When Motherhood Feels Like Survival

Do you ever feel guilty when people do nice things for you?

Or start comparing yourself to all those who have a harder life or circumstance?

And then the next second, when you’re trying to get the screaming baby to latch on and your toddler is yelling for your help from across the house, wonder why you have to be needed (and touched) all day, every day?

These past newborn days have been filled with grace and kindness. Cards coming in the mail. People from church bringing meals. My parents staying with us and cooking food, doing fix-it projects in the house and yard, and letting 2 1/2 year old Isaiah follow them around and “help.”

There have been text messages to let me know people have been praying. Calls to ask if I need anything at the store.

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In the daytime fog that comes from each REM sleep cycle being interrupted by a famished newborn, trying to compose thank you notes doesn’t seem to be enough.

But then when we’ve just turned out the lights to go to sleep and the fussing starts, the ungrateful and self-pitying thoughts come rolling in.

Why couldn’t she schedule her gassy discomfort an hour ago, when we weren’t so tired?

Why does everyone around me have to be so needy?

The one sure thing about newborns is that they’re unpredictable, just like most of my other circumstances (including the ones that I’m living under the illusion that I control).

I often waver between guilt over the blessing in my life and frustration over the unexpected inconveniences of an overcharged internet bill and a little voice whining for a brownie for the 37th time that day.

It doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for joy.

I let my circumstances justify or condemn my feelings instead of just saying, “Ok, emotion. Here you are. Let’s go talk to Jesus about it and go from there.”

It’s easy to let my emotions force a false perception of reality into my mind—that this stage will never end, that other mothers have figured out how to do this parenting thing wonderfully, and that my thoughts will always feel this disconnected and boring.


One gift in navigating the emotional newborn journey has been reading Gloria Furman’s book, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations For Busy Moms.

She reminded me that every leaky diaper and temper tantrum happens under God’s sovereignty.

Every act of love and care points us to the greatest act of love: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross so that we can be in relationship with God, adopted as His daughters, and heirs of the most glorious eternal life to come.

Gloria shares that, “In the context of eternity, where Christ is doing his work of reigning over the cosmos, we need to see our mundane moments for what they really are–worship. In the daily (and nightly) work of mothering, we’re given dozens of invitations to worship God as he reminds us of the hope we have because of the gospel.” p. 18

We are nurturing life in the face of death in our sinful, fallen world.


When we allow ourselves to appreciate people’s acts of kindness, no strings attached, we can also delight in the undeserved gifts of grace and spiritual blessings God wants to lavish on us simply because we are His.

And when our thoughts are covered in the truth of the gospel, we are free to invite his presence into every chopped onion, Thomas the Train book, and nighttime cry, no matter how many dishes are still left in the sink.

When we feel that we’ve done little else than keeping a couple kids alive that day, we can rest in His greatest accomplishment of our salvation and daily power over the universe.

Will you invite Jesus’ presence into each messy day?

Will you let His accomplishment be enough today?


10 thoughts on “When Motherhood Feels Like Survival

  1. Alicia, good to hear from you again. Some of your musings make me wonder how Daisy managed to provide good care to our two oldest. Daniel was born 111/2 months after Debra. I began the rigors of medical school six months after Daniel was born.

    I now wish I would have helped her more.

    Uncle Paul

  2. Alicia,
    Thank you for this post. I appreciate your honesty and the reminder of the very important work of mothering. I am 10 days away from my due date. The reality of having a newborn and a toddler feels daunting. When we spoke in January while we were visiting in Delaware, you told me that your prayer for the next phase of life with two kids was to be present. I think of that often, and pray that for myself.
    May you find peace in being present, and may God give you all that you need.
    Love, Lydia

    1. Praying for you in this last week, Lydia! (or whenever your little one decides to come) Thanks for the reminder to keep asking God to help me be present in this stage and not just wish it would be over. Thanking Jesus for the gospel and resting in His love have been huge as I battle the discouragement and weariness. Praying that you would be reminded of God’s future grace and ever-present love as you enter this new season.

  3. This is so good. Thank you. Though I only have one, we are going through the 18 month sleep regression and are so tired. This really encouraged me and I’m so proud of you for continuing to write during this busy season.


    Jessie On Apr 29, 2016 1:03 PM, “Considering the Lilies” wrote:

    > aliciayoder posted: “Do you ever feel guilty when people do nice things > for you? Or start comparing yourself to all those who have a harder life or > circumstance? And then the next second, when you’re trying to get the > screaming baby to latch on and your toddler is yelling f” >

    1. Weariness is still weariness no matter how many kids we have. It’s easy to compare myself to others, rather than acknowledge how I feel. I’m praying for you, Jessie, as this season of sleeplessness continues and that you would feel Jesus’ love especially during the nights.

  4. Hi Alicia, I appreciate your honesty. I think sometimes I assume that new mothers are exhausted, but never upset– like this filmy covering of sweetness drops over them when they give birth, and they are always patient thereafter (till a few months go by). I guess motherhood is another circumstance which reveals our great love of self. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it is very strong, and can tend to exclude others’ needs if unchecked. I also appreciate your thought about presenting your feelings to our Lord. This is incredibly well-written — esp. last couple paragraphs. About joy– I have been hearing from my Mom that joy is relational– it is about being with and enjoying others (God and people). Gratitude really nurtures this, of course. May God enable you to spot those moments, however brief, when there is joy between persons, and enable you to praise Him in those times. May He carry you up above focusing on the unpleasant and give you lasting and worthwhile connection with His goodness.

    God be with you today.


    1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Lynda. I always thought mothers holding sleeping newborns looked so calm and serene, until I realized how a newborn can go from being completely content to screaming their head off and back to being contented in the span of a few seconds. 🙂 With Isaiah, I felt like each stage of his development gave me different opportunities to sacrifice and look to Jesus. Thanks for sharing those words about joy….I’ve been thinking about that ever since I read your comment. I want that so much—to delight in Jesus and in others. I’ve been listening to some wonderful talks on “Delighting in the Trinity” and have been challenged and encouraged in that area. Love you, friend.
      P.S. Here’s the link in case you’re interested: http://www.theologynetwork.org/christian-beliefs/doctrine-of-god/enjoying-the-trinity-1–a-delightfully-different.htm

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