By Kelly Johnson
I successfully raised two lovely little girls to adulthood, and I have a confession to make: I truly hated playing Barbies.
Nor did I care for teddy bear tea parties, building forts, or arts and crafts projects of any kind. Although I encouraged my children to nurture their imaginations through creative storytelling, playing make-believe mommy and baby lions was not something I ever felt particularly skilled in doing.
Since confession is good for the soul, I’ll admit I also found having a new baby to be the hardest thing I’d ever done. During the infant stage of parenting, I mostly felt incompetent and overwhelmed. Constant sleep deprivation made me grumpy and mean. Despite the delicious smell of a freshly bathed infant, I was thrilled by each step toward her increasing independence. I celebrated the day when my crying, completely helpless baby could finally say, “I’m hungry, and I want a cheese sandwich,” or “My ear hurts.” Although I have sweet memories of breastfeeding my tiny humans, finally handing them a sippy cup full of their favorite beverage seemed like a major victory.
Although I felt awkward caring for a new baby and playing make-believe with my preschoolers, I found my mama sweet spot when my daughters began reading some of my favorite childhood books, planning slumber parties, and processing out loud the ups and downs of friendship dramas. Helping with a costume for an impromptu original play or supervising cookie-making experiments with nine-year-old thespians and chefs felt like a better fit. Hosting a group of teenagers for a snow-day rehearsal party or providing all the fixings for a “grown-up” dinner party for sixteen-year-olds was a delight. Even during the inevitable heartache and angst of their adolescence, those years felt like a better match for the skill set I brought to parenting.
So although I was a mediocre room mom (did I mention how much I hate crafts?), I was a fantastic drama mama. My organization skills made me a great cookie mom for the Girl Scout troop, but I turned out to be a decidedly below average lacrosse mom. I was in my element editing English papers, but resorted to an algebra for dummies book and a tutor for assistance with math homework.
Some parts of being a mom I rocked. Other parts I survived.
Like every other area of our lives, the simple act of becoming a mother doesn’t make us good at everything required to do the job. Our unique gifting, experience, temperament, and interests contribute to the variety of ways we interact with the world, including the children we love or parent. Some aspects of being a mom feel as natural as breathing to me. Other parts require patience, sacrifice, a teachable spirit, and a willingness to ask for help.
I often hear mothers in earlier stages of parenting lamenting their lack of expertise and efficiency. In a world of Pinterest pressure, it seems everyone else was born with everything needed to be the perfect parent. That is simply a lie. No one is good at everything.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4–6 (NLT), Paul shares these words of encouragement about the beauty of our different gifts: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”
We each bring something unique to the work we are called to do in our corner of the world, including those of us whose calling includes parenting. God knew exactly the parent your child needed and he will equip you with everything you need to do the job. Some of what you face will be delightfully easy for you, a perfect match for your gifts, passions, and interests. Some of it will be frustrating and difficult, a complete stretch and a one-way ticket out of your comfort zone.
In those moments, we stop and pray for strength, patience, and a sense of humor. And then we call our infant-loving friend to hold our crying baby and promise to befriend their surly teenager someday in return.
Kelly Johnson is a counselor, writer, speaker, and advocate. She leads a weekly Bible study and serves as chair of the board of directors at a local shelter for the homeless. Married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mom of two college-age daughters. Kelly writes about life, faith, and her newly empty nest at kellyiveyjohnson.com.
Photograph © Felix Russell Saw, used with permission