My daughters Lindsey and Jessica have several hamsters (it’s a little hard to keep track of exactly how many, because two of the hamsters are breeding females and, well, they breed. Regularly). I could go into all the reasons why I think caring for hamsters benefits my girls, but the reason that’s relevant for today’s devotional is this: Caring for mother hamsters seems to teach my girls an awful lot about motherhood in general, especially as applied to humans.
In other words, sometimes the girls don’t really consider the whole parenting thing from my perspective, but it seems like they automatically consider it from the mother hamsters’ perspective.
To prove my point, I’d like to share with you a conversation Lindsey and I had the other day.
Lindsey: “Mom, the mother hamster is desperately trying to run away from her children.”
Me: “Yeah, I can understand that.”
Lindsey: “She’s climbing up onto the roof, and everything.”
Me: (shrugs knowingly)
Lindsey: “I think her children are nuts.”
Me: (keeps my mouth shut)
God bless Iris (the mother hamster). That little critter taught my daughter more about mothering in a few seconds than I could have in a thousand lectures. I’d like to share with you three lessons Iris taught Lindsey:
- Sometimes, moms just need to get away. They may head to the roof of a wire cage, or they may lock themselves inside the bathroom for awhile even when they don’t need to use the facilities. Because sometimes, moms get desperate. They. Just. Need. A. Break.
And this is okay. Nobody would expect a mother hamster to feel guilty for needing a break from her children. Why do we allow ourselves to feel guilty for wanting to get away from our children for a little while? I mean, where did we get the idea that we’re never supposed to need a break? That if we do, it means we’re not competent enough, or spiritual enough, or “supermom” enough?
Even Jesus, when He walked this earth, took time away from His disciples to be on his own. (It’s not like He ever got away with it for very long, though; people always came to find Him. Sound familiar?) If even the very Son of God needed a break because He was human too, then why should we expect ourselves to be able to keep going indefinitely without one?
- Sometimes, moms need to get away because of their children. Somehow, it’s much easier, emotionally speaking, for Lindsey to understand that a hamster’s children drive her crazy than it is for her to understand that she and her siblings sometimes drive me crazy. Lindsey can look into Iris’ little world and see that, yes, sometimes kids drive their mom crazy, and it doesn’t mean that the kids are bad or that the mom is bad. It’s just the way life is.
In this way, Lindsey can understand that when I need a break from my kids, it’s not because I think they’re bad children (though their behavior may sometimes be bad). It doesn’t mean I don’t love them. And it doesn’t mean that I won’t come back and take care of them. Which brings me to #3….
- Mom always comes back. In other words, even though Iris leaves her babies sometimes, she always comes back and resumes taking care of them. She’s not trying to get away from them forever, just temporarily. Then, when she comes back, she’s the same loving, caretaking mom she’s always been.
Likewise, when you and I leave our children, they can be sure that we’ll come back, with no disruption in our relationship with them. We’ll pick up where we left off. It’ll be like we never left—except that now, we’ll be more rested. More patient. More willing and ready to do the things that motherhood requires of us.
The more I think about it, the more I appreciate Iris. I don’t know that I’ve ever considered a hamster to be a good example in terms of mothering before, but I do now. And I’m grateful to her for teaching my girls that it’s okay for moms to need a break.
The next time I need one, I’m going to take one—without feeling guilty. I hope you will follow Iris’ example and do the same. If you do, and you want a mommy friend to spend your break time with, you’re welcome to spend it with me. You know where to find me.
Just look up on the roof.
Matthew 14:23—After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone. (NIV)