Mother’s Day may not be celebrated at your overseas post. But Peter’s Wife would like to take this opportunity to honor mothers.
Being a mother is a full-time job. Yet when we are living overseas we may have one or two other full-time jobs. Mother’s Day is a good time to remember the importance of mothering.
Our children are only with us for a few brief years. Our time of character formation and influence is very short. We want to use those years to the best advantage.
Our first two years overseas were in a very busy work in Nigeria. Our boys were eight and four. Besides homeschooling, I was campus nurse, part-time teacher in the school, wife, mother, and homemaker. I have more memories of telling our four-year-old to go find something to do, Mommy was busy, than of actually doing anything with him.
Most of the other jobs I did could have waited while I gave our boys higher priority with my time and strength. I think I spent far too much time doing urgent things and far too little time on the really important things.
When African students came to ask a question, I would drop whatever I was doing to answer. The irony of it is, they didn’t expect me to answer them immediately. They never minded spending time in our home until I could attend to them. They planned to wait, since they were the students and I was the teacher. But my American background put more importance on their time. This caused me to rush around and drop more important things so as not to keep them waiting.
Those two years fled by and when we moved to Asia, our youngest was already six years old. He started first grade and was in school all day. We made it through those first two years overseas. But looking back I wish I had taken more time to be mom.
Life changed radically when we moved to Asia. I no longer had to homeschool, which for us was a great blessing! When the boys were home, I was able to give them my full attention. I enjoyed being mom.
Sometimes I worried about whether I was carrying my share of the load because I didn’t have outside responsibilities. But now, I am so thankful for that time to concentrate on being mom to our boys. Moms, you won’t be sorry you made the decision to be mother first and whatever else second.
It takes more time to just do the ordinary housework when living in another culture. Don’t hesitate to get help, if it is available. Again, this will free you to do what is more important.
Make your home a haven for your family, a place they will all want to come back to. They are coping with so many new things every day. Cooking something familiar sends aromas into the air that will draw big smiles from your husband as well as your children. The dinner table is a wonderful opportunity to see life through your children’s eyes. It is also a time to impart your view of life to your children.
Homework time may be stressful, but making a special time and place to do homework and being available during that time underscores the importance you place on learning. We want our children to be lifelong learners. Letting them see us read and study sets an example that will last a lifetime. Why not use homework time to do some of your own paperwork?
I used to think quality time was all that was necessary to raise good children. But I now think if we don’t give them quantity time, we will miss so many opportunities to imprint their lives. The times we stop what we are doing to soothe a bruised knee, or pray with our children for the things they want and need, or sing a lullaby while they cuddle in our lap, or stay up late to listen to a teenager’s troubles–these can change the course of their lives.
Listen when your children want to talk. Listening to a long story with no apparent point can tax the patience of the calmest mom. But if you don’t listen to them when they want to talk to you, they won’t listen to you when you want to talk to them. Listening when they are young earns you the privilege to be heard when they are older.
When my sons were teenagers and young adults they most often wanted to talk late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I thought once my children started sleeping through the night, I would only miss sleep when they were ill. It didn’t turn out that way for me. My teenagers were most open after my bed time. I am so thankful I sacrificed sleep at those times to spend time with my sons.
Our youngest son, when he was 24, talked about our relationship in a phone call. We told him that some people intimate we call him too frequently when we are away. His response warmed my heart. He said, “Why, we are friends! Friends call each other often.”
We don’t agree about everything. But we can and do talk like adults and friends. We have a love that was developed through years of working out problems and living through experiences together. I certainly didn’t always do it right! I made lots of mistakes and had to ask forgiveness of my sons too. But the love and respect we have for one another is the reward for years of mothering.
Be encouraged by what Moses told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I wouldn’t trade the experience of mothering for anything this world has to offer. I hope you feel the same way. In some ways, being mother outside my home culture has been especially enriching. I have seen how God has been my help and provision in ways I probably wouldn’t have experienced at home.
I hope you get to hear your children say that when they get married they want a home just like yours. But even if you don’t, you will one day hear the Lord say, “Well done!” if you are faithful as a mom.