Being an Honest Mom

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.

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11 thoughts on “Being an Honest Mom

  1. I appreciate this. I’ve heard the gist of what you’re saying before from older women, but it never hurts to be reminded by yet one more person in “the mom club” that no one truly has it together all the time, or even most of the time… I hope things are going as smoothly for you as possible, dishes aside…

  2. I read one of your recent posts and, being convicted by it, determined to read your blog more frequently so that I could get insight into how a Christian home should be run. About time, I think. I am looking to you and other young mothers, well, all mothers, for help in running my chaotic home. I know it’s supposed to be the other way around because I’m “seasoned”, but the younger can teach the older, too.

    There is something about a newborn in the home that’s really challenging, like nothing else. And after having a c-section and all that’s going on with you guys, I’m amazed to see you in church every Sunday. I hope you can get some sleep.

    1. Oh Holly! Thank you for your kind words. I have a hard time imagining there’s much for you to learn here but hopefully there’s encouragement, at least! I’m humbled and amazed to think that people like you would be looking to young moms, but I guess there’s something to be said for fresh perspective. HOWEVER! I just have to say thanks for the example you set. All we have to do is load up a squirming 9-pounder so we don’t have bragging rights there…. I am always inspired to see your gang in worship, newborn and all, with such regularity. You are a fantastic mom and your kids are a joy.

      1. Thank you, Susan–that’s very kind of you to say, esp. considering the many great examples at church. After I wrote my above reply, one of your FB friends responding to your post said what I was trying to convey, which is that some of you are ahead of others of us because of your upbringing, etc. I’m grateful for these many great examples of Christian living, including parenting, at our church.

  3. Susan – thank you for your heartfelt honesty and insight.

    You know the best advice I got when I had a newborn is:
    don’t take your bathrobe off all day
    nap when they nap – very important!
    quit folding and ironing clothes for awhile – I just threw them in the drawers for years. Now neatly folded but I have time!
    God be with you as you seek Him daily and He provides all you, Mike and Jacob need.

  4. Nice to realize these things early. Edwin and I recently said about a seemingly perfect couple with seemingly perfect children, “Remember when we thought we could do everything too??” But you and Mike are well on your way to doing God’s will with little Jacob, so keep trying and trusting.
    And Carole is right about the laundry. My motto for years was “Clean is necessary, folded is a bonus!”

  5. Hey —

    It’s not just moms that don’t have it together, it’s everyone. I’ve struggled with this for years … particularly in church groups. I’ve noticed that Christians always seemed to put on a better face than most people, and it bothered me, because a lot of the time they made me feel inferior because they had it together and I didn’t.

    I work two minimum-wage jobs, my husband works a full-time job and goes to school full-time, and we live in a 3-bedroom apartment with two roommates because we can’t afford to live in a low-crime area on our own. There’s never enough time to do the dishes, the laundry, and clean up the cat vomit, and as soon as it’s done, the apartment is dirty again. It’s sometimes tough to accept that life is ongoing, and it will never be completely put together. Even upon your death, life keeps going for everyone else, and if you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind.

  6. Dearest Susan,
    Congratulations! Motherhood is a secret society, where all us moms don’t judge each other but hope the best about our “seeming” perfect looking lives, knowing that behind the dressed up, shoe laden children are our mother hearts, that offer up all the sleeplessness and sacrifice to our own comforts that made it happen,unto the Lord who sees. (That was a bad sentence but I’m to tired to fix it. Ha!) The best advise I can give you as a seasoned mom is to live for the unseen. There is no other success.
    All is grace,
    Dana Skogen

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