the lost and found of motherhood

I am in a sweet spot of mothering right now–and before any of you fellow moms retch and mentally call me dirty names–please know that I know that next week I may feel entirely different!

But just a few years ago I wrote this about myself (though I wrote it in third person, which tells me something about my state of mind at the time!):

Pieces of her are floating away, more each evening. She tries to reassemble herself during the quiet daytime hours, but she cannot find all the bits before the scavengers gather again.

“Mom, take me here.”

“Mom, I can’t find my shoes.”

“Mom, I need help with my math homework.”

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

It seems comical—or at least overly dramatic—this feeling she has that the more they need her, the more she shrinks, the smaller she feels. She knows there are others dealing with problems far bigger—far more REAL—than the one she wages in her mind.

Do other mothers feel this way? she wonders. Was I not meant to be one? Where is the joy I am supposed to feel at being needed? Where is the sense of calling and purpose?

Perhaps she was supposed to lose something—some strong sense of individual self-hood—at her children’s births. Maybe it should have come out with the afterbirth, and she should have examined it for its wholeness. “Yep, that’s all my self-focus. No bits and pieces left inside.” Some part of it must have escaped, and that is why she cannot serve without a vague sense of resentment.

“Do it for yourself!” she wants to scream at times, but it almost never comes out.

Instead she sometimes whispers, “I want to run away.”

But what would be left of her if she did? If she were to stop all the doing, what would be left?

Is there being without doing?

Who am I? she wonders, as her hands fold laundry and turn the steering wheel and fill the grocery cart with more food. Is my spirit supposed to be fully engaged in this? Does it have a life of its own? How do I do all this and yet remain me—or even know who I am in the doing of it?

I’m sharing that piece of vulnerable writing because I’ve had quite a few conversations in the last few weeks with moms of young ones, and several of them are not only weary, they’re feeling a little lost, too. The daily feels like forever, and they see no sign of refreshment. One mother of two preschoolers and one kindergartener teared up as we talked. The process of getting everyone out the door in the mornings was wearing on her, and she’d yelled that very morning—and then cried after she dropped her oldest off at school.

“I thought motherhood would be different,” she told me, her eyes wistful, a little wounded. “Why do I get so angry?” she asked me. “Does it get easier? Will I ever feel like the ‘me’ I used to be–or is that gone?”

Does it get easier? Will I lose some integral part of me in motherhood?

Hmm.

A friend of mine is writing a book on motherhood as a spiritual discipline, on the idea that motherhood, in itself, is a formation and practice used by God to refine us; to deepen our knowledge of ourselves; to increase our longing for Him and His presence in our day-to-day, nitty-gritty lives; to expand our awareness of His deep, boundless love for us…

So easier?

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the point.

But will we find our being, our ultimate completion, and our very soul in the Christ who draws near to us as we are reduced to crying out to Him?

Yes.

p.s. I would want to share the article titled “The Paradox of Motherhood” simply because the writing is incredible, but I also love what she wrote.

Not so “ordinary”

There is no such thing as ordinary.
The daily grind, whatever it is for each of us, becomes “ordinary,” but it is anything but. In reality, what we consider “ordinary” is supernatural, filled with the common grace of God.
I remember an idea from a Tim Keller sermon (he’s been a favorite of late): Does someone in your life love you? Is there someone to hold your hand? Does someone ask you how your day is going and sometimes even listen when it’s not going so well?
Grace—it’s all grace. You didn’t do anything to deserve any of that, and without Grace, you wouldn’t experience any of it.
I remember a comment I heard a family counselor make on a radio show. “We humans are not hard-wired for real relationship. Deep down, if we are truthful, we have a “what’s in it for me?” expectation about every single relationship we are in—even the parent-to-child relationship. The only reason I can see for any human relationship retaining even a trace of goodness is completely the grace of God.”
Thinking of these two comments, I try to imagine “ordinary” with all common grace removed. The first images that pop up are from Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic book The Road, in which lawlessness prevails; the strong prey upon any weaker than they, with no pity; and no “human decency” remains. The one relationship readers would call “normal”—that of a father and son who care for each other—is in stark contrast to everyone else. For the sake of food and shelter, people will do anything, even kill and eat their own children.
For those who have not read The Road, just imagine “ordinary” without common grace as the worst moments of the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide, as the inside of a brothel; as the continual torture inflicted upon prisoners of war.
In this kind of “ordinary,” there is no such thing as a mother’s and father’s natural love for children, no sense of morality or “right,” no conscience at all. There is no such thing as respect and concern for one’s fellow man.
This is hard to fathom in my “ordinary” world. Common grace is so, well, common. But if God withdrew His active goodness–which is present in this world without us giving Him a single reason to give it—the result would be hellish, brutal.
This should transform my idea of “ordinary”—which I far too often think of as a burden. It should enable me to see my ordinary—with its daily grind and up-and-down relationships and disappointments and boredom and longing for “something more”—as truly a miracle.
When I think of my family and friends as miraculous gifts, then all the daily grind related to relationship with them can be transformed as well: meal prep, grocery shopping, carpooling, laundry, maybe even cleaning (though I’m not sure if that one fits in my “ordinary” category—extraordinary perhaps?).
We humans often want a change IN our ordinary. We often covet the “ordinary” of other people. “If only…” we think. But, in truth, a change in mindset, not a change in circumstances, is what transforms our ordinary.
And that, God reminds us, is a job the He is eager to do for and with us.
Hallelujah!
Verses for study:
Romans 12:2– The Amplified has so much richness, but the New Living lays it out plain and clear. The link above takes you to a page with both translations side by side.
Romans 8:6– This link, too, takes you to both the Amp and the NLT side by side.