On many occasions people tell me that the reason they only have one or two kids is because they’re just not a natural or good at parenting. When they find out that I have four children or (for example) that I make clothes for my children, the comment I typically get is, “I can’t do what you do. I’m just not good with kids.” It seems that there’s a perception that some have a natural talent for mothering. I’ve wondered about this idea for some time. Is there a natural talent at being a good parent? Is there not also some personal effort involved in addition to whatever “natural talent” exists? These are just some of the questions that have run through my mind.
We often hear that so-and-so is good with kids or that this person is a natural with children because he knows how children think and play. I do believe some people are just good with kids and they really know how to make kids laugh and giggle. We often see kids flock to such people. So, yes, there seems to be a natural ability. I know people like that. They are magnets to children and they revel in that. As for me, I don’t think I belong in this category.
But, assuming there is such a thing as a “gifting” or natural inclination toward those traits that children flock to, how necessary is such a gift toward faithful parenting? As a comparison, no one would deny that Wolfgang Mozart was a gifted music composer, writing all of his over 600 compositions before his untimely death at age 35. And Yo-Yo Ma is an amazingly talented cellist, able to perform a diverse spectrum pieces with great skill and beauty. But does their special degree of talent mean that none of us “normal folks” should ever attempt to be a musician? I think the answer is clear: invoking the “I’m no Mozart” defense holds no weight with piano teachers, and invoking the “I’m not good with kids” defense should have little weight in determining how (or whether) we parent.
I do not possess a natural ability in parenting or being a mom. What then? I work at it, and I work hard. Both my husband and I are readers and when we want to know something, we read and read. We also interact with families where we get hands-on experience with children. When we were first married, we knew our priorities and after orienting ourselves accordingly, we worked at achieving and maintaining those priorities. One of the priorities was having me stay home with our children and living solely on my husband’s income. Two months prior to my son’s birth, I quit a job that I loved. I didn’t regret it nor lament it because the decision to stay home with my baby had already been decided. I considered the privilege of raising my own children a priority and a high calling from God. Thus, in many ways, by hard work and commitment and a love for my children, I’ve come to a place in life where observers often comment — sometimes after reading this blog — what a “natural” I am at being a mother! The truth is, you could say, I became a “natural.”
With this God-given role and the daunting task of shaping my children’s souls, I take my responsibility seriously. I spend a lot of time studying and researching about children and how I can be an effective and godly mother to my own. I spend a lot of time interacting with my children and teaching them. Recently I was asked how I’m so knowledgeable about children, homemaking, and homeschooling. The answer was simple: I work at it!
For those who think that they don’t have a natural ability in parenting, the honest truth is, few of us are “Mozarts” in this calling. But God has promised to supply, through His Word and His people, the means to become an excellent parent. If you are a parent, God has placed you in this specific role. Look to Him to provide, and apply yourself to the best of your ability. What the missionary pioneer William Carey famously said applies to parenting as much as anything else in life:
Expect great things from God;
Attempt great things for God.