Motherhood as Artistry

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As I’m typing this my daughter is practicing sixteenth-note scales on her violin.

1-e-&-a, 2-e-&-a,3-e-&-a, 4-e-&-a, and on and on it goes.

Though her violin is in tune, and though she’s playing just as she should, it doesn’t yet sound proficient. Her sixteenth notes are uneven, and her finger placement lacks the precision required to be exactly in key. Her ear is not yet trained to recognize when she is out of tune.

A concert violinist, playing the exact same sixteenth-note scale, would sound utterly different in delivery.

It’s the same instrument, the same notes, and she’s playing exactly as she should do, and yet she’s not yet to mastery. It’s musical, and yet not masterful. Not yet.

I think a lot of moms operate at this level of motherhood.

The notes are right. The scales are being practiced. The shoes are tied. The spankings are given. There’s nothing being done *wrong* and yet they’re not yet to the point of artistry. There’s no confidence, and no mastery. Not yet.

Hear me out, though, please– because this isn’t personal about you. I’m not sitting there in your house, staring at your children, critiquing YOUR motherhood– I’m just making an observation about the current culture of motherhood. I think this is something that is simply a truth about motherhood– it affects us all.

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  • I crochet, when I have a mind for it. I’ve made ten baby blankets, some scarves, and a few other items. But I’m no artist. What I do is done lovingly, thoughtfully, and yet I’m not a proficient crocheter. I’ve not crocheted long enough to achieve true artistry.
  • I cook food everyday. I even cook tasty food from time to time, if you believe my ravenous boys’ opinions. And yet I’m no Pioneer Woman. No one’s looking to me to put out a cookbook.

As a mother, sometimes, it is enough to put one foot in front of the other.

In fact, that’s how we all start. We all start out just learning the ropes… learning HOW to breastfeed, then HOW to deal with teething, then HOW to train their attitudes, and on and on… but there is heart beyond the how-to.

There is proficiency to achieve beyond our early practice.

Can I just encourage you with one thought?

MAMA OF YOUNG ONES, PERSEVERE!

What I want to encourage you with is this: Stick it out. KEEP GOING!

  • Past the sticky juice messes.
  • Past the yells that come because of the sticky juice messes.
  • Past the teary confessions that come because of the yells because of the sticky juice messes.
  • Past the heaps of laundry.
  • Past the decluttering of closets and laundry schedules and discarded-because-they-didn’t-work laundry schedules.
  • Past enforced bedtimes.
  • Past the overwhelmed tears when you don’t know how to handle the newest bump in the road of motherhood.
  • Past homework correction and attitude correction.

Keep going!

The drudgery is hard for every single one of us. All of us hit moments where we have no idea what to do. All of us hit difficulties we never anticipated.

None of us roller-skates through the early “sixteenth-note scales” of motherhood. We all have to play them, but none of us hits them perfect on our first, or second, or tenth, go.

But keep going!

  • Don’t check out because it’s hard.
  • It’s hard to keep going when it’s hard.
  • It seems easier to do what everyone else does: muddle through, and complain about your kids.
  • It seems easier to badmouth how easy she (the mom you feel intimidated by) has it because she doesn’t have a, b, or c challenges, or deal with x, y, or z, like you.
  • It seems easier to check out, and check Facebook.

But there’s no music there. There’s no artistry there.

Complaints and comparisons don’t ultimately produce a violinist that knows how to make her own unique instrument SING.

In the same way, complaints and comparisons don’t ultimately produce a mother who knows how to make her own family, home, and life work in a way that brings maximum glory to God and joy to all who are in it or stand to witness it.

Mom of young children, can I encourage you? Don’t give up! Don’t give in! Don’t believe the lie that nothing you are doing is making a difference.

If you keep going and don’t give up, you will reap a harvest from your efforts.

It’s tempting to check out before you hit mastery, but after the drudgery comes mastery. And — just like the concert violinist testifies to us — mastery is where the artistry happens. 

IN THE COMMENTS, SHARE: In what part of motherhood are you apt to feel like giving up? How can you work toward perseverance and mastery in your motherhood today? 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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6 Responses

  1. Kami Crawford says:

    I really like this comparison. Motherhood in our culture is incredibly de-valued and its good to remember that that is not how God views it or how we should view it. And if we view it as artistry we are less app to give up or throw in the towel because like any good thing we’re not going to be masters at it unless we work at it. Therefore, we’re going to not be “good” at it with our first, second, third kid etc. And that’s okay and normal. There’s this expectation in our culture that we need to look like we have it all together with our first kid or even our sixth kid and that’s totally unrealistic and will weigh a mother down to the point of despair. The more I accept I’m not going to always look like I have it together and that is okay ironically the better parent I become. Otherwise I’m too hard on myself and then my kids.

    • Jess Connell says:

      “Therefore, we’re going to not be “good” at it with our first, second, third kid etc. And that’s okay and normal.”

      The challenge of this, for our culture, is that most people stop before they even get to a third child. I’ve written about this before– it seems like American mothers (and most modern, Western mothers) guinea-pig through motherhood, and every time they hit a phase it’s one of the only times (or perhaps, if they have one of each gender) the only time they’ll go through it, and so much of our collective advice becomes, “just hang on; it doesn’t last forever.” or, “this too shall pass.” That’s the best we have to offer when– culturally– the only thing we know is just getting THROUGH things once or twice, rather than mastering them so we can advance our individual and collective wisdom about going through motherhood with mastery and artistry.

      I think your daughters, and hopefully mine, will be far better off than you or I were, or your mother or my mother was… because they’ll have the wisdom that comes from watching a whole lot of guinea pigging, practicing, and working-toward-proficiency right in front of their eyes.

      Most young women arrive at 18 having never spent more than, perhaps, an afternoon or weekend, with people younger than 10. Even the most child-involved often just babysit a couple times a month. And that is a vastly different experience than dealing with an obstinate toddler day-in, day-out, learning how to soothe a weary, overstimulated, screaming infant, knowing things to try when disciplining a five year old, or twelve year old, knowing how to converse with and laugh with and enjoy various stages of childhood, etc. These things come through time, and time together is sorely lacking in our culture.

      Oops… tangent! :) Better stop there.

      • Kami Crawford says:

        Yes, those are really good points and observations. For some reason parenting is so de-valued that we just have to “get by” when those difficult years come instead of seeing it as a wonderful opportunity for us to grow & mature as godly women. And part of that attitude of just “getting by” in parenting and not something you master and grow from is why most women only want a couple of kids.

        That is so true that most young women today have no idea how to relate to kids. So once they have a kid is usually their first time having to really deal with the day in and day out stuff. When I had my first kid at 21 I had only babysat for a few hours here and there. I was the baby of my family with my brother and sister 5 and 7 years older then me. I was set up for a real shock!

  2. Allison says:

    I don’t have time to go into detail (my hubby should be home any minute for dinner), but I just wanted to say thank you and that I was encouraged by your post. I have been struggling lately with my 5 year-old, and this gives me hope!

    *As a side-note, I was just remarking to my husband last night how much more natural it is to discipline my 2 year old because I’ve already been through all these issues with my older 2 and feel more confident in knowing just how much he “gets” and how much I can hold him accountable for. So, yes, I suppose I’m no concern violinist yet, but at least I’m seeing progress in mothering!

  3. Kondwani says:

    Maybe the difference between running a house and creating a home. Similar tasks, but a world of difference in atmosphere. I’ve seen the seemingly effortless beauty and artistry as you put it in other homes, and aim for that.

    But stretching your analogy, remember, even for artists – dancers, musicians – there are times when it can appear like effortless grace, but in fact every muscle is straining to make it appear so. Years of training, focus, and work has gone into it. We can fall into the comparison trap of thinking ‘she’ has this effortless artistry, and not see the work behind the scenes, the times of discipline and attitude correction, the failed cakes, the spilt milk, the late nights and early mornings, and the times when she has to check herself and welcome yet another visitor…

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