Recently a good friend confided in me that she was struggling with being "just a mom." With four children, one of whom 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, yet 15 years older, I've been where she is.
I too have struggled with being "just" a mom. Honestly, sometimes I still do. Sure, I have other titles: wife, homeschool teacher, freelance writer. But it's the "mom" title that always gets to me most.
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 biblical principles. 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 prodigal son. (Maybe, but God can bring him back home, too.) We hope there's more to life than this. (There is. It's a matter of perspective.)
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), but you also have some pretty awesome kids. So do I.
Let's be honest: Even on their worst days—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 from God—sometimes we just lose sight of the fact. And all this from a God with a sense of humor. 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 I didn't cook 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 are—Christ does. 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 success for you. Ask God what he has to say on the matter.
It is you God has entrusted to love, care for, nurture, and train the children you have. No one besides God will ever love your children more than you do.
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.
Those other moms who 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 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.
I even wonder why God ever chose me to be a mother, and then I thank him profusely that he did. His love and grace cover all my failures, all my shortcomings, all my sin.
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.
Trust God. Trust his plan. 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 an actual car. So the advice stands. Enjoy them. Now.
Delight in the beautiful gifts God has given you. Rejoice in their uniqueness. Embrace them while you can.
Looking back over the last 16 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 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, of sharing Christ with our kids. Just a mom? I don't think so.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer living in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.