More Than a Balancing Act: The Holy Work of Mothering

Leah Zantingh   -  

Years ago, I read a book called For The Love, by Jen Hatmaker. In it, Jen addressed the phrase “balancing it all” in the context of motherhood. She used the simple analogy of a gymnastics balance beam to help readers grasp her message, which was that we might need to fight for grace in a world of impossible standards.

The balance beam illustration was to help her audience find what should be “on the beam” or “off the beam”. Jen concluded that we cannot balance an overloaded beam, and that we might discover the kingdom of God never required a balancing act at all.

Because the truth is: we cannot balance it all!

Burnout, unhealthy comparisons, anger, discouragement, depression and more will all follow this striving to perform. As a mother (especially of littles), your world has completely changed; the focus of your life and the season you are in is nothing you have ever experienced before.

I used to be the ultimate “yes” girl. Ask me to take on any task, to create, to lead or organize, and my answer was almost always “yes”. Unless there was a conflict in schedules, I would pride myself on being able to accomplish whatever was needed of me. I had the capacity at the time to complete a long list of to-do’s, and I enjoyed being able to give my time generously because I had an abundance of it.

Fast-forward to today: I am a stay-at-home mom with three children under six and another one on the way in May. I lead worship on Sundays once a month at our church, I work for a local pregnancy crisis centre as their communications manager, and I have an art business, specializing in portraiture. I do most of these things from home while I care for my children (who are not in school).

This list just includes the big things with titles or paycheques. I have lost track of the number of times other moms have asked me, “How do you do it all?!” It is at these moments I wish I could freeze time, sit them down in my living room for tea and explain how misleading and inaccurate that assumption is!

I still say yes to a lot, but unlike before I had children, it is now strikingly obvious where my new limits are. If I take on too much, or give too much time to something less important than my family, it is immediately noticeable; I will feel stretched and drained, and likely end up with a very short fuse. The evidence will also be visible in my children’s behaviour. They will act out in an attempt to win my attention. My kids and my husband will suffer the disconnect when all I can offer to them is the remnants from a well that has run dry.

The influencer moms you see on social media, the friends or acquaintances you see ‘killing it’ while fashionably carting around their children to the grocery store–that is not the full picture. The assumption we often make about how easy it looks is likely the furthest thing from the truth.

Those parents who you are tempted to compare yourself with are just like you, making sacrifices and adjustments to what they can handle in every changing season of parenting.

What we used to be able to do might not work right now. It’s just a different season with different capacities and needs to fulfill.

Deep breath.

Momma, you are doing holy work!

The fact that you care is enough proof that you are likely doing all you can for the little humans you’re raising. God has given us our children to steward and direct. Our job can seem tedious, repetitive, and sometimes insignificant, but the truth is that as parents we have the enormous task of shaping the next generation.

Wow. Let that sink in.

What do we want the next generation to look like, sound like and be like?

Hopefully, our answer is Christ. I want my children to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, able to stand firm on a foundation I helped to lay for the first 18 years of their life. To accomplish this feat I’m going to guess it will require patience, repetition, training, forgiveness, cleaning up our messes, strong and constant connection and dependence on the Holy Spirit!

No wonder we feel completely consumed by parenting! Yet, I have no doubt that all our sacrifice, selflessness, and heartache will be worth it. It is worth it to pour everything we have to give into the next generation, in hopes that they will bring heaven to earth.

Psalm 127, verses 1 to 5, says this:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.

In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.

(The Message Translation: Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?)

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.

Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  

(The Message Translation: Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children!)

They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

So how do we live this life well? How do we, as parents, contend in our King’s court, as the psalmist says?  I propose throwing out the idea of “balancing it all”, and instead focus on balancing only what matters most.

What is most worthy of my time, gifts, attention and sacrifice? Take some time now to think about it and even go so far as putting these things on paper.

Parents, make a list together and also separately.

Pray about these lists.

One piece of advice to help with this: don’t get caught up in trying to find your purpose. It is not complicated. Many Christians have wasted too much time sitting around waiting to hear God say precisely what their purpose is. Instead of being His hands and feet wherever we go, we go nowhere. If you are a parent–boom!–that is a big purpose right there.

Next, look at your skills and gifts. Give, give, give. Plant the seeds you have been given, and share your strengths in your places of influence. To borrow Jen Hatmaker’s illustration, put these things “on the beam”. Lastly, consider the things you may need to “take off the beam”. What are you doing, or involved with that is not bearing fruit? Maybe there are some things that you have taken on in the wrong season that you need to bow out of temporarily or permanently.

Friend, I want you to hear encouragement and hope in this message. You are not alone, and you do not have to balance it all. All that is required of you is to steward well what God has given you!

Slow down, worship, give thanks and let your yes be a yes and your no be a no. You can do this confidently when you have a clearer vision of what is important for you and your family in the season you are in.

I wrote a song at the end of 2021 called Fix My Eyes. I had read through Ecclesiastes and what I took from those passages was this: nothing matters…unless we have our eyes fixed on the Lord and His commands. My song is also influenced by Psalm 128, which says that the fruits of the labour of those who fear and obey the Lord will be blessing, even to the next generation.

I hope you will be encouraged by these words.


Fix My Eyes

Verse 1

There’s all these good and beautiful things

But what do I have, if you’re not my everything?

All the wisdom under the sun

Is gone like wind next to your words, Good and Faithful one

All the wonder left to explore

Won’t mesmerize these eyes like seeing new sides of your face



Fix my eyes on the one who holds the prize

My true North, my resource

I’ve heard your love song beckoning your bride to give you everything

Lord, my response:  here’s all my plans

I’m free


Verse 2

There’s all these good and beautiful things

But what do I have, if you’re not my everything?

All the treasure hard work brings

Won’t earn me a seat next to the King of Kings

All the limbs on my family tree

Need a legacy that points toward Eternity!

So I’ll…



All we build 

And all we say

May it glorify your name


Listen to this song live at this link: Legacy Life Centre Burk’s Falls Sunday Service Nov 13 2022 (the link will take you directly to the timestamp at the beginning of the song)