I saw her yesterday at the grocery store. She was pushing a full cart with even fuller hands. Her little boy, probably around four years old, was loudly protesting the lack of Cocoa Puffs in the cart, while her baby fidgeted and screamed in the car seat. She pushed the cart with one hand and tried to give the baby a paci with the other, while still trying to answer the rapid fire questions about cereal choices. I watched, in a rare and cherished moment of shopping alone, as she paused and said “Fine. Just give me the box!” and I watched her boy, gleeful one minute about the victory and gearing up for the next battle. She passed me, and while normally I like to try to give an encouraging smile to these mamas, she didn’t notice me and I heard her mutter “this is my life??”
I relayed this story to someone whose response was “how selfish. Sometimes moms just don’t understand the gift they have.”
I didn’t go on to tell them that this year, I asked Wes to give me 48 hours away as my mother’s day gift. I already felt the biting sting of guilt over asking for this.
“Happy Mother’s Day!” was a stab in the heart to me for so many years. Every year as I watched all the other moms being taken out to lunch, carrying their little flowers and crayoned cards, I wanted to shrink away and hide until the day was over. I built up what being a mother would be like, and imagined those Cocoa Puff arguments as softer, with more whimsy. The light in those dreams was fuzzy, and while I knew motherhood would be difficult, I still thought- this is it. Being a mother is the highest calling, and I am missing out on so much. Motherhood happened, and not all of the lighting is flattering. It’s harsh and stark and relentless. It’s not a Facebook version of life. And full disclosure- I’ve been in a season of feeling wrung out by my children. Feeling like the demand is constant and the supply is dwindling. Feeling like I want to be honest about it, but also knowing that if I am, I may be judged as selfish and not appreciative of the gifts I have. But also…I know I can’t be alone…because I see you.
I see you, Mama. I see you put your kids in their car seats and then pause outside your door, just to have a few seconds to catch your breath before you dive back in to crying and bickering and why why why.
I see you. You sit on the outside of the circle of moms, quiet with downcast eyes because nothing about “sleep training” is amusing and you’d gladly hire someone to get up with the baby if you could, because you can’t smile when you get out of bed for the fourth time that night. Instead, you grit your teeth and plead, “please just go to sleep!”
I see you, Mama. I see you who just adopted this perfect little baby and instead of feeling bliss and joy, you smile wanly at this stranger baby. I see you as you wonder if you made a mistake. I see you as you feed and change this baby, but don’t really want to hold him.
I see you. I see you when you look longingly at your book/piano/garden/sewing machine because you haven’t touched it in months. I see you when you put aside time to do these things and then I see your face when you are interrupted five times in the first ten minutes. I see you when you decide it’s not worth it and you put it away. I see you as you wonder if you’ll ever be anything else besides the mommy.
I see you with the look of shame because you shared these feelings with someone who then suggested that maybe you just weren’t surrendering to Him enough, or maybe you needed to choose more joy, or…all those easy answers.
I see you, Mama. I see you staring in the mirror, the panic flitting on your face as you see the lines and dark circles. I see you sigh and search the cosmetics aisle, looking for something that makes you look more woman and less mommy. I see you, trying to fit into those jeans, and seeing the C-section scar that will make those jeans impossible. I see you glancing at the younger single girls around you, wondering if your husband wishes you looked like that.
I see you. I see you with slumped shoulders after you yelled at him for the fifth time today. I see you as you clench your fists and tell yourself to calm down, it’s just clothes on the floor, but that thought doesn’t help.
I see you, Mama. I see you when your family asks what you want for Mother’s day and you want to whisper that you just want to be left alone. You aren’t depressed. You aren’t angry. You just want silence. I see the guilt in your eyes over wanting that.
I see you. I see you at those church events where we talk about being a mom. I see the defeat in your eyes because you feel like a failure. I see the fear when you begin the mental checklist of all the ways you are screwing up your kids. I see you read the books and blogs, the ones that say being a mother is your highest calling and that if you don’t feel joy at being a mother, it’s not that the job is hard, it’s that you haven’t surrendered to what God wants for you. I see you when you think your kids deserve a better mother.
In the “war on women”, women are the most aggressive offense. I’ve been so guilty of this. So let me lay down the weapons and tell you what I also see…
I see a Mama who walked into this deep end of the ocean without a job description. I see a woman who loves imperfectly. I see a woman who is real. I see a woman who is being humbled, which is a much more attractive quality than size four jeans. I see a woman who will develop compassion, and start to recognize these looks in others. I see a mom who won’t be as quick to judge, because it’s much harder to judge when you’ve dressed the wounds of unmet expectations. I see a mom who will maybe be more apt to listening, because we learn to listen as soon as we learn that we don’t have the answers.
I see a mom who needs a friend to tell her that it’s going to be okay and that she isn’t forgotten. To tell her that the Lord is bigger than her mistakes. To encourage her with the fact that her worth is not wrapped up in her performance- including her performance as a mother. To not give her easy answers, but shared tears. To remind her that motherhood can be an idol, and being a mother isn’t our highest calling, being a disciple is. To encourage her to not live life alone, because it’s only when we speak out that we realize we aren’t the only ones who feel this weight. Someone to tell her husband that giving her 48 hours alone is probably one of the kindest things he could do for her. A friend who will speak a gentle Happy Mother’s Day to her, and understand if her eyes fill with tears because being a mom is much much harder than she ever thought it would be.
If this is your life Mama, let’s live it together.
Happy Mother’s Day to all my friends who are finding great joy in being a mom, and for those who are fighting to find it.
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