Motherhood: Living a Piecemeal Life


To be a mother is to live a piecemeal — bits and pieces — life. Rarely is any job done in one sitting, as the saying goes, or even done once and for all. Rather a job is usually accomplished in stops and starts.

A Disrupted Routine

What did you do today? These words strike fear in the hearts of mothers everywhere because often there seems to be no answer. Not a logical, measurable answer. How do we quantify days spent mostly in interruptions and half-done projects?

Mothers of little ones are continually picking up babies or comforting toddlers who trail them from room to room. Of course, no shortage of disruption exists in homes with older children. Moms of teens are in a cycle as well — one that includes shuttling to lessons, sports, and church events as well as taking advantage of an unexpected moment (or hour) talking to a son or daughter. Unlike crying babies, a troubled teen may not give ongoing cues — often moms either grab the chance to dialogue or lose it. 

For a mother, every stage of parenting is packed with situations where her maternal instinct calls her to drop what she is doing and care for her children. And the time spent doing so may be difficult to put on a graph or list on a chart. 

Jesus The Interrupted

Gloria Gaither has said that God is often “in the interruptions of life.” Jesus was continually interrupted during his earthly life and ministry. Recall the woman with the hemorrhage who touched him in the crowd or Jairus pleading for the healing of his daughter. Picture the adulterous woman thrown down in front of Christ or the four friends who lowered the paralyzed man through the roof. Blind men, lepers, and sick people approached him wherever He went. Crowds of people wanted to hear him teach or perform a miracle. This was an exhausting way to live. 

Remarkably these are the moments that portray grace, compassion, and mercy, the very acts which reveal his great love, justice, and wisdom. His responses to these interruptions remind us he was not too busy to notice that his attention and intervention was needed. He was able to turn from the task at hand and nurture the person who called.

There is no greater plan than the plan of redemption, the sacrificial mission Jesus came to earth to accomplish, yet His days were filled with as many seemingly “random” moments as scheduled ones. The wonder of it all is that each was divinely ordained.

What happens in piecemeal moments has lasting significance.

Take courage, moms. The great Heart that imagined the little loves whose needs fill your life has sanctioned your interrupted moments. He blesses them. He smiles on you. 

The Lie of Linear Living

I am apt to be frustrated when I cannot carry out a project to completion. I like to wrap myself in a task, letting my creativity and productivity run wild until the thing is done. But God rarely allows that to happen.

Perhaps God doesn’t want me to indulge my routines without restraint; he knows that in doing so I could become desensitized to the nuances of life. He allows me to be interrupted. He regularly sends me reminders of the important layers of life, maybe through a phone call from my daughter dealing with an unexpected development in college or through an awareness that my son needs unusual guidance in an upcoming decision. He disturbs my peace so that I will seek His, for myself and for those he has given me.  

Satan wants me to believe that the only way I can conquer life is to dive into a task and finish it many uninterrupted hours later. The Father asks me to believe that I can complete His will in a cycle of divinely-allowed interruptions. His Son did. By his help, I can too. 

Emily Judson, third wife of the twice-widowed missionary to Burma, Adoniram Judson, wrote of caring for “teething babies and teaching natives to darn stockings” as part of her daily routines. She counseled that “she who would have the assistance of the Almighty in important acts, must be daily and hourly accustomed to consult His will in the minor affairs of life.”

Elisabeth Elliot, a missionary who was often eloquent about acknowledging God’s sovereignty over our schedules, advised her readers that “we can learn to see . . . everything that interrupts ‘our’ work as His work which must take precedence.”

Ordained for Interruption

The gifts and calling of each gender are wonderful and divinely-assigned. Women have a maternal nurturing instinct that inclines them toward the needs of children in the home with all the associated interruptions. In fact, male and female brains respond differently to the crying of a hungry infant.

This is not to say that interruption in daily routine is unique to mothers. Fathers are interrupted as well. I am sure that many of them can point to times when they stopped their work to teach a mechanical concept to a young son or to fix a flat tire for a young daughter. Parenting is the process of life being interrupted.

Moms are called to cherish the very environment where they are interrupted the most.

But what is peculiar to moms is that we are called by our Creator to cherish the very environment where we are interrupted the most. God’s Word calls young women to invest the premium of their lives in their homes. In Titus 2:5, Paul includes this specific phrase in the list of instructions: they are to be “busy at home,” (NIV) “good managers of the household,” (NRSV), “working at home” (ESV). This is repeated in the Apostle’s advice to Timothy as counsel to young widows who should remarry (1 Timothy 5:14). 

Women are thus gifted a life of interruption; moms especially may see it as an opportunity to imitate the nurturing heart of the One who invites us to come into his presence at any time with any need.

Someday we will see the results of this piecemeal life, and it will dazzle us. Every stop and start, every surrender of personal desire, every refocus motherhood demands is seen by him. These interrupted lives will yet bring glory; joy will shine through every gap in ways we’d never imagined.

Interruptions are not the exceptions to mothering; they are the essence of it. This is what we need to understand as we contemplate our daily lives and the sum of them. What happens in piecemeal moments has lasting significance. And perhaps moms will only see that from eternity’s perspective.

Valorie Quesenberry
Valorie Quesenberry is Director of Women's Content for Holy Joys as well as a pastor’s wife, mother, musician, speaker, and author of several books.