This week has been hard. Hard. Like, standing in your supervisor’s office as you ugly cry, loose your keys for three days and still not have time to look for them, feed your kids fast food because you know it isn’t great for them but it is honest to God the best you can do, kind of hard. Because sometimes, being a mom is hard.
It is hard to be in charge of the feeding, and the cleaning, and the sleeping, and the watching of tiny human beings you love so much you are sure they are walking around with your heart beating in their chest. It is even harder to do all that when every decision you make is being questioned by the society you live in. Mom’s who work, Isn’t it terrible you are missing all those precious moments of your kids lives? Stay at home moms, Don’t you worry you are wasting your degree and sacrificing your career potential for diaper duty? What are you feeding your kids, don’t you want them to be healthy? What are you denying your kids, don’t you want them to learn to indulge without guilt? What is wrong with you moms, why can’t you enjoy every single second of every single day they won’t be little forever you know!?!?
The church isn’t helping this impossible situation. Much like a spoon full of sugar helping the medicine go down, wrapping those lies of “not enough” in “Jesus wants you to” and “the Bible says so” only make me open my mouth that much wider. Because I desperately want to do the things Jesus and the Bible want me to do.
Here is the reality of the moms sitting in the pews every Sunday morning. Choose isn’t really the best verb for the way they are running their little families. The working moms are likely working because if they don’t they won’t have a home to make. It isn’t that they don’t love their jobs, it isn’t that they don’t feel called to their jobs, some do, some don’t. We could talk all day about if given the option would they still work, but the fact is, that discussion is strictly hypothetical. Most working moms don’t have the option, we work to make the ends meet.
The same is true for stay-at-home moms. The decision to stay at home is never one that is made lightly. Some do it because they know they are called to it, some do it because the cost of day care is more than they could make while the day care is being used. Some are thriving, some are struggling, and most are both of those things multiple times a day. But to call what care-giver situation a families makes a choice, and then raise one up as holier than the others (and I have seen both raised) is ignoring the reality of the vast majority of American families.
When a mom sits down in a church in America, she has likely spent the last 6 days being pulled in every direction but up. What she doesn’t need, is a laundry list of all the ways God is unhappy with her. Your house isn’t clean, how are you supposed to practice christian hospitality with toys all over the floor? Fall in to bed exhausted every night after days that start at 6 am and don’t end until 11, you know godly wives are available to their husbands. Being a mom is your highest calling, don’t screw it up!
It is hard, when you have taken the last of the reserve and poured it out to get everyone to church on time to hear that you are on shaky theological ground because a family shared sinus infection, deadlines for your husband, and the most important week of the year for your job lined up perfectly to prevent you from opening your Bible for the week. It is harder to hear that amidst everything you have to do, there is yet another need that the church you love has, and Jesus wants you to volunteer, join the committee, go to the Bible study, or cook the meal.
I’m not saying opening your home, your relationship with your husband and kids, or regular reading of God’s word isn’t important. I think it is important for the church to serve each other. But the moms who are in the church already know those things. What we need to know, is that we are enough even if we don’t measure up to any of those ideals.
My oldest turned three on Wednesday, and the mommy guilt was in full effect on Tuesday when I realized that I hadn’t planned a single thing for her third birthday. We are having a very small party on Saturday, but the day of, nothing. I had nothing planned, and maybe she is only three, and she wouldn’t remember and it doesn’t really matter, but the moment I admitted it to my friend at work with tears spilling out of my eyes, it did matter. It mattered a lot.
That night when I picked the kids up from the babysitter they were playing with balloons reading “Happy Birthday Juliet.” When I checked my phone there was a picture of my kiddo eating a cupcake with a hat on her head. Angela, our baby sitter and dear friend, had remembered and they had spent the afternoon celebrating. On the way home Juliet made me sing Happy Birthday to her, to all her imaginary friends, to her sister, and to herself. It is her new favorite song.
The next day, when I walked into my classroom, my first period sang Happy Birthday to me which was weird because my birthday is in October. They had picked up the wrong cues because the same friend who I had cried to had dropped off a pink bag tied with a Birthday Girl balloon filled with two cupcakes, two squishy balls, and two bubble wands. Presents for the birthday girl and enough to share with her sister.
In the evening my small group sang to Juliet and we ate those cupcakes. Everyone snapped pictures as the girls played in the bubble machine we had given Juliet for her birthday, until the floor got too slippery with soap film (whoops, I guess that is an outside toy). It didn’t matter that I wasn’t the one snapping the pictures. The good ones ended up tagged and on my Facebook wall.
This morning Angela texted me, she had originally said she could watch the girls today so Christian could write, but she thinks she is coming down with an ear infection. She told me how sorry she was, and I could hear the mom-guilt leaking in. It seems to be the equalizer between stay at home and working moms.
The truth is the Bible has a lot to say about mommy guilt. It says that you are worthy, it says that you are enough, it says that God is for you. When you add Jesus says you should! to the already impossible list, the mom guilt grows. But the body of Christ, the true church is the solution to it all. When I was not enough this week, the church came around me and acted as the body of Christ. They did what they could, and my family was yet again, remarkably loved.