There’s something I wish I could give to my friends who are moms of toddlers and babies. I wish I could give you a taste of what I see, now that my oldest children are teenagers.
I want to give this to you, because I know you are tired. I know it feels like some of those long days of service will never end, and that you aren’t doing any good, and that you are just getting old, wasting your whole life along the way.
I remember years of feeling like that.
I remember feeling like we had no money because we were making hard choices for my kids’ best interest. I didn’t work outside the home, which meant even basic luxuries were impossible to fit in our budget. I will never forget that manicured career woman who spoke her easy answer into my brokenness and fatigue.
“Just get a maid,” she said. A maid. We were choosing between books and milk at that point. I cried later that night, it burned so badly.
I remember feeling like I was wasting my life, and that I never had any time to do anything I loved.
And it was just so terribly lonely so much of the time.
I remember how it seemed easy for other moms. They went with the flow. Dropped their kids off wherever to go wherever. They let them watch whatever. They avoided conflict by finding cliques and following trends. They didn’t discipline their kids for offenses that put me in lock down.
I was the weirdo conservative.
Or sometimes, they followed trends to keep their children sheltered more than I did. I seemed reckless for letting my kids watch and do things too early. I didn’t discipline my children for offenses that set others on edge.
I was the weirdo liberal.
I could never get anything finished. There was always a new mess. Always a project undone. It seemed like I was a failure every single day.
There was such a constant sense of need. Such a constant sense of not being enough.
So many questions. So many fears.
Today my oldest son drove me to school. He’s been doing that for a couple of weeks now. He’s a wonderful driver, cautious and kind.
Along the way, we had a discussion about Flannery O’Connor, about the radical gospel of Brennan Manning, and about stepping protectively into the lives of women caught in the adult entertainment industry.
He said, “Like Hosea. That’s the kind of love we’re talking about.”
And I got all teary. Because he’s not perfect, and because we fight sometimes, and because it’s still hard most days. We still don’t have much money, and there are still days when I fear I have lost myself.
But mostly, I am overwhelmed that the living God would take all those years of my not really knowing what to do, and all those years of my feeling like I was dying and wasting, and all that hurt, and turn them into a young man so bright and so beautiful.
And not only a young man, but a daughter, golden and sensitive, who loves science, and yarn, and beads. Who gets giddy talking about cellular division. Whose eyes are as clear and blue as the skies over the ocean.
They are going to change the world. I can feel it.
And there is this little one trailing after them. Five, and so much work, and so much joy. He is still at that age of requiring everything, and there are days when I feel old, and lonely, and exhausted. Like I am failing him, in all of his wonder, and tenderness, and hope. Like I am failing everyone.
But you know, there are hard choices yet to be made. There is a God who loves him. There is a God who loves me, too. There is a God who redeems the nothing I have left to give.
And so, young mom, don’t despair, though today feels like water passing through your hands. Even though nothing you have done since you woke up this morning feels like it has been right.
Know God is near. Know that He sees you. Know that He sees the faith it takes to walk forward into this chaos.
Know that someday soon, your little boy (or girl) will be driving you to school, and you will spend an hour talking about beautiful, interesting ideas. Your heart will swell up in your chest with something that feels like awe, because that same little kid who required everything you didn’t have somehow ended up becoming wonderful along the way. You will enjoy slow time in one another’s company, and you will take a big deep breath of gratitude. Because every lost thing will have been worth it after all.
NOTE: This essay first appeared on StoryWarren on May 3, 2013