The Phrase that Enslaves Moms in Every Season

It was a hot summer morning, and I desperately needed to get out of the house. The kids were wild with boredom, and I longed for a little grown-up interaction, so I spent all morning trying to make a morning playdate while battling temper-tantrums, lost shoes, and lunch packing. I herded the kids like cats until they finally all piled into the van. When we all unloaded and descended on the playground, I felt like I’d run a marathon and someone should put a medal around my neck.

Swollen and pregnant, I waddled toward the other moms gathering under a shaded pavilion. Noticing my apparent look of weary exasperation, a mom with much older kids approached me and jokingly asked how I was doing. I rambled off a list of the morning’s mishaps, noting my weariness.

That’s when it happened—she breathed the one phrase that enslaves moms in any season: “Just wait.” The words seemed to come out in slow-motion, growling their fearful warning.

Her curt words were followed by more frankness: “You’re pregnant; it will only get harder once the baby comes. I had four. Just wait. Small kids, small problems. Big kids, big problems.” Her ominous words seemed to trail off, as I panicked in a fictional world of fears.

What We’re Hearing

Puzzled by her insensitivity, I mentally checked out for the remainder of the “fun” playdate. What was I supposed to do with her words?

Maybe she was trying to relate, to empathize with my struggles. But compassion wasn’t what I heard. Instead, I heard, ”It’s only going to get worse from here. You’d better give up now, because there’s no way you can handle what’s coming.”

At that moment, all rational sense of dependence on God’s promises slipped my mind. I spiraled into despair, wondering how I would possibly survive, let alone thrive in this parenting gig. She was probably right—my rowdy toddlers were bound to end up sociopaths or prison inmates. Though I’d come to the park looking for some sort of encouragement in the exhausting trenches of parenting, I felt more wounded and discouraged than ever.

What We’re Saying

I can’t vilify the “just wait” mom who scorned me without admitting that I have been this same mom before—popping off to young moms with the same hurtful words. Even after absorbing the impact and feeling the pain of the “just waits” more than a few times, I still regularly catch myself standing on the precipice of pride—wanting to toss my stone-like words at younger and less experienced moms.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit hasn’t let me off the hook. He convicts me of my sinful arrogance when I use this snarky phrase. What I’m really saying with the words “just wait” is this: “Just wait until you feel the struggle I feel.” Or, “I see your struggle, but compared to mine, yours is insignificant.”

Instead of listening with grace to a mom I am equipped to relate to, I selfishly draw comparisons to my own life. Then I judge whether or not I feel she is validated in feeling the way she does. If I determine my plight is worse than hers, I use the words “just wait” to lash out. In one fell swoop, I gain her sympathy and respect for my hard situation while discrediting hers.

As a mom of four, it’s hard to listen lovingly to the new moms with one baby talk about their tiredness or the difficulty of parenting. But just because I’ve made it through the fire doesn’t negate the fact that another mom is walking through it for the first time, feeling the burn of pain. Our comments as more experienced moms should reflect the grace we’ve already received from our caring Father. Grace has never been stingy (John 1:16), selective (Romans 12:3), or earned (Romans 5:15). Grace is a gift we’ve freely received, and should also freely give—preaching always the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).

What We Should Say

The overly used and commonly unkind phrase “just wait” fills hearers hearts with dread and causes them to doubt God’s goodness. It robs both new moms and even seasoned moms of rest in gospel realities. Christ himself is our peace—he has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing by law and reconciling us both to God in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:14). Shouldn’t he also be our peace in all stages of our parenting?

The gospel frees us from dispensing gloom-and-doom “just wait” advice to some moms and receiving it from others. When our words elicit this Henny Penny “sky is falling” mentality we fail one another. Instead, we should equip and encourage one another with the same gospel we’ve received (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Take heed, O mom, lest you fail to bring good news and living water to thirsty souls. Instead of enslaving one another to fear and doubt, why not encourage each other’s faith? The next time you’re tempted to write off a friend’s parenting stage or struggle, listen empathetically without relating or comparing her problems to your own. Hear her heart and pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the words of scriptural encouragement she needs. A fitting word brings grace to its hearer (Ephesians 4:49).

Take heart weary sister—”just wait” on the Lord. Wait on him and be strong; let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD (Psalm 27:14). Indeed, none who waits for the LORD will be put to shame (Psalm 25:3). Just wait. 

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7).

  • Shanna

    “Instead of listening with grace to a mom I am equipped to relate to, I selfishly draw comparisons to my own life. Then I judge whether or not I feel she is validated in feeling the way she does.”

    YES. As a woman (but not a mom) who has both received these phrases and given them, I needed this reminder.

  • Robin

    Sadly, I’ll bet she uses the same phrase with her kids too – enslaving her children to the expectations of what they’ll face as adults and perpetuating this crazy cycle we all feel we’re on being parents, having kids, kids becoming parents, and so on. the Gospel breaks through the endless wheel of commotion and gives daily life meaning and purpose. Praise God He never told us “just wait!” :)

    • Theresa

      Not necessarily. It sounds as though this mom has received the knowledge of our savior’s grace. As a mom myself, I promised myself there were some things I would never say to my daughters once they became moms. So far, so good. God give me grace for each day, though.

  • Pingback: The Phrase that Enslaves » Worship Rejoices()

  • Sarah

    Thank you so much for sharing this article! Someone close to me uses this phrase often when talking to other parents. It’s always bothered me, but this article really gets to the heart of the issue and is a great reminder for me to approach others who are “less experienced” with the grace I would’ve wanted in a similar situation.

  • Allison

    Thanks for this article. I think it is applicable even to those of us who are single, but long to be married and parents some day. I’m a 26 yr old, single woman, but I would love to be married and have kids. Sanctification doesn’t just come through marriage though (which I’m not saying to downplay the sanctification that does come through marriage and kids). I have my own problems and ways I’m being sanctified now as a single woman, so being told to “just wait” until I’m married, have kids, etc., doesn’t help. I want to live my life now, problems and all, in a way the pleases God, and encourages others. I want to be an encouragement to others who are younger than me and struggling with singleness, not someone who says “just wait” until you’re __ age and still single. That’s not helpful, but I’ve had some people like that in my life. Some of my best friends are married couples, who’s problems and ways of sanctification may look different on the outside, but often the heart issues are the same. Anyway, before I ramble too much, I just wanted to say thank you for this article.

    • Kendra Fletcher

      Allison, thanks for sharing this.

  • Lana

    Thank you! Though I saw the article in different light. I am often told “just wait till you have kids” but most don’t know that my husband and I do want children and are praying for them but the path has not been as simple for us as others. The phrase can hurt like a knife and convey that there is no real hardship until I have children. But I am also humbled because I too compare others pain and hardship to my own and have caused others the same pain.

  • Lisa

    To be honest, I don’t even understand the “just wait” comments. I married my husband when his kids were 11 & 13, and we had full custody of them. After the youngest graduated high school, I found myself pregnant with a child of my own. So, I’ve experienced this parenting thing backwards. Yes, the problems are larger with older kids, but the business and the exhaustion abates as you have people living with you that can actually unload the dishwasher or maybe even cook you dinner:) I also found it much easier to take the parenting issues to the Lord with the older kids. If a child contacts someone on the internet, or dates someone they shouldn’t, you’re going to drop on your knees and pray without hesitation. When they spill their third glass of juice, it just doesn’t seem as pray-worthy a problem. I really enjoyed my teenagers. They were and are good people. Because of them, I don’t dread my daughter’s teen years, but rather I look forward to them.

  • Kristen

    Ah, thank you so so much for that encouraging, scripture filled response to something I hear and am tempted to also say. I needed that truth so much today! I feel like I even do that to myself sometimes…just adding 10 years to my 4 yr olds sinful patterns now make me want to give up and cry. I desperately need that truth every day to keep fighting the battles now. But there is definitely weariness in this stage with being pregnant and also having a 21 mo old and a husband in ministry :+) yes fun and joyful, but also a phase where having sisters to preach the gospel of grace and encouragement is infinitely more wonderful than the hurt of the “just wait” jab. So thank you, I desperately needed this truth today :+)

  • Pingback: A La Carte (7.16.13) | familylifeatccc()

  • Alien & Stranger

    Thank you for this reminder to be an encourager. I have vivid memories of feeling like Lindsey when my children were small. It was before I knew the Lord, so I had no resources outside of myself, and no support system apart from my husband when he wasn’t at work.
    Some people just seem to relish spreading negativity and trying to make others as miserable and angry as they are.
    Another favourite saying used by those whose children are older or grown is: “This too shall pass”, which is cold comfort when at the time it feels like it’s going on forever – exhaustion does that to one.

  • Marguerite Gray

    Absolutely true!

  • Susan C.

    This reminds me of how [silently] infuriated I was with the women I was around when my son was little (he’s 8 now). It seemed to me that none of them thought a late-thirties first-time mother of a very hungry, very active boy who didn’t need much sleep was allowed to feel tired, just because I only had one child. (My mother, who had all 4 of us in her 30s, and my mother-in-law, who had 3 boys, were both a LOT more encouraging.) Even at the time, I noted to myself that these women had their children in their 20s, mostly had extended family nearby, had financial access to private preschool, and used cleaning services. We had none of those, since we were 7 hours from family and my husband was between jobs.

    On a calmer note–I think we all have different likes and preferences in working with children. Most of the women I knew when my son was small seemed to idolize babies. One acquaintance admitted to liking toddlers more. My mother says she really preferred us as teenagers. That old “just wait till they’re teens” doesn’t apply to everyone.

  • Taylor

    I found this article thought provoking because I frequently say “just wait”, but with a very different intent.

    I don’t think I have ever thought of it as a hurtful or discouraging phrase. Whenever I have new co-workers who think they have the most difficult bug, or are working in the most convoluted, poorly written code, or have been sucked into the most horrifically mismanaged project, I always delight to relate a story of how many more challenging problems there are ahead of them. And I’ve been on the receiving end from some of the gurus of the company, telling me that problems I see as intractable now will seem like the good old days once I get to work on one of the really hard, nasty projects that they’ve been stuck on.

    And I always find that empowering. It’s like swapping war stories – “just wait, you can’t imagine how much harder it can get”. It’s a thrilling challenge, like back in school when you’d have a math problem that you can barely understand in 2 dimensions, and then some friend a year ahead of you tells you how they have to solve 3 dimensional forms of that problem several times a day in hyperbolic coordinates. You feel a mixture of overwhelming dread – “How can I face something harder than this! How can I ever survive my next class!”, but you push it down, take on the challenge and say “yeah, if they could do something that rough, I’ll get there. I got this, I got this”. And you walk away feeling like you’ve been reminded that giants can be slain, and there will always be more opportunities to grow and learn and conquer.

    I suppose this is just to say that we should be wise in how people hear our words. Some people see the notion that there are always more challenging, more impossible, more stress filled days ahead as a challenge, while you have indicated that this might be discouraging to others.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It was interesting to read, and I pray that it will help me better understand how my words may come across to others.

  • Pingback: Links I like | Blogging Theologically()

  • sue

    Excellent gospel centered article! Thank you!

    You obviously have a gift of communication.

    I am interested in any follow up articles you write on this topic.

    The other day I was talking to an engaged young lady who found herself shocked at how many christian people said the exact same thing “just wait….till year 1 or 4 or 12 yrs of marriage”. Through our conversation and me personally knowing some of the people communicating to her we figured out there was a certain percentage that were attempting to give her permission to seek help if her marriage ended up rocky after 2 years. her Sunday school teacher’s wife had depression at the beginging of their marriage and “just wait” is a hideous way of sharing a past personal struggle. Not to mention a poor way to communicate “you probably will not be ok at some point but get help and you will get through it like I did”

  • Michelle

    Being a mother is quite a journey! Thanks for sharing what you are learning through trial and discernment. We all need to encourage each other in this calling as mothers. It is not easy and as we depend on our Heavenly Father for each day and each struggle He meets us every time!
    I do have to admit when I think of “just wait” I am encouraged not to the idea of it getting harder, but the understanding that soon my baby will be feeding himself and dressing himself and cleaning up his own toys and and… :). So really, just wait, it will get easier and the harder emotional/mental challenges will only cause us to depend on our Lord more and more and that’s not a bad thing. We don’t have much control over the hearts of our children, but we can help to guide them through good choices, discipline and of course prayer. Their hearts are in the Lord’s hands, and that’s a relief. I appreciate a verse on discipline in Heb 12:10. It shares how our earthly fathers discipline only for a short period of time as seems best, but our Heavenly Father disciplines us for our spiritual good so we may be sharers in His own holiness. That’s pretty fantastic! It isn’t all up to us! He is at work not only in our hearts but in our children’s hearts too.

  • Gretchen

    Thank you, Lindsey! Beautifully written, and full of wisdom. I love it, and both the conviction and encouragment it brings. “Just wait… on the LORD!”

  • Susan C.

    That’s interesting, that some folks consider “Just wait” an encouraging challenge. The way it has normally sounded to me is profoundly discouraging, as the author says. (“You think you’ve got problems? Well, you don’t, so quit whining!”) Perhaps it has something to do with the manner in which it’s said, too?

  • Jennifer Carnes

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I, also, have four children. They are 12, 11, 11, & 11. Yes, you read that right. Triplets. It was really like herding cats when they were younger. Moms would say “Enjoy this time; because just wait until they are walking or in school. Then the trouble starts.” People often say to me, “Your kids are so sweet and well behaved! Just wait until they are teens and all that is over!” Really? I don’t think that becoming a teenager automatically has to mean rebellion, snotty attitudes or inappropriate behavior! We are doing the best we can to raise children that love God and love others. I am tired of others assuming that our kids will derail in the next few years. This does not have to be so! Will there be times of conflict as they mature? Yes. Will there be resistance? Yes. We will handle all this according to scripture. We pray for our children; we don’t condemn them to rebellion or write them off with a “just wait” .

  • Susan C.

    I agree with Jennifer, that teens don’t have to be rebellious. My husband and I both come from believing families, and none of the seven of us in our generation rebelled. I attribute some of this to our parents’ attitudes toward giving us increasing responsibility for ourselves, rather than their being controlling. And I always hated “Enjoy him while he’s young,” because how can I possibly enjoy two years of sleep deprivation and more of unsolicited advice? My son is still very active and very hungry, but he’s now also very bright, and much more interesting to have around.

  • Pingback: The Phrase that Enslaves Moms in Every Season()

  • Pingback: Let Me Direct You Elsewhere… | hisgracemygrowth()

  • Pingback: The Mean Reds and Baby Blues (The Good Kind) | The Foti (Jr) Fables()

  • Pingback: Update from the editor()

  • Pingback: Click Here: Vol. 12()

  • Pingback: Moms, Encouraging Other Moms . . . | iconobaptist()