Let me introduce Alison. She is a mother of four adult children and five grandchildren. She has faithfully lived out her role as a stay-at-home mother with much gentleness and kindness; tirelessly giving her time to her family, her church and the community in which she’s been planted. She fashioned her home and garden to be a place of welcome and love and has generously shown hospitality to many people. Raising her children in the great decades of the 90’s and 00’s, I’ve had the privilege of helping her out as a teenager, and being helped by her, when I was a young Mum. I am proud to call her Auntie.
- How old were you when you became a Mum? I was married the year I turned 28, and had my first child when I was 29.
2. Has anyone inspired you as a mother, and if so why? My mother. I was inspired by her example of her dependance on God and her persistent prayers for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I have no doubt of their effectiveness.
I would also have to say my elder sister. She was years ahead of me in parenting experience. She had five children and her youngest was six months older than my eldest. I looked up to her and still do – she is a source of non-judgemental encouragement and wisdom.
Ruth Bell Graham and her writings also inspired me. She was someone who I admired as an authentic, compassionate woman/mother of faith and fun.
3. What is one of your favourite memories of raising children? I think it’s reading to them. I have always loved going to the library to borrow books – I still do. When children came along, I rediscovered the joy of children’s books and sharing them with my own children. Going to the library was an enjoyable outing, where each child could choose books for themselves. Sometimes we would come home with over 20 books. (Which could be a nightmare to gather, when it came to return them!) I loved the pleasure of having the children nestle up close and share in reading a story. I remember one very hot summer’s day when the children were older, ( high school and upper primary) school was cancelled due to the excessive heat. We shut ourselves up in the family room, (the only room that was air-conditioned) reading the junior novel ‘Holes’ by Louis Sacher. Two of my children were totally engrossed in the story, as was I, while the other two came and went and generally got into mischief. It is still a fond memory for some of us today.
4. Can you share a story of a particular challenge you faced during parenting? I have four children; two were more compliant in nature and two who definitely found the teenage years more challenging. In general I found parenting through the teenage years challenging, particularly the above mentioned. Challenging because these teens challenged what was asked of them: answering back, being rude and disrespectful, moody and generally unpleasant. They challenged the values and standards of our home which caused disharmony for everyone. Having said that, none of my children were rebellious to the point of destructive behaviour. They were probably just being your normal adolescent.
5. How did you work through this challenge? What gave you hope during times of trouble? They don’t call these adolescent years ’The white-water rafting years’ for nothing. Sometimes it felt like, “Hold on and hope for the best!” I didn’t feel particularly well-equipped to deal with the challenges of these years – I often would be in tears, feeling out of my depth.
This is where it definitely was helpful to have my husband as my team mate; we were in this together. Both of us had strengths and weaknesses. My husband got involved in ‘play’ more than me. It was he that took an interest in soccer, car-racing, ‘rough and tumble’ play and doing daring, ‘out there’ things with the children. I feel it helped to keep things balanced; not ’sweating the small stuff’ so much.
Having said all that, I think we would both acknowledge our average ability as parents. I honestly feel that we did our best. This is where my faith in a loving faithful God was my saving grace.
My relationship with God has been an integral part of who I am since my own teenage years. One thing that was very important to me was that my children would come to know and love their Heavenly Father as I had. This was the backdrop to my parenting. In those challenging teenage years, it would often be to my Heavenly Father alone to whom I could turn. I was very aware of my own weakness and utter dependence on His gracious help. And by His grace “He added to my faltering attempts, His great sufficiency”**. This was and continues to be my hope.
** Quoted from a poem I wrote.
6. Were you able to make time for yourself and if so. How did you do this? Mothers by necessity and by nature are ‘givers’, and when my tank was empty, everyone suffered.
I often felt it took very little to fill ‘my tank’. Particularly in the early childhood years of parenting, I probably didn’t get a lot of time to myself, but it was a blessing to have parents close by to give a helping hand. I found this stage was more physically demanding then mentally and emotionally. Time to just read a book or do something I enjoyed, like getting out into the garden (even if it meant the children were out and about with me), was something that refreshed me. As the children grew older and could be left by themselves, time for just my husband and myself was something I enjoyed; even if it was accompanying him on a trip to the dump.
7. If you were to meet your young mum self, what advice would you give her? I wish I had come across ‘The 5 Love Languages of Children’ by Gary Chapman sooner. I knew my children were all different in nature; but keying into their individual love language was eye-opening to me.
I also would encourage my younger self to spend more time with each child individually; asking questions and listening to them and their concerns. By the end of the day, when it was probably the time they were ready to talk, I was exhausted.
8. What has been a treasured bible verse that has encouraged you throughout the years? The word of God is such a treasure to me. I cannot count how many times His word has gone like an arrow to my heart and strengthened, encouraged, challenged and comforted me through the years; sometimes in the early hours of the morning, reassuring me of His presence and His promised help and guidance. His word was and continues to be my soul’s nourishment.
A favourite verse to which I come back to again and again is Hebrews 4: 14 -16 particularly vs 16. “Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive mercy and there we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
I remember vividly the morning it first came to me. It was a typical busy school morning; two school-age children, a preschooler and a baby. Hectic as usual, with lunches to be made, and much coaxing to stop playing and get ready for school; always the challenge to get out of the door on time. Just as we were all preparing to leave… an enormous dirty nappy from the baby. It was the days of cloth nappies, and as I bent over the toilet bowl rinsing the nappy, I thought to myself (with a degree of exhaustion and exasperation), “Here I am again bending over the throne.”
Quick as a flash these words from Hebrews shot like an arrow to my heart. What a transformation in me took place – joy! My God cared and saw me and my little troubles. I went through that day transformed by that knowledge!
A Mother is Praying
A mother is praying
Low and quiet:
Listen what her tears
See her heart
Upon its knees;
Lift the load
From her bowed shoulders
’Til she sees
You, who hold
The worlds together,
Hold her problems
In Your hands.
Written by: Ruth Bell Graham