I’ve been thinking A LOT about mothers lately.*
Maybe it’s because Mother’s Day is just around the corner and it’s always been an emotionally challenging day for me. Maybe it’s because I recently happened upon the eye-opening viral video from a few years back soliciting and interviewing applicants for a job whose duties and responsibilities seem incomprehensibly difficult, if not wholly unachievable (mothering) – that I just can’t stop watching (https://tinyurl.com/y4g9w7cy). Maybe it’s because the internet has given me access to the wisdom of extraordinary moms whose children I often envy for reasons that likely are evident to those who know me or are long time readers of my blog (https://tinyurl.com/nxauc7s). Maybe it’s because, while I haven’t acknowledged it nearly often enough, for 33 years I’ve been blessed to have a front row seat to a living, breathing example of what it really takes to be an EXCEPTIONAL mom – to struggle, comfort, sacrifice, love (unconditionally), hurt, rejoice, pray, fear, and hope as only a mother can. Or maybe it was a message exchange I had with a young, single working mom (a dear friend and fellow lawyer) last week, who, in the midst of her own considerable personal struggles and a day-before-trip to an emergency room for her youngest, said simply: “When it rains . . . I’ve been up all night with (my oldest) – fever and throwing up. Finally kept Motrin down at 4:00 a.m.”
Likely, it’s a combination of all the above, but it was the last message (and the messages that followed) that landed hardest on my heart, because they made me realize that mothers seldom, if ever receive the credit they (and their often-weary hearts) truly deserve from the person they most need to hear it from: Themselves! Maybe they (my friend included) just don’t see it. Maybe great moms are “wired” in a way that makes the enormity and difficulty of all that they do for their children, often before or after an exhausting and stressful day at work (usually both), seem like just another task, as reflexive as their next breath – as no big deal. Maybe, unbeknownst to us, God implanted a gene in moms that “diminishes” the magnitude of it all in the mind of the doer because He understood how undoable it would be without it – the giving birth, the diapers, the pumping, the midnight feedings, the countless trips to the doctors, the spitting (let’s call it what it really is – “throwing”) up, the constant cleaning up after (does that always continue into high school?!?), the dressing (of bodies and “boo boos”), the laundry, the shopping, the homework help, the birthday parties, not to mention the drying of countless tears, the compassion, the empathy, the worry, the fears, (and for those of faith) the endless hours spent in prayer – to name just a little of the “all”!
Or maybe it takes the heart of a “little boy” that longed for so many of those things (especially the emotional pieces) to help them see it. Maybe that’s the gift I can give this Mother’s Day (i.e., a Word Mirror), not unlike the one I tried to give to my friend last week: “You’re a good mom,” I responded to her initial note. “Hardest job there is! Get some rest. You earned it.” “I wish I could,” she said. “I have to take him to the doctor and I’m incredibly far behind at work. Plus, my anxiety’s through the roof and I’m exhausted.” That’s when it hit me. “You and your heart might benefit from a slightly different perspective,” I offered. “Try this: ‘You know, my friend is right. I AM a good mom – a GREAT mom! My boys are very lucky. Because of me, because of days and nights like this, they’ll know what sacrificial love looks and feels like and, hopefully, want to pass that gift on to their children. Work will just have to wait, because that gift is invaluable – and I’m the only one who can give it’.” “I wish work cared about all that,” she quickly shot back. “There are just SO many challenges. I feel like I’m doing something wrong. Work is building. There’s just not enough of me . . .”
“Give me a minute to type,” I pleaded (in the midst of feverishly trying to play catch up to a flurry of follow-up messages headed in the wrong self-talk direction) “and then I gotta go.” “I can only imagine how overwhelmed you must feel in this moment,” I began, “and I’m sure it’s not the first time. But, in a quieter one, this morning is worth reflecting on. What you instinctively framed as another opportunity to beat yourself up, to heap more abuse and hurt on a heart that already is supersaturated with anxiety, guilt, shame, and ‘not enoughs’ was anything but. It was (and still is!) an opportunity to affirm yourself, to catch a glimpse of something you’re doing (and for the past decade (!) have been doing) VERY RIGHT, giving your boys a PRICELESS gift – a gift I never got: The comfort, security, self-confidence, and warmth that comes from knowing that they are truly, unabashedly, and unconditionally loved by their mom. While you defaulted to it feeling anything but, where your boys are concerned it’s Christmas morning and you, my friend are one of the best Santa’s ever! Please start seeing the truth about you. It was there to be seen this morning. I saw it – and I suspect two very impressionable hearts did as well!”
And, I “see” you, Cyndy – and all the moms out there. Now, all that’s left is for you to see “you” too! Happy Mother’s Day!
*Credit for this poignant and captivating image goes to Sarah West, who graciously gave permission for its use. Sarah’s other work can be found at https://www.captivatingbysarahwest.com