Recently a good friend confided in me that she was struggling with being “just a mom.” With four children, one of which has special needs, this stay-at-home mother is anything but “just a mom.”
The conversation provided me with the opportunity to speak into her life. As a stay-at-home mom of four myself, I can relate. I bet you can, too.
I have also struggled with being “just” a mom. Honestly, sometimes I still do. Sure, I have other titles: wife, homeschool teacher, part-time freelance writer. But it’s the “mom” title that always gets to me most.
Perhaps you find yourself struggling to put dinner on the table and get a shower on the same day. Maybe you’re fishing toys out of the toilet or picking peas out of ears. It is on those days that you realize the phrase “well-behaved toddler” is an oxymoron.
Or maybe you’re a little farther along on the parenting spectrum. Pre-teens and teenagers are just as capable of making us want to scream. But we don’t lest the neighbors hear us and call the cops. Or our children have us committed. Whichever comes first.
Doubts and longing
I think we intrinsically know that motherhood is a noble calling, yet we feel so lacking, so incompetent, so unqualified.
Do our children ever hear or take to heart anything we say? So often we feel as though we’re wasting our time, our energy, our sanity.
Break up a sibling squabble. Administer discipline. Discuss proper responses to anger. Repeat as needed—and it will be needed. On and on it goes, day after day, year after year.
We wonder if anything we say matters. (It does.) We worry we’re raising the next “Breaking News” headline. (Maybe, but perhaps it’ll be good breaking news; stranger things have happened). We hope there’s more to life than this. (There is. It’s a matter of perspective.)
You long for a clean house, a clean car, and clean kids—and not necessarily in that order. Clean anything feels like a dream, a distant memory that you just can’t grasp.
You may have laundry scattered in every room of the house, school backpacks threatening to obliterate the kitchen counter, and wads of crumpled up paper strewn about the living room floor (okay, that last one may just be me and my own doing as a writer with blockage).
But you also have some pretty awesome kids. So do I. Let’s be honest: Even on their worst day—and ours—we wouldn’t trade our kids for the world. I would not, however, be opposed to swapping for a day or two. Just saying.
All kidding aside, we know our kids are a gift—sometimes we just lose sight of the fact. They are precious. And, oh, so unique. Why else would I receive a rock for Mother’s Day? (Yes, I actually did. “Mommy, it’s so beautiful. Just like you.”)
Your kids love you. They really do. If you’re anything like me you haven’t been to the restroom by yourself in the last five years, minimum. That’s how much your kids love you.
The fact that my idea of a perfect meal is one that someone else cooked doesn’t make me a bad mom. The fact that you removed your kids’ bedroom doors so they can’t be slammed doesn’t make you a bad mother either. (I’m actually warming up to that one; just not sure how I can effectively preserve my sanity if I can’t banish my kids behind closed doors from time to time.)
As a mom there are moments you may feel invisible. You may even wish you were invisible—this alone would afford some bathroom privacy.
Child No. 1: “Where’s Mom?”
Child No. 2: “I don’t know. Hey! Why’s the toilet seat lumpy?!”
Okay, the whole invisible mom thing is a bad idea.
The problem with labeling ourselves “just a mom” is that a label doesn’t define who we really are. In an age where value is often determined by how many Facebook “friends” we have, being a mom seems so common, so unimportant. But truly, we know better.
You may or may not have a college degree—my friend and I don’t, but we can kiss boo-boos like nobody’s business. No one can kiss your child’s boo-boos like you can Ph.D. or not. Don’t let the world define parenting success for you.
Roll with it
As moms, it’s important that we learn to roll with it. Sometimes life has a different plan for the day than we do. And that’s okay. Really. The fact that you don’t check off every item on your to-do list isn’t going to affect the world’s equilibrium or change your child’s future.
When I look in the mirror, I see a mom who doesn’t have it all together. Maybe you see the same; maybe you think you’re “just” a mom. Let me tell you what I told my friend and what I tell myself during these mirror moments: “You are not ‘just’ a mom. You are so much more.” Receive it. Believe it. Repeat it daily if necessary.
Let me encourage you moms out there: We are not just survivors—we are conquerors. Those other moms out there that seem to have it all together? It’s just an illusion.
People wear masks; they portray what they want you to see, what they want to be in their own minds. What a blessing we could be to one another if we would remove the masks and be real, openly sharing our struggles and encouraging one another.
As a mother, I fall short. Every. Single. Day. I argue with my children, yell at them, and otherwise behave in ways I swore I never would. I compare myself to other mothers and wonder if I’ll ever measure up.
More than enough
We moms certainly have plenty. Plenty to do. Plenty to worry about. Plenty of people wanting our time and attention.
But we are given plenty more. Plenty of grace. Plenty of strength. Plenty of love to cover a multitude of mistakes.
We don’t need gifts on Mother’s Day—unless of course you really do want to start a rock collection. Perhaps all we really need is a fresh perspective on the gifts that we’ve already been given.
Motherhood is nothing short of an adventure. Too often though, we see it as a mind-numbing, thankless job where the proverbial empty nest gets better looking every day. But it really is okay to take five minutes to sit in your car with your iPod plugged in and sing at the top of your lungs. In fact, I recommend it.
Every day will not be Disneyland. There will be trials, even pain. But these are the moments in which we grow the most.
We’ve all heard the advice, “Enjoy your children. They grow up so fast.” And just as we’re thinking, “Not fast enough,” they really do grow up right before our eyes. One day they’re cruising the backyard in a battery-operated Jeep and the next day they’re lapping the block in a real Mustang; or if they’re like my daughter, a cheap Cavalier. So the advice stands. Enjoy them.
Delight in the beautiful gifts you have been given. Rejoice in their uniqueness. Embrace them while you can.
Looking back over the last nineteen years since my first daughter was born and then three more following her, I shudder to think what my life would have been without them. I just cannot imagine a life where they do not exist.
Motherhood isn’t about status or labels. It isn’t about raising angelic Einsteins. It’s about the love of family and being the mom you were created to be. “Just” a mom? I don’t think so.