Embracing a Joy-Filled Definition of Motherhood

Does the phrase “grumpy mom” make you bristle like a porcupine? I mean, I don’t see mommas slapping that phrase on a t-shirt and wearing it like a badge of honor. No, we’d much prefer to describe ourselves with words like joyful, spontaneous, worry-free, and ready to take on the world.

But as I talk with other moms and admit my own faults, we’re all sort of shocked by how often that souled-out-for-Jesus mommas can still feel grumpy. We’re moms who know our true source of joy and have Christ living inside of us, but we still find ourselves discouraged and hopeless.

How does this happen? And how can we experience a motherhood that we aren’t clamoring to escape? How can we enjoy the abundance that we know is possible because of Christ?

As a former journalist and a naturally melancholy personality who regularly felt grumpy, I investigated and started asking questions. Where was my “Jesus joy” and how did it get zapped by 3:30 each day? And even bigger, was I actually capable of changing?

A Renewed Definition of Motherhood

My findings? More joy than I knew was possible by way of an old favorite verse:

Romans 12:2 (ESV) says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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I’ve long loved this verse and the simple charge it gives: think differently than the world. But what did it mean for motherhood?

So many of my thoughts that led to my grumpiest moments were thoughts shaped by the world, not renewed in God’s truth. The world’s paper thin definition of motherhood gives us a picture of something we long to escape. It looks like something we can only survive by the skin of our teeth. It’s commonplace to debate whose motherhood is hardest. The person with the least sleep, most difficult child, or least helpful husband always wins.

Social media moms memes constantly remind us our floors are dirty, our house is chaotic, and our shirt is probably covered in spit up or something we’d rather not investigate further. We laugh to keep from crying because #thisismotherhood, but scripture gives us hope and help.

Because of the cross, I not only have the promise of eternity with the Lord, I have the hope of walking with him throughout my time on earth too.

As a believer, I know my citizenship is not here on earth, but I’ve spent my entire life here, so it’s easy to get confused.[1] And quite honestly, it’s easy to get comfortable. There’s a familiarity with the world that feels safe. When we remember our tendency to identify with the world, we can better understand why we experience so many grumpy mom moments.

The things stealing my joy innocently hide out behind phrases about never getting to take a shower, or pee alone, or date my husband for the next 18 years. And the cynic in me thinks, If this is all motherhood is, who wouldn’t want to escape it?

Refreshment is Available

The world’s faulty definition of motherhood sabotages our thoughts and has us running to hide out in the bathrooms. But here’s the hope I get to share with you, momma. Refreshment is available right now, and it doesn’t require a full overhaul of your motherhood or an island vacation.

It requires making our hearts sensitive to the Holy Spirit and asking for eyes to identify those common misconceptions the world has about motherhood, so we can replace it with God’s truth.  

Truth that says being a mom is more than cold coffee and sleepless nights. Truth says that our role is so much greater than merely “keeping our kids alive.” We’re meant to love the Lord with all our heart and teach our kids about their need for him and the joy of following him. This means training and disciplining, and it also looks like pouring out love and grace when they make mistakes. It looks like showing them where their true identity lies and where it does not.[2]

The world doesn’t care one lick whether we experience all God has for us in motherhood so we shouldn’t take its definition to heart.

We don’t have to strive for more to enjoy our motherhood. We just have to identify the thoughts planting seeds of bitterness in us about motherhood and let the Lord do what only he can do and renew our minds.

Romans 12:2 is in the Bible for a reason. If we were all cozied up in heaven doing life together, we wouldn’t need the reminder, but we’re living out motherhood in foreign territory with their own set of ideals. That shouldn’t discourage us, but help us lift a veil so we can more accurately see what the world tells us about motherhood and how much it differs from God’s truth. While the world tells us we should cling to our comforts and get upset if they are threatened, Scripture tells us Jesus “made himself nothing” to serve and we are called to do the same (Phil 2:7).[3] God’s word tells us that perfect peace is possible when we fix our eyes on him instead of our worries. (Isaiah 26:3)

I think when separating the truth from the lies, we’ll enjoy motherhood more than we ever thought possible. I think that spilled milk will be literally just spilled milk and not a story we jot down to save for commiserating later. That tantrum will be an opportunity to remember the steadiness of emotions the Lord gave us and not an opportunity to shoot up like a geyser right along with our toddler. That missed nap won’t be a reason to get angry at our inconvenience but an opportunity to recognize that God’s plans, not ours will prevail.[4]

Our joy won’t be at the mercy of the world’s idea of a mom’s perfect day but firmly planted in a definition of motherhood that the world, this temporary place, can’t comprehend. A definition that is built on the unchanging word of God that doesn’t stop being true when it comes to motherhood. Every mom needs an escape—not from motherhood, but the world’s definition of it. And when we do, our motherhood will be marked by words like joy, spontaneity, worry-free, and ready to take on the world.

  1. Phil. 3:20

  2. Deut. 6:5-9, Ps. 78:1-7

  3. Phil. 2:7

  4. Prov. 19:21


Valerie is author of Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday and Fresh Start for Moms and owner of Val Marie Paper. She is passionate about helping women live in the awareness of the Lord, even in a noisy world. She and her husband Tyler live in Lafayette, Louisiana with their two daughters Vivi and Vana.