An Encouraging Word for Mothers of Young Children

Andy Naselli —  March 14, 2013 — 34 Comments

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once spoke with a group of medical students who complained that in the midst of their training and the ferocious work hours they really didn’t even have time to read the Bible and have their devotions and so on. He bristled and said, “I am a doctor. I have been where you are. You have time for what you want to do.” After a long pause he said, “I make only one exception: the mother of preschool-aged children does not have time and emotional resources.

It is important to recognize, too, that there are stages of life where you really don’t have time to do much, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Children will sap you. If you have three children under the age of six, forget serious reading unless you have the money for a nanny. When our youngest finally went off to kindergarten, we celebrated that day—I took my wife out for lunch. Only then could she get back into reading again. It’s the way life is. You have to be realistic.

–D. A. Carson, “Why Can’t We Just Read the Bible? An Interview with D. A. Carson,” Modern Reformation 19:4 (July–August 2010): 35 (emphasis added).

Related: 3 Ways to Nourish and Cherish Your Wife: Practical Advice C. J. Mahaney Would Give You If He Met with You at Starbucks

Update on 3/18/2013: I respond to the friendly push-back on this post here.

34 responses to An Encouraging Word for Mothers of Young Children

  1. This makes me smile. :-)

  2. Heidi Underhill March 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I think that for homeschooling moms it is at a later date then 6. We don’t get the 6 + hours of kids free time:-) It is good to remember these things.

  3. This makes me feel better about going to bible study tomorrow and not having my homework done :)

  4. Good to see the “Bricks” commenting; Pam, if they give you a hard time at Bible study signal my study – – -I’ll come over and read the post aloud – – and eat some of your treats.

  5. My wife heard this and said, “These men must have had really good moms!” Thanks for sharing, Andy. It provided me with an opportunity to encourage my wife. And, we have five kids (8 and under).

  6. I have four children under the age of five, homeschool, and while I vastly appreciate the recognition that my life is perhaps not as conducive to intense study of Scripture as some other people’s lives might be, I think these men are maybe giving mothers a little too much of a break. Almost all young mothers (including myself) I know have time for friends and Facebook and playdates. We make the time. We find the energy. Surely spending time with God is higher on the priority list than our own socialization or our children’s socialization? Surely it’s better to read the Bible to or with our preschool children than it is to go to a museum or a park? I often find myself wondering if my priorities are in the right order, if I have time to do science experiments or crafts with my kids, but not enough time to spend learning about the God of the universe. It’s easy to get distracted by how the world thinks we should be spending our time and the activities the world thinks we should do in properly raising children.

    It is all too easy for young moms to simply shrug things off as “I don’t have time.” I think it is better, rather than making a blanket “don’t feel guilty” statement, to say, instead, consider that the nature of your time in the Word may change. You may find yourself reading it out loud to your kids. You may find yourself reading a little snippet and meditating on it. You might find yourself struggling to read and pray during naptime rather than catching up with Pinterest or Facebook. You’ll struggle with the sin of selfishness in the few moments you do have. But the alternative, to give it up? Even, to lessen it? How can a Christian just write off all those years as “too busy”? Do we stop talking to our husbands for that time? What an unthinkable thought! “Serious” reading may mean something different to a mother of preschoolers, but it certainly doesn’t have to stop.

    If we avoid putting unbiblical proscriptions on the idea of spending time in the Word to begin with, then young, busy mothers wouldn’t have anything to feel guilty about. We DO have time for what God requires, even young mothers. It might not look like some cookie-cutter, legalistic idea of “Daily Devotions,” but we shouldn’t feel guilty about that, anyway, right?

    Speaking as a young mom, I’d much rather someone challenge my assumptions about “me time” and hobbies and time management, rather than soothe my conscience with unclear assurances. The Bible doesn’t make an exception for mothers of preschoolers or “stages” of life.

    • I realy like what your telling. It is making time, it is being an example for your young kids, so they see it takes time and motivation to read God’s word. To see it involves in your daily live! Thanks for letting hear a different reaction I am dutch my english might not be real good, : )

    • Carolyn J Cacciacarro March 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Amen Julie! As a mother of six, I would much rather someone challenge me in the area of how I spend my time, than “tickle” my ears and join me in my pity party. We need more mothers and ladies who will take the risk and challenge each other to rise up and embrace the higher calling of motherhood. I particularly LOVE it when my beloved encourages me by reminding me that life comes in seasons, and that we are in the season of raising a family and let’s jump right in and do it … “as unto the Lord”. It is in our weakness that HE is made strong and if we are truthful with ourselves as mothers, we can make time to abide in HIM daily. Thank you for such frank and encouraging words.

  7. As a homeschooling mom of three ages 8, 6 and 4 I completely disagree. I can’t do my job to God’s standards without being in the Word daily; it is my life line. Having children and being with them 24 hours a day has made me see how essential God’s Word truly is. I have made nap time my bible time. We will never give up naps at this house! I have wrestled with guilt over a messy house I could be cleaning during that time, but I feel assured that I have chosen the greater task. I hope I can encourage mothers of small children not to give up doing good. Cling to Jesus and his Word, in it is life. It is not easy at first, but pray for His help to find a time and a passion for His Word and He will not disappoint.

    • Thanks i agree with what your telling!! Beter read The Word than a clean house, children will remeber you trying to be a women of God, they proberbly don’t remember the dust here and there, ; )

  8. Julie and Kellie, I want to applaud your comments and to thank you for taking the time to articulate them. I hope many young mothers read and take to heart what you have said. I am a mom of three teens, and I cannot begin to describe the joy I have daily in seeing them walk with the Lord, memorize His Word, and live fruitful, happy, adventurous, full lives full of spirit and laughter. Make no mistake, they struggle with everything common to man, and they are far from perfect. They spend an hour each morning in the Word, memorizing, and reading other books that encourage their walk. No, they certainly don’t have time for this, as the demands on their time are overwhelming. If I don’t treat it as important, neither will they; and what do we most want to see them grow up to be? Above all, honoring to His Name, walking with Him in joyful, productive lives. If I regret anything in those growing up years (and I know I had only 3 and not 6 or 10) it is the times I felt I did not have time to spend in the Word and on my knees and memorizing, letting Scripture drive my days rather than exhaustion and the constant drip of things needing solving/changing (otherwise known as sinful anxiety, at least some of the time). Young mothers most of all need to be in the Word, and your gracious comments, both of you, about how that may look different and be creative is spot on. No guilt, but a commitment to know Christ daily regardless. I do see most mothers harried and worried and tired, and I was also. I know that time with Christ refreshes and strengthens and is truly what we most need. We don’t need a latte or facebook time or a phone call like we need to sit at His feet, if only for a few moments. In just a few years that seem like a few days, they will be preparing to leave into the calling God has for them. What will they know in their bones is most important for their time, their success, early each morning? We are dependent on His mercies and His strength.
    Yes, the demands of homeschooling are amazing. After 14 years of doing it, I can attest that time with the Lord, preparing a quiet spirit for the day, is what I’ve needed most of all.

    • Audrey Dieffenderfer March 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      I have to agree with Julie, Kellie, and Mary. I have two grown children and one still at home. I wouldn’t have gotten through those early years without time in God’s Word. My devotions looked much different back then but they were a necessity. When my children were young my time in the Word was mostly one or two verses that I read and meditated on throughout the day. Either I wrote them on index cards and placed them throughout the house or left my Bible open on the kitchen counter ready to be read in the few moments I had free. Young moms can read the Bible to their children and learn songs that teach Scripture. It can be done, you just have to be creative.

  9. Oh, how my wife will be happy to read this :)

  10. Friendly reminder: Comments must include your real first and last name.

    Cf. “No Anonymous or Pseudonymous Comments, Please.”

    (I mention this because I haven’t approved about a dozen comments for this reason.)

  11. Yes Mary Lynn! I can concur with what you say. And, I too, appreciate Julie and Kellie’s comments.

    I am in this unusual place of having raised two bio kids and am now raising three adopted kids who are 14, 11, and 8. They are not preschoolers in any way, shape or form, but boy do they take most of my time and attention. (Our adopted children were adopted at older ages, 10, 6, and 6 and each have their own difficulties that require more intensive parenting.) I home school them and what a blessing it has been to see them (two of them at this point) grasp the truth of Who God is and surrender their lives to Him. They are excited to learn more about the Lord and their enthusiasm helps spur me on. Remember that our children are watching us. They learn how to conduct their grown up lives by the pattern we set.

    I find that there are creative ways to make sure that your spiritual life does not run dry. It IS difficult to find long periods of time to spend in quiet prayer. Okay, not difficult – nearly impossible! However, if I find myself in the car alone I turn off the music and spend that time in prayer. I keep a book in the bathroom and will linger just a few minutes longer than necessary to read a portion of a chapter. I pull out my phone at swimming and read the Bible while my kids swim. I savor time spent teaching my kids the Word daily in our schooling time. (You know they always say that the teacher learns more than the students!) It is so worth the effort. Sometimes there is something else you need to give up, but remember that the spiritual recharging is necessary for you to be the mom your kids need.

  12. I found this post distressing. You see, I am an MD. I gave up medicine when we had our first child. We are now blessed with eight children, ages 16-4, and we are a homeschooling family (so, no – there is no time when I send them “off to school.” I’m on duty all day long). I think I understand the stresses that come with both lifestyles, and I’ll have to say that *both* being a doctor, and being a mother, *especially* of small children, require continual fellowship with God in prayer and daily feeding on His Word. Not that I am perfect, or perfectly consistent, in my devotional life – but if I am not in His Word, then what is guiding me as I walk through life, discipling my children? What will I have to feed them with, if I am not fed by God? During medical school, as well as when you’re the mom of many small children, you’re prone to burnout. The only way that anyone can minister to patients, or to one’s husband, or children, or do anything, really, is to scratch out that time, however it has to happen – in the car, in the closet (literally), before the kids wake up, after they go to bed, naptime – somehow. To suggest that there is a time of life when we’re exempt from needing it is folly.

  13. I don’t think the point is that mother’s of young children don’t have to read their Bible at all. I think the author is simply stating that as far as serious, in-depth studying of God’s Word goes, we mother’s simply do have time or energy to sit and spend lengthy periods of time reading. Kudos to you mothers who are able to spend more time in the Word and reading than other women. Every situation is different and God is no more honored with hours of study than with the few moments spent reading a few verses of Scripture.

    • With all respect, I don’t think we thought he was saying that mothers couldn’t read at all–I know that is not what I thought. He said we should “forget serious reading” and that his wife could only “get back into reading again” after all their preschoolers were grown. I, for one, completely disagree with that and wonder how on earth a wife would “feed” her children, as Flory said, when she herself was not being fed. God doesn’t call us to read a verse here and there; he calls us to mediate on it day and night, to write it on our hearts. Mothers of preschoolers are not exempt, and will answer before God for their time management as well as for how well they were able to impart the Gospel to their children. It is bizarre to say that mothers of preschoolers are exempt from the biblical commands that bind everyone else, because indeed, I think we may face more desperation and continual NEED to dive back into Scripture.

    • Lacey Cummings March 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      agreed!

  14. THANK YOU MAGGIE! I second every word you just said!!

  15. Michael DiMarco March 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    My wife is the primary homeschooler in our home. Her testimony is that there is no way she could do it all if she didn’t spend one to two hours in the Word every morning. That means the lights go out in our house early. Our time with God is always in the dark; 4 or 5 am usually, our morning watch. I have gladly surrendered late night tv and ‘me time’ for us starting our day with ‘Him time.’

    I probably should also mention she’s a bestselling author and writes 2-4 books a year all the while being a homeschooling mom and wife. I would encourage checking out her book “The Fruitful Wife” published by Crossway. Reading some of the comments here, it sounds like she’s not alone in her time of firstfruits fueling and framing the rest of her day.

    Grace and peace to all reading this; your time in the Word and prayer does not justify you, but do consider giving God, in faith, your firstfruits of every day and see if He doesn’t transform your life in turn through the fruit of the Spirit from your abiding in Christ.

    Michael (and Hayley) DiMarco

  16. Good word, we have two girls 2 and 3 and twin boys @ 2 months. Mommy has zero extra time.

  17. Thanks Andy for the post. My wife was encouraged by it as we just found out tonight that we are having our 3rd child in addition to our 3 year old and a 1 year old.

    In the comments it seems that we are all a bit different and probably come from different backgrounds.

    Prior to our conversions my wife and I were raised in non-Christian homes and may be a step behind the curve but we are thankful that God chose to save us and are comforted that he ordained our exact times and circumstances.

    Whether my wife can read a book a day, a book a year, or write books while raising our children is secondary in my eyes compared to her faithfulness to Christ. I believe God honors and is honored by faithfulness without so much regard to the specifics of one’s faithfulness. There may be some mothers who barely eek out time for daily reading and prayer (and desire more) but are faithful to serve their children, husbands, and God’s people in practical and necessary matters.

    This is comforting in that I realize that as my wife and I grow in Christlikeness together through God’s means of grace we can always rest in the assurance that God’s love for us is not based on our obedience founded on a pristine theology he but knows our weakness and our heart’s desire to honor and obey him in truth and of course demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

    I wish I was as productive and well-read as Andy (save the Harry Potter series ;) but it does not mean that God loves me any less if I am not; nor does it mean that I love God any less. Likewise, I applaud mothers, who in their desire to be faithful to Christ spend much time with him in the word and prayer as they care for their households. I also applaud mothers, who in their desire to be faithful to Christ fight for time and soundness of mind to read the word and pray (and maybe fail at times) as they care for their households (and maybe fail at times). And I am not always an understanding husband to my shame. But above all, let us remember that we are what we are by the grace of God and be encouraged by that.

    This would be a good Mother’s Day post. I am grateful to all mother’s in the household of God who love and serve Christ, his people, their husbands, and of course their children. Keep writing books, keep reading books, and keep caring for those little one’s so their Dad’s can come home and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Thank you, sisters!

  18. Thanks for the friendly push-back on the quotation I share in this post. I respond in this follow-up post.

  19. Missionary mum in Uganda to 2 boys (1 and 3). Friends recommended listening to God’s word sung: http://www.seedsmusicstore.com/.whilst doing daily chores or on journeys. Absolutely LOVING it, helping me memorise scripture and teach/sing it to my children, too.

  20. Lindsay Williams March 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Andy, thank you for posting this. My heart felt lighter just reading that men of Lloyd-Jones’s and Carson’s stations would think so highly of the work of motherhood.

    I had four babies in as many years, the first born during grad school, so this post describes the early years of our family quite aptly. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without being followed in, and then I was nearly always hastened out by the cries of someone in need. It was round-the-clock servitude. We went straight into homeschooling, too, so there is precious little time that I do not have children directly dependent on me.
    I think that the point of this post has been misinterpreted by some. I don’t read anywhere that the author thinks that moms get a pass on their spiritual life. Those years that I couldn’t devote as much time as I wanted to Bible study were years of serious growth for me as a believer.
    One frustrating day I realized something very humbling: just as my kids followed me incessantly, barged in on my quiet times, hung (literally) on my clothes, asked for food and drink…so did the people of Israel and Canaan to Jesus (seriously…exact same stuff). Instead of pitying myself, I saw this as a stream of near-constant opportunities to draw understanding and strength from the Lord, for, just as it tells us in Hebrews 4, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
    Do you see it?! The life of the young mother is a season of great dependence on God for her fortitude. Where I fail in my spirit and flesh, Christ excels…and offers me mercy and growth. This “rubber meets the road” sanctification is the place where Bible study becomes flesh and blood love. It is in no way less important than uninterrupted Bible study to the fullness of Christian life.
    I interpreted you post as encouragement. I thank you for it…now, off to homeschool!

  21. Thanks for posting this. :) I’m a mom of 3 rambunctious littles with twins on the way. That puts our count at 5 under 6. :) It’s very consuming on so many levels, emotionally, energy, time. And carrying the “guilt” of not spending quality Bible Study time each day is another drain on young moms. I’m sure the original intent of both the quote and the post was not to give moms an excuse to neglect Bible in their lives, but rather an understanding that at that stage of life there are other priorities that are going to trump intense Bible study. Because it’s certain as a mom of little people you do things in little segments throughout the day with MANY interruptions. It’s nice for once, rather than being looked down upon as less spiritual or as “failing” in our walk with Christ, for someone to understand it’s just not the time. Thanks! I was super encouraged by this post!

  22. Thank you for sharing. It’s always a great and fun intellectual adventure to read your blog. It gives great information. As a parent of a young toddler, that post here was specially really great to read! Thanks!

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