*An audio recording of this piece is at the bottom of the post.
Weariness is an unavoidable byproduct of motherhood—no matter how committed you are to it.
A few weeks ago, at the check-in desk for Women’s Bible Study at church, I filled out my nametag next to a young mom with a preschooler perched on her hip. She pressed the tag onto her sweater. “Mommy,” her little girl said, pointing a forefinger at it.
“Well, I’m also ‘Julie,’” her mother told her.
“No, no ‘Julie,’” the preschooler protested. She jabbed the nametag again. “Mommy.”
Her mother smiled, a tired smile.
And I wondered if she felt, in that moment, as if she’d lost any identity other than “Mommy.” But then I thought that perhaps I was projecting my own sometimes fear that my children will lock me into the “mom box” and throw away the key. I remembered a recent conversation with them. Someone had been complaining about having to go to school, and I decided not to say, yet again, “Remember that in many countries, children would jump at the chance to go to school.”
Instead I said, “I would love to go back to school.”
Their looks condemned me to the loony bin. “I would!” I told them. “I keep looking at these two programs of study and thinking about applying.”
They didn’t even consider it.
“You can’t go back to school,” one of them said. “You’re our mom!”
Yet God does something supernatural in our hearts when we become mother to a child.
I was volunteering at a World Relief job class for immediately-arrived refugees. A young woman approached me, a mock application in her hands. She pointed to the question at the bottom of the form. “Children? Yes or No.” I put my hand, palm-down, a couple feet from the floor. “Little ones. Children. Do you have children?” She nodded. “Yes, I have.” She cradled her arms and rocked them back and forth. “A baby?” I asked. She nodded again. Then, “In my country. Baby there.” Her friend, from the same country but even younger, stepped forward. “She is mother there. Not mother here.”
I nodded and kept my face smooth, but my heart cried out in protest. No! I thought. We carry our children in our hearts. She is a mother here and everywhere. It is a gift of God, but when our children are lost or hurt or rebellious, it rips our hearts apart.
We forget at times the greatness of this gift, but moments of ferocious love remind us.
As I made my way down the hall of my children’s elementary school, a first grader walking past said, “Hey, you’re PJ’s step-mom.”
Something flared up, red and hot, in my chest. I blocked it from rising up my throat, from coloring my voice. “No-o-o, I’m not.”
“Oh, yeah,” the little guy continued, “not step-mom, adoption mom, right?”
I was well past him by then, so he didn’t hear my response.
“Just ‘Mom,’” I whispered. “I’m his mom.”