I called a close friend one day last fall because I was a basket case. Only weeks pregnant, and I already couldn’t keep the dishes done or the lunches made. Said she, welcome to the circus. It doesn’t get any better. Ever. At all. Seriously.
I was pretty upset with her for giving me this “encouragement” and she made me cry like a blubbering baby. And then we went on to have a three hour conversation and it was some of the most helpful, real fellowship I’ve ever had with a Christian woman. We talked about how to be a Christian wife and mother and what that looks like.
It’s not pretty.
Now, I don’t want to say it can’t ever be pretty, and this particular woman makes it look pretty a lot. As an onlooker, I think it’s prettier for her than she thinks it is.
But one thing I’m realizing: You can buy that stroller or that nursing top or that cute bath towel, but it will not make you look or feel like the scene in the catalog. You’ll still be you, and it will probably still not be pretty. Your baby will still have a gouged eyelid and snot across his face.
My friend said she thinks that Christian moms do a disservice to each other by pretending it’s pretty. We show up in church with our matching outfits and everyone is wearing shoes. We don’t let on about the yelling and scrambling that happened to find those shoes. What winds up happening is that we create false expectations for each other. This is especially true of the more seasoned moms. If you troop your six angel children around with your purse zipped to hide the chaos and your make-up applied to hide the dark circles and your company manners just so, the young moms are going to see you and one thing is certain:
They will get depressed. Why is it not working for me? The fact is, we each see our little world with more completeness than we see others, and we are prone to assume that we’re the only ones not “making it.” It’s a baby step away from concluding that we’re absolute failures.
Perhaps worse yet, all of us moms will get smug. “I totally have it together more than she does,” we’ll allow ourselves to think, forgetting the chaos in the glow of the moment. Being a wife and mom becomes a poisonous game of one-upsmanship and we take our eyes off Christ and His saving and forgiving and enabling grace and plant them squarely on ourselves; on ourselves and on our poor, less competent sisters. Tsk tsk.
Seasoned mom that I am now, I have been to church with my little man not once, but twice. Hah.
Both times the question was “How’s it going?” from every corner. The first time my honest answer was “Awesome!” I was truly surprised at how smoothly and happily the first week of Jacob’s life had gone. I was on top of my game and on top of the world. The second time “Awesome” was also my answer, but the truth was, I was freaking out.
When I admitted that I felt dishonest to my mom friend in a freaked-out email at 1:00 a.m. that night, she said not to worry: Sundays aren’t the context for letting it all hang out. And besides, she encouraged me, you’re not fooling anyone. All the seasoned moms at church can guess exactly how things are going for you.
It’s like a secret society. I think I like it.
She’s right. Sundays aren’t the time to let it all hang out. That’s why we spend Saturdays rounding up all the Sunday shoes from under the sofa. (At least that’s what we did when I was growing up.)
But then there are the other days, and today is one of them, and I am thanking God for the honesty of another mom friend at my church, one who heard I was hitting some bumps (thrush, namely), and voluntarily poured out her soul about the UGH factor of mothering – the pain and the suffering and the tough times. I’ve respected this dear woman for some time just because she and her beautiful family are so put together and so full of calm and order and cheer on Sundays. I respect her even more now, knowing she won’t pretend it always looks like that.
My dishes aren’t done and I’m wearing pajamas and I haven’t put make-up on in two days. The only reason my house is clean is because my mom just cleaned it.
And now I’m going to rock my precious screaming son.