One of my favorite quotes about moms explains the reason for your it’s-so-hard-to-leave-them fear, worry, and anxiety. Author Jean Fleming wrote, “Every child is a piece of a mother’s heart walking around outside her body.”*
Babies and little ones so recently severed from your body are especially hard to leave. Their existence literally depends on you, dear mom. Every time I left my children at that age I felt an almost physical pain of angst. When they get older the emotion changed to more worry about their well-being; will dad or the sitter feed them well, keep their bedtimes, and pay attention to their needs like I do. All of us moms struggle with relinquishing our born out of love responsibility to someone else. Even to our husbands, our children’s father!
Feeling these emotions proves you own the sacred authority God has given you. The Creator designed women with an innate nurturing instinct that compels us to care for our children, to see that their lives flourish and grow and become all God intended them to be as adults. So know that your emotions reflect this God created instinct. It is good and healthy; a sign you’re doing what God made you to do.
But raising your children must be balanced with releasing your children—a teeny tiny bit at a time. From the moment your child is born into this world, you start releasing him. The umbilical cord is severed and he’s free from you. He is officially, physically his own person. This is the first release of your child out into the big, bright world.
A couple of months later, when you drop him off at the church nursery for that first hour away from you, you release him a little more. It’s terrible at first. I was nervous leaving each of our children in nursery for the first time and never heard a word of that sermon for thinking about them the entire hour. Of course I arrived with all the other young moms and dads to discover that my baby did in fact survive our hour apart. And so did I!
What surprised me in these baby steps of releasing was how hard it was to trust my little one with my husband. His own father for goodness’ sake!
When mom breastfeeds her new baby, Dad seems mostly out of the picture as a caretaker. So some days or months after birth when loving Dad tries to assume some role or responsibility, even to complete some task on the child’s part, it can be quite difficult to let go and let someone else be involved.
And what about when your wonderful husband, who is your precious child’s adoring father, rightly encourages you to enjoy dinner out with some friends. He’ll watch the babe for a few hours. It’ll be perfectly fine, he assures you. You deserve a break, he consoles. And really, you do is the thing.
What do you do then? You go! You thank your husband for being a kind and caring spouse and father. You walk out the door to meet your friends for dinner. Or even more—you go to the weekend women’s retreat! Of course, your husband won’t take care of your child the way you would. But it’s okay.
The best thing you can do is trust your child’s father. He won’t remember the exact details you lined out. And that really doesn’t matter. It’s important to remember that your husband loves your child as much as you do. He wants the best for your child too. He might give the bottle differently, or offer donuts for dinner to your toddler, but it doesn’t mean your child is any less cared for, loved, or protected in your absence. There’s more than one way to care for a child. And it’s perfectly right and good that Dad expresses it in a different way. Even as a baby, your child needs the unique care given by a mom and a dad. And he might grow in his appreciation for all you do every day. Even if he doesn’t say it out loud most dads will be thinking, wow this baby is a lot of work!
Your husband might see how refreshing that time out of the house was for you and he just might suggest that you get out of the house together. Overnight. For 24 hours that seem quite short to him and fearfully long to you as a new mother who is wondering who could possibly care adequately for your child in the wee midnight hours. Instead of expressing all of this concern to your husband immediately, choose to be thankful for his leadership. Be thankful for his concern and care of your marriage. It’s a great thing that he would think about you and want your undivided attention for a few hours. Respect your husband. Even if you’re anxious, resist the temptation to say, “Who will we get? I don’t think I can… “ In the end, come around and tell him, “Thank you for caring about us and wanting to be with me.”
When Samuel was 6 months old, and our oldest Ashley was 4, Dennis asked me to accompany him on a business trip to South Africa. I was stunned and very uninterested. Did he really want me to travel with him across the ocean to another continent and leave our three very young children behind? I thought he was crazy. I didn’t know how I could do it. I was still nursing Samuel when Dennis first asked.
But I listened to Dennis’ reasons for wanting me with him. I thought about how I could never make it work. And then I knew that I wanted to communicate to Dennis that I cared for him more than I cared for our children. I prayed, Lord what do you want me to do?
God gently reminded me that under my best motherly watchful eye or in my long distance absence half the world away, the person who was really sustaining my kids’ wellbeing was Him. Even though I knew the best way to cut up their dinners, rock them to sleep, change their diapers, or snuggle them, every day God is the one who is loving them more and better than I was.
I had to trust that the only answer for how was Who. I had to trust my sovereign God with my children knowing He has numbered my days and my kids’ days. It’s another way we get to act out that ongoing tension that we have as believers. We have to trust that God is in control; at the same time, we have to act fully in our responsibilities that He’s given us.
So, I asked my mom to keep our children. I wrote out four or five pages of instructions and planned for every conceivable possibility. Then, I trusted that God—and my very capable loving mother—would know what to do and boarded a plan to South Africa for a 10-day trip with my husband. Dennis and I made great memories as we did ministry together and we returned home to find our children happy and healthy with memories of their own with their grandparents.
There are many other release points on to the way to adulthood; first day of kindergarten, first time to ride with another parent in carpool, first field trip with other adults and drivers, first spend the night away from home with a grandparent or a friend. Then there are big releases ahead like driving a car, going to a concert with a group of friends and eventually graduation. Every one of these generates feelings of fear in the heart of a mom. And God is not oblivious for He sent His only Son to our planet knowing He would be killed. Yes God knew He would return to His heaven’s home, but did that mean there was no pain or loss for God?
I think He knows how you feel and He can be trusted with the children He has given you!
Bottom line is that whether they’re in your capable motherly hands or a satisfactory backup for a predetermined length of time, every moment of your child’s life you must choose to fully trust that God is in control. God loves your child more than you do. He has his or her best interest at heart. God is big enough that no matter what happens in your presence or in your absence, He will work the grand scheme of things for the good of you and your children to the glory of His kingdom (Romans 8:28).
* A Mother’s Heart, by Jean Fleming