The heartbreaking thing every mom is ashamed to admit


Not quite the photo I envisioned. 🙂

The painful honest shameful truth is that I was disappointed in motherhood from the moment I saw that second little pink line.  When I expected a rush of pure joy and excitement, what I got was a sloppy mix of fear and unworthiness, speckled with elation. I didn’t feel the way I expected to, or felt I should. Many of even the sweetest moments of parenting have been mixed with something sour and strange.

I felt disappointed when I didn’t have the clarity of mind to soak in my first moments with each new baby.  I felt disappointed that I cared about things that don’t matter – like what someone else thinks about my parenting or the way pregnancy and breastfeeding would effect my body.

I felt disappointed in myself for not cherishing my swelling belly, and instead worrying about how I would look after giving birth. I was disappointed in myself for stepping on the scale too often.  I hated that I cared…but I did.

Warring thoughts collided:  the blessing and the cost, the privilege and the sacrifice.

Even as I type, I fend off the thought that my words appear selfish, ugly, harsh to your eyes.  I write in faith that you might need to know you’re not the only one.

There have been moments when I felt I should be relishing in ecstatic bliss over my children, and instead I felt empty, lonely, lost.  There were postpartum days when I felt crazy and feared I would never feel like myself again. There were days when I looked upon a child I birthed, and they felt like a stranger.  There are days I feel like it’s barely worth it to try to have fun together, because we’re so likely to end in tears.

I’ve felt disappointed each time the idyllic scene I pictured when I planned an activity for my children was lost to a scene of whines and wet pants and bloody knees.

I felt disappointed the first time it didn’t come naturally to throw my arms around my child – the first time I had to choose to be affectionate towards them because some distaste for their behavior had crept into my spirit. And I think the heaviness that can rest on our shoulders as mamas so often comes because we thought it was supposed to look some other way.  We thought we would burst with fondness for them every minute. We thought we would remember every minute what a gift our children are. We thought we would stop caring about trivial things when they stood against the immense value of raising up the next generation. We thought we would never yell, or even feel inclined to. We thought we would have more patience and grace. We thought we would look different, feel different, be different as a mother.

The weight of it can ravage our souls.

No space exists for these feelings when mamas fight for years just to get one of those second pink lines.  No space exists for these thoughts when we know so profoundly that children are a gift, a heritage, a treasure.  And so, rather than give these thoughts and feelings any space, they silently breed shame, and wreak havoc on our sense of self-worth.  They discreetly curse us and tell us we’re unworthy of the children we’re given, convince us we’re the worst mom.

We need to hold fast to gratitude.  But not as a bandaid…

And friend, there’s no denying, I brought a lifetime of expectations into this motherhood thing, and face a million little heartbreaks over the ways I don’t live up, or the ways my life doesn’t look like I thought it should. A million moments of envy of the mom who seems to be doing it better.  We need to never lose sight of the blessing, but in order to thrive as mamas, I think we also need to validate the pain and disillusionment of this journey looking so exceedingly different than we thought it should.

Only as I recognize, grieve, and release my expectations… Only as I make peace with my actual life… am I beginning to taste freedom and experience the fullness of joy in the reality of my days as a mom.  

I know some of you have faced the deepest pain and tragedy on your parenting journey.  If you have lost a child, faced infertility, or have a child with special needs and face the ongoing grief of missed milestones and experiences, I see you… our Father God sees you.  My heart breaks with yours, and I know God’s does too.  I know that your fractured hopes and expectations and dreams are a present reality in each day of your life this side of heaven.  There are real pains that leave real holes.

But there are these other pains that just come, just blow in with the wind, idealistic expectations simply a result of not knowing better.

I think many of us just thought this road would be easier, that we would be stronger.

Though I’m sure everything looks reasonably close to perfect from the outside, in my motherhood journey, I have often flip-flopped between bliss and angst.  One moment, I feel the abundance of blessing and joy.  The next moment I feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped and beaten down.

My real-life mama story is often a journey of failure and weakness, and strength in Christ alone.  My real-life default is to drown in worry and fear, and I am in continuous battle of surrender, entrusting my children to God’s care, over and over.

In my real story, I am often disappointed, and I have to lay my expectations down each and every day, so God can show me the the gift I was missing.

My real days are full of gathering up grace for each moment, because I’m desperate for it.  And when I let go and see the world through my children’s eyes of wonder, real life moments of magic and euphoria surprise me.

My real story is one of discovering some of the ugliest corners of my soul, and letting God’s light shine on them.  In my real story, I sometimes want to run away, and it is pure sacrifice to enter in.

And in my real story, when the world says I’m trapped because I can’t pee by myself, I say I’ve never been more free.  In my real story, I’m discovering things about myself that make me feel I was absolutely made for this.  In my real actual life, my dreams and goals and ambitions don’t disappear, but grow and morph and bend with each season of my family.

In real life, joy comes in dying to myself, abundance comes in sacrifice, peace comes in surrender, fun comes only when I set aside the relentless pressure to live up to my expectations and the ones I perceive from the world.

In my real story, motherhood has driven me into deeper intimacy with my Father God than I ever could have imagined.  Truthfully, the extraordinary privilege of raising my children pales in comparison to the deep intimacy with my King, the sweetness of dependence, trust, surrender that motherhood has required of me.     The greatest joy has come when I can get over myself and my expectations, and I embrace my imperfect children as their imperfect mama on our imperfect journey together.

And I realize it’s ultimately the same journey for every one of us…whether we have children or not, whether we run a company or a country or a classroom or a home or some tangled mix…it’s the same journey of God winning our hearts.  It’s the same call to lay our life down to find it.  

So mamas, what if we’re not doing it all wrong, and this broken and sloppy road is exactly what God intended for motherhood?  What if He knew in His ultimate sovereignty that the only way we could stop trying to BE the Savior, and start pointing our children to their Savior in Jesus is if we were sickeningly aware of our weakness? What if this is what God meant when He said to Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”(2 Corinthians 12: 9)? What if our lostness is where we are found? What if our shattered dreams are what drive us to be the mothers that God intended? And what if we release our children to be the miracles God made them to be as we let go and let them be unique and different with desires and dreams and traits way outside of our comfort zones?

I’m not saying that God delights in making our journey difficult.  He is near to our hearts, and leads us tenderly (Isaiah 40: 11).  But I believe that our expectations – the ones that say that motherhood is supposed to be easy, pretty and fun in all the moments – these expectations steal our joy, and rob us of God’s joy and grace in the difficult but immensely beautiful days with young children.
I believe God has a bedraggled and beautiful adventure for you today, sweet friend.  Rather than holding onto the story we thought we were supposed to be living, let’s consider being led on a journey of surprise, adventure, and deep intimacy with our King.


More on releasing our children from our unrealistic expectations next week…



A gift for the mama feeling pressure to do and be everything




Several days ago, when winter was still heavy on us, before the springtime air rushed in and refreshed every fiber…I had one of those days when everything felt like entirely too much.  I scurried in the door on that bitter February morning, and could still feel the wind cutting through me and stinging my nose. But something cut deeper still, swept right through and left a mess of me…

Too many of my things that morning came from a place of “should” or “have to.” Too many of my things came from wanting to be productive, a “good mom,” to have something to show for my day, or to win some imaginary battle for someone’s approval (that was likely never in danger).


There is something in the air that presses on a mother, making her feel that the weight of the world is on her shoulders and like she has to do it all right.

Pressure piles, and says “Do all the things.” Guilt sinks deep, and says “You are never enough.” Sometimes this thing turns my eyes inward and threatens my joy.
Do you feel it, sister?
And no matter what “they” say…the “shoulds” and “have tos” are shifting sand. I don’t know about you, but I need some more solid ground to stand on.


I have to think it’s getting harder to be free in this mom space.  Courageous women have fought long and hard to lay claim to the freedom and value and beauty and equality given us by God, from voting rights and sports and career and salary and leadership and in all the ways…

We are equal!  And all one in Christ.  (Gal 3: 28)

I love how Jesus so beautifully offered equal love and acceptance and value and appreciation and calling to the women he encountered, in a culture that said and did the opposite.  Jesus was the first on the battleground of women’s liberation…women’s freedom.

Heaven rejoices as women find their voice…the voice they were always meant to have.

But I’m afraid that somewhere along the way, motherhood shrunk into the shadows a bit. Now that women can do anything, we can too easily feel pressure to do everything.


The world is loud with all we can and should do.


If you listen to the noise, you might feel pressure to have the babies and the perfect body; to be strong but not prickly; to do the house, the laundry, the cooking, the teaching and shepherding; to do the sports, the girl scout troop, the volunteering, the picture-perfect Christmas cards, the leading, the hosting, the crafting, the blogging, the class cupcakes and Valentines; to have the dream career, earn the full-time income and do the full-time mom thing (or one or the other, depending on the day); to be a fun friend and an adoring wife, intelligent and professional, but not too uptight.  Also, be a laid-back mom, but not so laid back that your kids get rowdy, or hurt…

And, by the way, the noise says that most of this is just a side note to what you’re really doing with your life.


I’m exhausted just writing it. And, you and I both know that list could be so much longer.


It feels like expectations have been added, but none removed.  I’m not talking about working because you love it, or because you’re providing needed income for your family. I’m not talking about making time for the things you love, and how it leaves your schedule a little full. I’m not talking about Saturday mornings full of the joy of watching your little people run their hearts out on the soccer field.

I’m just trying to put a name to whatever it is for each of us that brings that gut-deep hollowness that says “You’re not doing enough.”


One of the things that inspired me to begin writing for mothers is this thing I see happening to our spirits…this pressure to do All The Things.


On days when it feels a small miracle to put on clothes, All The Things still press in on me.


At times in my mom journey, I have found myself in a perpetual cycle of self-criticism. I feel weak if I get help with cleaning, or less-than if I have to say “No” to the baseball league or piano lessons, as it feels that everyone else has their children in sports and lessons of every kind from about age 3.

You might feel inadequate because other moms seem more on top of life, or you think the other moms must never yell at their kids, or because the other moms went organic.  Or you haven’t greeted your husband well, or hosted the dinner, or showed up to the party, or returned the phone call…and it all weighs on you.

Maybe you feel guilty for not keeping up with doctor’s appointments or homework or the kids’ dental hygiene. Maybe you showed up at the doctor’s office and fumbled over birthdays, or found out your child had a fever you didn’t know about. Or, like me, you didn’t know the answers to half the questions about whether your child knows his last name or the parts of his body.

Since when is this a milestone? I missed the memo.


We might compare ourselves to the mom who has daily devotions with her children, or the one who wears real clothes and mascara every day. Or we envy the mom whose body snaps right back after having a baby.


Social media can be a flood of perfect pictures and extravagant birthday parties and family outings and magazine-ready living rooms and put-together mamas. As we take in pretty images of other’s lives, we have more material against which to judge ourselves and our families.


And the isolation that often comes with the little years can distance us from other mom’s hearts that say “me too.” When you’re alone, it’s easier to trust your snap judgments that have you convinced you’re the only one falling behind…the only one failing.


I have to believe that our days as mothers are not meant to be shadowed by guilt and regret and self-criticism, by comparison and pressure.


The pressure to be a certain kind of mom – or all the kinds of moms – leads me to do all kinds of things I don’t need to be doing. I can wander into the dangerous zone of boundary-less-ness, feeling like I should do everything and be everything…


There is this illogical drive to be all the most perfect versions of a mom – to somehow have the best parts of every mom I’ve ever met.  I want to be the crafty mom, and the organized mom, the creative mom, the let-your-kids-cook-with-you mom (AHH!), the PTA mom, the easygoing “they’ll be fine” mom, the mom with the color-coded calendar, and the spontaneous road-trip mom, the clean-house mom and the mom who is totally present for the puzzles and dance parties.  I want to be the mom who always responds quickly to her friend’s text messages and the mom who is not on her phone when her kids are around.

I want to be the right kind of hostess – the one with the idyllic calm, the homemade snacks and the fresh coffee.

And the right kind of wife – or every kind of wife – the perfect housewife and the wife with exciting dreams, the elegant and fun wife, and the wife unfazed by the undignified nature of days full of spit up and temper tantrums.   I want to be the wife who is not caught up in her appearance and also the wife who can walk confidently and feel sexy after five babies.

I can easily fall into a continuous state of failure.


The cards have been dealt on the handful of things I’m good at and all the ones I’m not.  I think freedom is just being the one kind of mom and human God made me.  The necessities of life go on, and I actually can’t be in all the places at once.  I think freedom looks like letting myself just be in the one place doing the one thing.

“Be everything to everyone” makes me bitter. It makes life feel arduous, and I begin to choke on every need or demand anyone has of me.


If I let myself live under this kind of pressure, it leaves me longing for easier days, for affirmation, and frankly, for everyone to leave me alone. This is the pressure that makes me want to run away. Those are the days when the constant comments at the grocery store about how my “hands are full” nearly crush me.  Do you have days like that, friend?


Mamas, we must make a strong choice to reject these lies of pressure to do and be All the Things, and we must be washed in a new truth:

We were never meant to be everything.


If the weight of being everything is on our shoulders… If we were meant to fix the world for our children and everyone else… If it was our job to save their hearts, and satisfy them in every way… then Jesus died for nothing.


We were made human and finite and dependent and weak, on purpose. Raising our children to believe that their mamas can do everything and fix everything and be everything is a surefire way to lead them into the heart of disappointment.

But teaching our children how to move slow, how to trust that we were only meant to be in one place at a time, how to be free to be weak and in desperate need of a Savior.

This is a lesson that lasts.

And their Savior Jesus will never disappoint.


We were never meant to be everything. And we cannot write the whole story of the lives of our children. Under the loving care of the Infinite God, we have a specific and limited role.


As mothers, we were given a measure of authority, but God holds their hearts and spirits. As humans, we have an opportunity to partner with God in beautiful works…

but we run ourselves ragged in vain.


God has the role of winning the hearts of our children. Jesus came to save their souls. Our Father in Heaven holds them. He knows where each precious child fits.


The Almighty God has the role of being everywhere at once. We can just be in one place.  If we choose the wrong one, He can handle keeping the world spinning another day.

Today, be free to be just the mama you are…good at the things you’re good at and not at the things you’re not.

Today, be free to be in one place at a time.

Today, let your Heavenly Father carry the weight of the safety and future and faith of your children. Let God hold all the people and places that seem to need you.

The pressure is off, sweet friend. Go, enjoy your freedom!



Freedom to be invisible when you’re screaming to be seen

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.