By Cindy Koch –
Too often, I see that look in a mother’s eye. Too often, I hear that exhausted sigh when no one else is listening. Too often, I feel that phony smile twist up my own lips, hiding the chaos inside. As any mother will confide, this job is much harder than it looks.
Of course, there are challenges in every vocation. There are horror stories from every walk of life. I’m not suggesting that moms have it any worse than anyone else. Your temptations are probably greater. Your trials are probably more significant. Your time is too precious to consider a bunch of women whining about how hard it is to be a woman. But for the mama who feels lost and lonely behind the mask of the perfect parent, this one is for you, girl.
Last week, I was going through the mindless motions. Driving here. Doing schoolwork there. Don’t hit your sister. Listen to my words. More driving. Did you do your math? Why did you put dirt in your pocket? Oh no, who’s picking up? Use your inside voice. No, you can’t have my phone… Suddenly a mother stopped me in my tracks. She put a firm hand on my shoulder and looked right at me. She then glanced out to the playground at her son, who was swinging. With a frantic glimmer in her eye and that exasperated whisper, she asked the question every mom struggles to answer: “What am I doing wrong?”
Awoken from my routine mom monotony, I stopped to consider her question carefully. What was this mom doing wrong? Is this what she was really asking me? Did she want me to list out ways to improve? Was she asking for a parenting lesson right here on the spot? No, this was different. She was peeling off the put-together face. She was exposing the fears, disappointments, and anger that live behind the smile. She was looking for answers because something told her she wasn’t doing it right.
Maybe I should have told her about the latest parenting book I read. It had eight great tips for a happy, compliant child. It listed out things to say, words to avoid, and steps to take in almost every situation. But there have been so many books and so many methods. If that one didn’t fix the problem, I could have recommended another, and another, and even one more.
Maybe I should have told her about the great things I do as a parent. I could go on and on about how my children have overcome their nasty habits. I could recount my brilliant schemes for pointing them in the right direction. Recounting a life of ease and glory is just what she may have needed so that this mom could follow my amazing example. Of course, I would have left out the current struggles we still face. I surely wouldn’t have boasted about my failures, lest she doubt my mentoring advice.
Maybe I should have pointed her to a higher power. They say the Bible is chock-full of advice for practical living. Some carefully chosen verses may just inspire her to step up her mama game. If I changed her focus to her “servant heart” instead of her failure, maybe the results would be better. If I could persuade her to follow the right ways that came from God Almighty, all of her problems would be over.
Maybe I should have, but I didn’t. I looked back into her teared-up eyes and said, “I know. This is all really hard.”
Moms are given beautiful, amazing children that inevitably break their heart, soul, and body. Moms are blessed with an incredible gift that is a burden of pain in this life. Moms are built and expected to care for their kids, even when they don’t want to. Moms inexplicably love the little sinners who show no gratitude. It’s no wonder moms end up asking the question, “What am I doing wrong?” Because many times this relationship just doesn’t look right.
Moms, this is hard. We all fail at being the perfect parent. Even if we have one child or one stage figured out, the next one will take us back this haunting question. So, in the end, it’s not about the right methods, actions, or holy laws to follow. Moms need the Gospel.
No one is righteous, not our children nor ourselves. But Christ gave his life to cover our failures in parenting and our children’s failures in obeying. Even though it looks bad today, keep enduring. Christ will usher back a world where there is no more struggle with our children. And right now, moms, you are forgiven.