motherhood regrets

What Would I Change if I Could Redo Early Motherhood?

Every now and then I see an old photo or video of one of the kids as a baby and I have that same, cliché thought known to mothers everywhere – time goes so fast!

Of course, it doesn’t feel like that when you’re in the midst of it. 

It feels like the present season will last forever. 

But it doesn’t – time marches on. 

As James 4 says:

“…you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” 

Sometimes, as I think back to those early days of being a wife and then a mother, I feel a sense of regret. Of course, there’s no point looking back and wishing I could do things differently. 

God’s grace has covered all my sins and failings and removed them from me as far as the east is from the west. I’m so thankful that His mercies are new every morning and that my kids’ lives and hearts are in His hands, not mine. I’m thankful that I get to mother on in light of God’s sovereignty, knowing He’s in control.

But I think one way God redeems and uses our mistakes is when we share them with others so they don’t make the same ones, like a traveller putting up a sign to show those coming up the path where the ditches are. 

So here are some of my reflections on things I would do differently in the early years of motherhood, wrapped up in humility and God’s grace, and offered up for the women who are just now walking that path…

1. I Would Ask For Help

Breastfeeding my first child was hard from day one. I assumed it might take some practice to get the hang of it, but I didn’t expect that it could be a challenge for months. At first, I asked for help (and got it), but as time went on, I felt that I couldn’t ask for help any more or people would question what kind of mother I was if I couldn’t even feed my baby properly.

I remember going to a local ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association) meeting when my baby was 4 months old, and sure enough, she needed to feed while I was there. I sat down on the lounge and held her in the one, awkward position that worked for us, while trying to carry on a normal conversation with the other mums. My greatest concern was that at any minute, I would be called out for the breastfeeding fraud that I was, and someone would point out that I was “doing it wrong”. 

You idiot! I think to myself as I remember that day. I was literally at a meeting full of women who would have been overjoyed to help me get better at breastfeeding, and all I could think about was making sure I looked like a good mum. 

What I know now is that no one’s a good mum automatically – it takes practice and you can’t do it on your own!

Pride ruined my opportunity to improve my mothering skills and make my life much easier than it was. 

It takes humility to ask for help because it means admitting you’re not already great at something. It means admitting you need help. 

Most of all, as mothers, we need to admit daily that we need God – we need to seek His face and His help in everything. 

“In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.””

– Psalm 10:4 

2. I Would Accept Help

Not only did I struggle to ask for help, I also struggled to accept help when it was given. 

Can you believe I used to feel offended when my Mum would visit and wash the dishes for me? I did! 
I took it as her making an unspoken statement that I couldn’t cope on my own. Once again, this was my pride coming out – I was more concerned with how others thought of me than with how I was actually doing. 

The reality is, I couldn’t keep up with things on my own and I did need the help! 

Often now when Mum comes to visit she will help with the dishes or the washing, and I’ve learnt to just say thank you, because I really do appreciate it. 

I’ll never forget the moment when I was on a mission trip as a 17 year old and I was handing out cups and drinks to the rest of the group, when one leader gestured that he would fill my cup. I said, “No, it’s okay, I’ve got it”. 

He answered, “Have the humility to let me serve you!”

Whew, what a rebuke!

We often think humility means serving others, but it really does take humility to be served. It means being humble enough to accept that others can help you, that you don’t have everything sorted on your own. 

And I think this goes for emotional needs in early motherhood, too, not just physical. Accept the service and friendship and prayer others pour into your life. You need it – we all do!

“ And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

– Hebrews 10:24-25

3. I Wouldn’t Be So Lazy

I remember back when my kids were little, there was a lot of content aimed at young mums that said stuff like “learn to just relax and enjoy the time with your kids – there will be time for doing housework later” and “you need to be okay with going to sleep when there are still dishes in the sink”. 

Well, I must doing pretty well, I thought, there are dishes in my sink every night when I go to sleep! Prioritising self-care and relaxation has always come naturally to me. What didn’t come naturally was hard work and pursuing excellence.

And I do get it, some of you need to learn how to relax and rest! But I needed to learn how to work hard and not to neglect my home. 

Caring for our kids is hard work on its own, yes. But the housework is also important, holy work that we should do to God’s glory. And the truth is that I was just lazy – I bought the lie that it’s impossible to have young kids and a clean-ish home. 

I do want to be careful here, because I know when we think back, we forget things. Am I just forgetting how hard it was? Was I actually doing my best?
I’m sure that, by God’s grace, there were times when I was. But with sober honesty, I also know that there were more times that I just didn’t bother. 

So take this one with a grain of salt – examine your own heart before the Lord. Do you need to learn how to rest and prioritize relationships and health over getting housework done? Then do that.

Do you need to be busier at the work God gave you to do, and take less time for resting? Then do that!

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Titus 2:3-5

The Early Years are Sanctifying

There’s no doubt that God uses the early years in our children’s lives to sanctify us as mums as we nurture and care for our children in a way that only we can. 

Yes, there are things I would change if I could do those years over again. But as I look back, I do see the hand of God working in my life in many ways:

  • His Word convicting me
  • Other people being there when I needed them
  • His strength in my weakness
  • His grace in my failings

If you’re in the early years of motherhood now, can I encourage you to press on and keep walking with the Lord in faith…

God will not give up on you – He is working to make you more like Jesus every day. And He is working in your children’s lives and hearts even in spite of your failings. 

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

– Philippians 1:6

You might like to read:

Temptations of a stay at home mum: Laziness

3 Lies About Motherhood You Might be Believing

Practical Ways to Encourage the Mums in your Community

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One comment

  1. Stephanie Matthews says:

    There were many nights when I would just crawl into bed, so exhausted, no dishes done, especially when number three came along. I found the early years of child rearing very physically demanding.
    I like the way you’ve challenged us to examine our hearts before the Lord to see if our need is more for rest, health or time spent in relationships or to work more diligently.
    PS It’s a pleasure to be able to help you when we visit you and the family!

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