Our guest contributor today is Esther Engelsma (née Beeke) who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband and two children. She is the author of How Can I Feel Productive as a Mom? and serves her church as an administrative assistant. Learn more at estherengelsma.com.
Contentment in the type and amount of work you accomplish in motherhood, or in any other role, is not a magical trait that God sprinkles over you. It is something that must be learned (Phil. 4:11) and fought for daily. One of Satan’s strategies since the day he tempted Eve in the garden is to sow discontent in our hearts. But we do not have to fall for his lies. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can combat him and glorify God by fighting for contentment in the work God has called us to. Here are some practical examples of how to do that:
1. Believe what God says about Himself. He says He is good (Pss. 119:68; 145:9). He says that if you love Him and are called according to His purpose, everything in your life works together for good (Rom. 8:28). Do you believe this? If you do, then you must also believe that any command He gives is for your good. Among many other commands, He tells you to work heartily (Col. 3:23). He would not tell you this if the work in front of you was not good for you. Even if it feels small or boring at times, you can grow in contentment by repeating these truths to yourself again and again.
2. Work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23). Doing your work with energy makes it go by faster and helps you feel energized by it rather than depleted. The exhaustion that comes at the end of a day of hard work is a far better feeling than the tiredness at the end of a lazy day of short tasks sandwiched between long breaks on social media. It is laziness that breeds discontent, not work. And while work does not guarantee contentment, you will never be content if you don’t do the work the Lord has put in front of you. It is in obedience that you find peace.
3. Remember your reward. Read on in Colossians 3: Work “heartily…knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance” (vv. 23–24). God Himself gives the incentive of reward, and it’s not wrong to look forward to it. No matter what you do, knowing there is a reward waiting for you at the end is a wonderful incentive. As Paul wrote, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
4. Learn to love your work. If a task must be done, you might as well learn to love it. You can learn to love it in the same way that someone can learn to love investing five dollars instead of spending it—by focusing on the long-term results rather than on the immediate satisfaction. And isn’t that what so much of the Christian walk is about? We must learn to deny what our flesh wants in the moment, which leads to death, in order to do what God wills by the Spirit’s power, which is life (Rom. 8:13).
5. Realize that the work of motherhood and homemaking must be learned. We tend to think that motherhood a natural role and must therefore come easily, but it doesn’t. We know how to do many of the individual tasks, but putting them all together in a way that gets it all done is a challenge and takes time to figure out. But just like any other job, you don’t have to start out as an expert. You can search out people in person or online to teach you better ways of doing the work. You can improve with time. As your kids grow, so do you.
6. Get good at your work. What activities do you enjoy doing? What activities are you good at? The two lists are probably similar. A reasonable conclusion is that if you want to like an activity or task more, you need to get better at it. How can you get better at your work? By practice. How can you practice? By doing it over and over—weekly, daily, or hourly. How convenient that motherhood and homemaking put you in a position that requires you to do just that. If you put in the effort, you can’t help but get better at your work and therefore learn to enjoy it more.
7. Accept what you can accomplish in a day. Productivity is like money in that you tend to think that if you had just a little more, you would be happy. You won’t. When you get more, you’ll want more. You must be aware of how much you can and should accomplish in a day and you must work hard, but you must also train your mind to be content with what was accomplished. God has the hairs on your head numbered (Luke 12:7). Do you think He didn’t number the crumbs that fell from the high chair today? Do you think He didn’t plan the fights you had to mediate, the tears you had to wipe? Those “interruptions” did not get in the way of your “real work.” They were your real work. They were your calling. Contentment doesn’t just apply to whether you are happy with your body or your clothes. God gave you a limited and specific level of ability, time, and opportunity to get things done. You must use time and talents well, but when you have done that, you must be content with what you accomplished, because it is what God meant for you to accomplish.
8. Look for the cause of your discontent. If you struggle with discontent, try to pinpoint what is causing it. On the one hand, is it something that you can and should be working on or changing? Then work at it. Spiritual life is so intertwined with your physical life and environment that often tackling a project or goal you should have finished months ago can help in the fight for contentment. It’s not the finished goal that will make you content, but it is God’s will that you care for the blessings and do the work He has placed in front of you, and you cannot expect contentment outside that will. On the other hand, is your struggle with discontent over something that you cannot or should not be working on or changing? Then soak your mind in the Word of God, prayer, and good books and podcasts so that it is not being soaked in the matter of discontent. No one stays content without prayer, work, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
9. Practice gratitude. Pray thanksgiving and sing praises all day long, every time you think to do so. It will change your experience of motherhood and of life. It is what God created you for. You are included in “the people…I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise” (Isa. 43:21). It doesn’t matter how productive you may be in the world’s eyes. If you shirk the purpose for which God made you, productivity means nothing and you will never feel satisfied, no matter how much you strive for it. If, however, you strive for productivity not as a means to prop yourself up but as a tool to bring glory to God, you can be and feel productive.
Note: Content taken from How Can I Feel Productive as a Mom? p. 28–33. © 2017. Used by permission of Reformation Heritage Books.