my good.
When I believe He is wonderfully matchless in character, I can live freely. I can cease striving to be the perfect mom, and instead, focus my attention on the perfect Redeemer.
He is God, and I am not.
He is God, and He is good.
And as Lysa Terkeurst said, “God is good at being God.”
So whether it’s for 14 hours or 45 minutes—in this truth, I can rest.
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I can so relate to this and I am 12.5 years into this gig!
Praise the Lord for His faithfulness to keep us in a position of dependence on Him! Thanks for reading Tabitha.