Lesson From a Mama Pig

I took my littles to a farm today.

It’s a rite of passage in suburbia, driving 20 miles or so to pay an admission fee, ride the cow train and the wagons, play in the corn and hay, maybe pick a pumpkin. We had a wonderful time, during which my almost-4 and almost-3 year-old princesses used the ‘outhouse’ for the first time in their lives (They were fascinated. I’m sure they’ll get over it). We also had the lovely, cloudy-Monday-afternoon privilege of enjoying the petting zoo all by ourselves.

M and K flitted happily from the goats to the sheep, from the ducks to the…llamas? I never know what those things are. But it wasn’t until we were preparing to leave that we saw the pigs.

They were fighting to drink from their mother’s milk. M and K were staring. And I, too, stood in amazement as I watched a beautiful natural act and allowed my heavenly Father, in that moment, to speak directly to my mother’s heart.

Motherhood is far from glamorous
I realize that even in my faded jeans, dusty sneakers, and 20ish extra pounds that I am slightly more elegant than a pig. However, Mama Pig was lying out there for the world to see, large, dirty, and covered with flies. But she kept doing what she needed to do, which was to feed her children. She didn’t care that another mom was watching her, possibly with some sort of criticism in mind. She didn’t care if other kids or animals were running around, making noise, trying to get her attention. She might have wanted to go eat her own lunch, take a nap, soak in a mud bath. But she kept on steadfastly in her duty.

I find myself tempted by glamour, torn between what is healthy and what is luxury, what is necessary for me and what is unnecessary to my kids. There are many distractions for American mothers…We are supposed to look like the Desperate Housewives, be as successful as The Good Wife, be funny like Lucy, domestic like June, and patient like Mrs. Brady without the help of Alice. In an average day, I feel like I should cook and clean, run the errands, exercise and wear something cute, make the kids laugh and learn, make my husband feel loved and successful, and, you know, DO something, like write an article, have a great idea, finish a project, while I’m folding the laundry and, because I am a Christian, spending time in my prayer closet.

Whew. That’s some serious pressure. The Mama Pig? She is dealing with the most pressing need at the moment. Since she has about 10 little piglets literally biting and pushing each other to get to her, her priorities are pretty clear.

But so are mine:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37)

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

~ and the whole of Proverbs 31:10-31, of course…

If I look to magazine covers, talk shows, or even the mom in the next pew for what I should be doing and how I should look doing it, I will get lost in standards I can never reach. I will lose the focus on what is screaming for attention right in front of me. God laid out the perfect plan for mothers by making children so helpless and needy… they require help, they need us!

Mom knows stuff that kids don’t.
I was both surprised and amused when, just a few minutes after her piglets got settled in for their meal, Mama Pig turned over and was done feeding them in that moment. Just done. Even the two that never got to squeeze in were not given a turn.

At first I was taken aback and a little concerned for those piggies, but when I got home and shared my observations with my decidedly more rural husband, he told me a story about the time someone in his family tried to interfere with some baby pigs. She took the ones not getting milk inside, bathed them, put them by the stove to keep them warm…and the next morning, they were dead.

Sometimes the choices we make as mothers might not make any sense to other people. Lord knows that this year, when we allowed our 17 year-old to transfer from public school to homeschool, more than a few brows were raised. When our 19-year-old decided to live with friends, some people reacted as if we should have chained him to our kitchen table. When we attend events that have our toddlers getting hugged by strangers and eating dinner out at 10pm, there is definitely a sect of people who think we are candidates for social services.  But-

Mom knows stuff. She even knows best sometimes.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on any subject except my kids. I meditate on them. I watch them in their natural habitat and take copious (albeit mental) notes.  I pray for them, discuss them, worry about them, and intervene for them. That doesn’t mean I always make the right decision for every situation, but it does mean that I know them better than other moms, friends, grandparents, and casual acquaintances. And because I love them, I will do what is best for them, even if it looks harsh or incorrect from the outside.

Mama can give her very best, and it might not ever be enough.
In all honesty, I have no idea if those pigs got their fill of milk today. Perhaps our presence there near the pen disturbed the natural order of their meal time. Maybe what I witnessed was meant to be a Goldfish-cracker-sized snack rather than a portion-from-each-of-the-food-groups-sized lunch. Regardless, I know that Mama Pig was giving them all she had to offer at the moment in time.

And those piggies were still hollering and squirming and jumping up and down for more. But she was not deterred. And my mental response was, “Well, she knows!” (see lesson #2).

And then I thought up what I give to my children. Sometimes it is my best and my all. Sometimes there is room and time and energy and patience for one more story, one more craft, playing outside after dinner, baking something all together when this-and-that needs to be done. Sometimes the 30th WHY still gets a thoughtful answer rather than an “I don’t know.”

But sometimes, even “Good Mommy” is not enough. Sometimes I flat-out fail my kids, be it intentionally (by not giving them what they want) or because that’s life. I have learned through the wisdom of other moms and from the Word God gave us that we are not meant to meet all of our children’s needs. If we did, they would not feel the necessary tug toward salvation.  Instead, one of the most important jobs we have as moms is to point our children toward their Heavenly Father, who ultimately meets all their needs!

As a side note, in the world we live in, a lot of moms, like this pig, are nourishing their children without the help of a husband. We all know women in this circumstance. I challenge you to bless a single parent family this season, be it through a meal, a gift card, some babysitting, or a prayer and encouraging word.

Remind those single moms – remind yourself – remind all the mothers in your life: We aren’t called to do anything on our own. God is with us in this incredible walk of parenthood. And thanks to Him, there is so much to remind us of His help and goodness, even when we think all we’re doing is taking our sweet kiddos to the petting zoo.