Friend, you know those deep down places of your soul where the light doesn’t dare shine? Do you ever find yourself screaming from those places just for someone to see you? I know I do. I drive myself crazy with it.
I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one, but I have this feeling that you’ve felt it too.
I find these odd boasts or complaints coming out of my mouth. Boasts about things that didn’t make me proud. Or complaints about things that didn’t actually feel difficult. I make excuses or justifications for things I chose not to prioritize. I become shameful about decisions I made on purpose and with confidence. These things come out of my mouth, and leave a strange taste behind. I find myself wondering what I’m trying to prove, and to whom.
I have shamefully murmured to my husband that I actually swept 12 times today, even though the floor is covered with crumbs.
I have found myself inadvertently landing in the middle of a one-upping match with a mom friend, over who got less sleep or who has the more “spirited” child. I actually feel greatly blessed and deeply privileged to be chosen to shepherd my little flock. And in truth, I do not feel sorry for myself in the least. So I find myself wondering why I would make it sound like I do.
I’ve been known to compare horrors of labor and birth that I actually count as the most miraculous and magical experiences of my life.
I have complained about being up all night with a sick child when, in the moment, I actually treasured the opportunity to hold her.
When I’m out with a couple children, I find myself wanting to tell everyone that I actually have five, just so they know how hard I’m working.
I see a hunger in the dark, ugly places in me for everyone to see and praise me for all the things I do or all the things I am sorting out in my head.
I have asked a guest to please excuse the full hampers. I do laundry every day, it’s just that the baby has been spitting up a lot, and we’ve both been wearing three or four outfits a day.
I’m pretty sure I’ve never met someone who cared about my full hampers, and yet I keep explaining them away.
I have blamed things on my children, saying that I cleaned the basement, but they wrecked it again and we had to run out the door to do carpool before we had a chance to clean it up.
I have heard myself say that I just got behind. But don’t be fooled, my friend. The truth is that I live in those “behind” places.
And the really strange thing is that I don’t think I ever needed you to think I had the perfect house, or that I was the perfect housekeeper. Something else in me – something deeper – cries out with these excuses and justifications.
There are layers and layers of things that mamas do, think, juggle, pray that leave a part of us invisible to the world.
Deep down in the hidden places, there is the web of thoughts that organize and balance and coordinate all of the schedules and needs, all the appetites and nutrition, all the connecting and reconciling, all the papers and treasures, all the preferences and feelings, all the tending to ailments of body and soul, all the education, the driving, the coaching, the shepherding, the guiding. This is the part of us we grow to hold so dear, the part of us that is most refined by the flames, and holds us closest to the heart of God. This is the part that could scream our worth out loud to the world. But the world around can’t see it, or understand it.
And so we try to explain our worth in simpler terms – with things like cleanliness and good behavior and punctuality and beautiful family portraits and school or sport success.
But every time we let the excuses and justifications grab at something visible to show for being a mama, we cheapen this most precious part of it all…the most precious invisible part. Every time we try to scream how much we do, we miss the joy of doing the invisible thing before a God who delights in invisible work.
This part where we know the heart of motherhood rests, is the most invisible, most quiet, most meek, and most exquisitely beautiful.
The world doesn’t have eyes, or even language, for this job. Often the world around us is blind to the unique thing that we Do, Think, Are as mothers…the care and attention, stability and guidance, perception and intuition about each one’s needs.
I’ve begged with my excuses and justifications for someone to know what it’s like to have my mind, body, soul. Sometimes I want to explain that I swept while I held a child on my hip, and consoled another about a playground tussle, and quizzed another on spelling words, and kept an eye on the dinner on the stove, and kept my phone close by in case the doctor called back. I want to explain that I may not have much to show for the work of today, but being mama all day made me tired and also made me feel so very alive.
At the end of the day, you can’t see how I stopped folding the laundry to read a book to a child bidding for my attention. Or how I walked the siblings down the road to forgiveness and peace instead of sending them to their rooms. You can’t see how I patiently persuaded the baby with a cold to keep trying for milk. Or how I remade the lunch that had a cup full of water and fiery boundary-testing will poured all over it. You can’t see that I got up and did the work of holding them accountable for their actions (almost) every one of the 200 times someone made a wrong choice. You can’t see the soul bruises I sustained today as I let them throw the punches of their big feelings that had nowhere else to go.
But that’s the good stuff of parenting. We talk all about the diapers and the laundry and the Cheerios that end up everywhere. But you can’t quantify the work of being mom any more than you can catch the wind.
That deep down part of me that carries the weight of the world on behalf of my children – with joy and on purpose – it sometimes screams to be seen. At times, I have tried to quantify and be appreciated for it, but it only causes me to feel less known and understood.
And it feels so silly that I’ve tried to explain the work of the day because, the truth is, I didn’t question for an instant that the invisible things were worth it. Connection after a day of bickering felt like victory on the battlefield. Hearing the prayers of my children for a hurting friend at school felt like changing the world.
The good stuff. I know it matters.
That sweet invisible part of being a mother can truly only be seen by God Himself. And perhaps allowing it to be so would give us the opportunity to experience communion with an invisible God who knows how it feels.
Being a mama is not having a clean floor or a well-organized schedule. Being a mother is not making gourmet meals or serving on the PTA. Being a mom is not keeping up with all the activities and all the sports, or all the play dates, or all the birthday parties. Yes, we do many of these things, but we know it doesn’t sum it up.
Being a mama is providing the invisible nest from which our children can fly.
Being a mama is lifting up the invisible prayers to an invisible God who does invisible things in their hearts, and sends invisible angels to protect them from invisible dangers.
Being a mama is being the invisible rock on which your children stand, and slowly moving out of the way so that they can stand on the Invisible Rock of Christ alone.
Being a mama is getting out of the way for God to move before the eyes of our children. It’s getting out of the way for our children to grow. Or getting out of the way for our children to fall, and being ready to scoop them up when they do. (And being a mama is making sure our “I told you so’s” remain invisible, too.)
Being a mama is providing the invisible safety that allows for a sense of belonging, and a confidence in becoming.
There is enough to do in my home and family – and yours – to keep at least two or three people busy all day. And whether you are spending your days at home, or trying to squeeze all of the mom things in around another full-time job, or something in between…the truth is we will never be done with All. The. Things, so we will always have choices to make.
I know we have to figure out a way to do the laundry and the dishes and the cooking and the driving and the soccer practice and the homework. But when it’s time to choose the truly invisible things, choose them with the confidence that you are seen by God. Cast off the shame that says it’s not worth doing if the world can’t see or applaud it. All the hidden things that happen in your mind and heart because God made you mama – hold onto those like a precious jewel that only you and the Almighty can enjoy. And the light of God’s love that sees and knows you in all the invisible places– it shines the brightest through that most hidden jewel , onto your family, and out to the world.
Mama, you’re a hero. Chosen. Equipped. Fully known. And deeply loved.