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The Loneliest Job: Hope for Every Mother
The bloodcurdling scream pierced the tranquility of countless shoppers. I swallowed hard and began the painstaking trek towards the automatic doors, which seemed miles away. It mightn’t have taken me so long had I not had 32 pounds of boneless deadweight to pull behind me while also holding 20 pounds of oblivious enthusiasm in my other arm.
As I stumbled along, nearby shoppers offered a variety of responses: eye rolls, disapproving glares, averted eyes, and an occasional sympathetic I’m so glad I’m not you smile. I met each gaze with a weak grin. “Don’t worry,” I said to one bystander, “He’s going to be a GREAT leader someday.”
Whether or not my quip was heard over the agonizing screams is debatable. Several escape attempts later (by my son, not me…although the thought did cross my mind), a kind stranger offered to help me get my children to the car. I gratefully accepted her help, and after wrestling the two beasts—er, I mean, lovely children—into their seats, I thanked the angel and watched her walk away, half wishing I could go with her, or just invite her to come home with me.
Hey, I know we just met and all, and you’ve obviously met my children, Miss Squirmy-and-Smiley and Mr. Meltdown-in-Target, but would you like to hang out for a while? A few hours maybe? Until my husband comes home? Please? PLEASE!??
Instead of frightening my good samaritan, I sank into the driver’s seat and rested my forehead against the steering wheel. I realized that I was sweating and breathing heavily from the intense workout of venturing into Target for a box of diapers—which, in fact, I failed to get. So there I sat, no diapers and no energy. The screaming behind me made it very clear that I was not alone in the car.
But I’d never felt so alone.
The Loneliest Job
As a mom of a three-year-old boy and a one-year-old daughter, I realize I’m not the most seasoned veteran when it comes to parenting. When my son was first placed into my arms, I marvelled at the miracle of his tiny frame…and then immediately slipped into mental panic mode.
What the heck do we do now?
Motherhood has been, by far, the most joy-filled experience in my life. It’s made me laugh harder, play harder, and give thanks harder than anything else.
And yet motherhood has also been, by far, the most difficult experience in my life. Because while there are as many parenting books as there are newborn poop-filled diapers, there is no magic formula that works for every child. And there is no book that prepares you for the isolation, loneliness, and utter sense of failure that often comes with this job.
Most of my days are spent wiping noses, changing diapers, cutting food into annoyingly small pieces, gathering said food off the floor, folding laundry, picking up the folded laundry from where it’s been thrown, driving to appointments, drying tears, rocking sleepy bodies, building masterpieces with LEGO bricks, reading books in silly voices, planning meals, slathering sunscreen onto flailing limbs and faces, keeping our home from disintegrating, and serving as the resident hostage negotiator (I’m usually both the hostage and the negotiator).
The Pinterest boards and filtered Instagram posts never prepared me for the daily dying-to-self that motherhood demands of me. The baby showers and prenatal appointments didn’t include any discussions about the dangers of mom comparisons and the deep, gut-wrenching sense of failure that lurks ominously in the corners of my mind.
When I signed the birth certificates, there were no disclaimers at the bottom stating that by saying “yes” to my children, I’d be saying “no” to about a thousand other good and wonderful things.
And I never knew how discouraging the never-alone-loneliness could be.I never knew how discouraging the never-alone-loneliness could be.Click To Tweet
More than Just Managing
The culture we live in seems to have mixed feelings about motherhood. It’s simultaneously respected and disrespected; affirmed as a worthy and noble role, yet also dismissed as a killer of dreams. Think about it; the things that our culture places high values on—productivity, earning high income, ladder-climbing, and social status—are just not parts of motherhood. Like, at all.
I can’t count how many times I’ve had someone look me in the eye and, with my children present, say in an exhausted and I-feel-so-sorry-for-you tone, “Wow, I’m never having kids.”
Talk about isolating. Talk about lonely.
But for me, this is where the beauty of the gospel message speaks life. Because regardless of what our culture says, the daily dying-to-self, the mundane, and yes, even the loneliness, all have purpose.
Elisabeth Elliot said this about loneliness:
“Loneliness is one kind of ‘dying’ most of us learn about sooner or later. Far from being ‘bad’ for us, a hindrance to spiritual growth, it may be the means of unfolding spiritual ‘blossoms’ hitherto enfolded. The full-blown beauty of the wild rose, its very ‘fulfillment’ depends on its continuously dying and living again. . . . In God’s economy, whether he is making a flower or a human soul, nothing ever comes to nothing. The losses are his way of accomplishing the gains.”
Do I get lonely as a mother? Absolutely. Do I get discouraged and exhausted and have days where I question if anything I do matters? Of course.
But by God’s grace, motherhood should be—and can be—more than just managed. It can be more than just a season to “get through.” Motherhood can mold me and shape me into a woman after God’s own heart. It can pound out the selfishness, anger, and complaining spirit that so easily bubble to the surface when the pressure is on.
Loneliness isn’t my enemy. Rather, it pushes me closer to the one who became lonely so that I wouldn’t experience eternal loneliness. It brings me to Jesus, who became sin so that I would not have to bear the weight of my own sin. And this is the beautiful truth that I’ve been given to pass on to my children. What an incredible privilege!Loneliness isn’t my enemy. Rather, it pushes me closer to the one who became lonely so that I wouldn’t experience eternal loneliness.Click To Tweet
Meant for Relationship
I’m blessed to have a wonderful husband who is an amazing dad and goes above and beyond to help and pour into our children. I have a great church community and friends and family that I can call if I need help or just someone to vent my frustrations to. These things in addition to daily time clinging to God’s word are what keep me sane, focused, and remind me that the daily mundane has purpose. They remind me that, as C.S. Lewis so beautifully stated, “Children are not distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”
Now imagine battling that same loneliness with no husband, no church community, no nearby family, and no supportive friendships. Imagine being in the trenches of the daily mundane with young children—children that you once considered aborting—and having no one to call or turn to.
This is the valley that many of our clients at the Care Center find themselves trudging through. Women who may have been planning to abort their children decide to choose life (and this is wonderful news!). But when the rose-colored mommy glasses are removed, they’re left discouraged and disillusioned. Did I make the wrong decision? What have I done? Will I ever get my life back?
Our desire at the Care Center is to not only help moms before and during their unplanned pregnancy, but also in the joy-filled, yet difficult days after their new baby arrives. We want to connect women to a healthy support network within a local church. We want them to receive the biblical direction, discipleship, accountability, and friendship that are so crucial in the weeks, months, and years after a child is born. We want them to know that they are never, ever alone.
If you’re interested in pouring into young mothers at the Care Center in a practical way, we’d love to have you as part of our Titus 2 Initiative. Our mentorship program connects women within local churches with clients who are seeking discipleship and support. This is the perfect opportunity to walk alongside young mothers and remind them that they are never truly alone.
On This Mother’s Day
As we approach Mother’s Day this weekend, remember the mothers who may be hurting, discouraged, or lonely. Take the extra time to honor your own mother or the women who have been like mothers in your life. They may make the mom-life look easy, but it’s far from it, and I know they’d love your encouragement.
And if you happen to see a mom in Target with a screaming child and resigned expression, take my advice: offer her a helping hand and maybe even a bag of Peanut M&Ms. It may be just the thing she needs to be reminded she’s not alone…and to prolong her child’s life.
And those are both pretty good things.
Mary Holloman is the Communications Assistant at GPCC. It took her at least seven different attempts to complete this article due to diaper changes, meal mishaps, and games of Cops and Robbers that demanded her attention. She’s probably eating Peanut M&Ms or wishing she had Peanut M&Ms to eat. You can leave Peanut M&Ms for her at 625 Fulton Street.