Sometimes as I travel down the road of life, I hear my own voice asking from my own backseat: "Am I there yet?" in that whiney voice only a child who has been traveling for more than ten seconds can muster. You know the one I mean. Fraught with impatience with the journey and eagerness to get to the destination. "Are we there yet?"
So, for years I've been thinking off and on about Titus 2: 3. I'll quote it in context:
"But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine. Bid the older men be temperate, serious, sensible, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husband and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God my not be discredited. Likewise urge the younger men to control themselves. Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us..."--Titus 2:1-8
Am I there yet?
I'm starting to definitely feel "older", but really I'm sort of in the middle. There are many young mothers in the parish I attend, and I clearly see myself as being past that. Diapers and slings and crawling babies and breastfeeding...I thought those days would never end. And there's so much I can share with these younger women. Sometimes I do.
I wasn't an Orthodox Christian during many of those young baby years. For most of them I was in the Mennonite church. I was still of rather conservative ilk (as I still am) and I strove with all my heart of follow Jesus. I remember rocking my babies and singing hymns every evening, trying to get them to sleep.
But now that I'm Orthodox there are so many more resources that I have at my disposal. What would I say to the young mothers, that I've learned over the years, along the lines of Titus 2 stuff?
I think I would say: Keep a prayer rule, even if it's short. Be consistent. Bring your children with you to the icon corner and teach them to be quiet and reverent while you model what it means to pray. Teach your kids to make prostrations. Help them to learn how to fast. (I watched a one year old doing bows yesterday in Church...it was TOO CUTE, but bows they were!)
Read your Bible, and read it to your kids.
I think I would say that one way you can love your husband and your children is by taking good care of your own health. It's not just a cliche, its true. Taking care of your own health does not have to degerate into the worldly "you must be sexy" lure that so much of women's health gets affected with these days. It truly can be about your health. And while you might have lots of "bounce back" while you are in your twenties, as you get older that natural vitality will begin to wane. Taking care of yourself is a good investement in the future of your family, as God grants you years.
I think I would say that it is better to be gentle and meek than to roar and try to get your own way. It is better for your soul. Is there a way to be meek and still hold authority as a mother? I think there is. I achieve it in moments, but still do my own share of roaring, unfortunately. Pray to God about it. But also ask the Theotokos for her prayers. I think most mothers yell sometimes. But if we can yell less and then less again, and less again, we have achieved something great.
In times of stress, recognize that there is stress and that this will bring about a greater temptation to fight with your husband or yell at your kids. Being aware can often diffuse these family fights. Go to confession often. This helps, too, to increase the love in a family.
For my part, I was all about having a family bed when my babies were wee and I was still nursing them. Not everyone is into that, and that's OK. But if you are getting weary, know that there are ages and stages and that the "wee ones" stage really does go by quickly. Now that the kids are older, I'm looking forward to my bedroom being MY bedroom and no longer grand central station. For instance, when we move, the computer will be out of there! Perhaps think about how your home is arranged. Does it meet your needs currently? Be creative in rearranging or thinking outside the box on what you do with each room. I'm just sayin'. Just because it's one way now, doesn't mean you can't change things up on the future. Being flexible is good.
So all of the ins and outs of our days with our children can be spent preparing for heaven. And what else is there but heaven? Really? The psalmist says "Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and beside Thee I desire nothing on earth? My flesh and heart are weak and may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
I like to pray while I"m washing dishes or doing laundry folding. And I no longer get livid while cleaning house like I used to. (Yes, it's true, the very act of house cleaning used to make me roaring mad with rage...why, I wonder?) I'm growing and hopefully bearing fruit. If you are a younger woman and are struggling with some of this stuff, rest assured that God has not abandoned you. Because He hasn't abandoned me. I've been at this long enough that I can look back and see the changes, but I'm really still on the journey.