Dr. Swenson, in his book Margin, suggests that Christians need to have enough margin in their life so that when God asks them to do something, they are available to do it. He calls this the ministry of availability.
I’d like to suggest a slightly different perspective on that. I believe that motherhood is the ministry of availability. Our fast-paced world desperately needs people who recognize that life doesn’t fit into nice little compartments of time such as: this is when I’ll work, this is when I won’t work, this is when I’ll take care of myself, this is when I’ll play with my kids, this is when I’ll spend time with my husband, this is when I’ll talk with my kids…I think you get the picture. Life doesn’t work that way, and if we expect it to, we will find ourselves not only sorely disappointed but racked with guilt as well.
When Kolya jumped in the car after school and immediately asked, “Mom, who is my real mom? You know, the lady whose tummy I was in?” being available was of the utmost importance. His class had been discussing family trees in school that day, and his mind was swimming with questions that exploded out of him as soon as he left school. I needed to be available to answer those questions then — while they were fresh on his mind.
When my sister, who was pregnant with twins, ended up on full bed rest for more than three months, I had to be available: available to do her laundry, available to clean her house, available to take her older boys occasionally. But I couldn’t do it all — her moms group stepped up to be available as well. Marilee spent one morning a week at her house asking, “What do you need done today, Juli?” Lianne organized women from the church to come and help do housework Juli simply couldn’t do. Women from all over brought meals for months to help keep Juli in bed and keep those babies from being born too early. There was a whole band of women who stepped up because they believed in the ministry of availability.
Lotte Bailyn brought some perspective to this availability concept when she said, “Instant availability without continuous presence is probably the best role a mother can play.” There is a balance between being there for your children and smothering them with your presence. Children need Mom to be available but not hovering over their lives in such a way that it robs them of independence and their ability to eventually fly from the nest.
Availability also doesn’t mean that Mom is so focused on the needs of her family that she cannot take care of her own physical and emotional needs. Mom may be the site manager, but even a site manager has to step away from the job occasionally and take some time off. Who takes care of Mom? Mom has to learn the art of self-care.