I have a confession: I’m a huge jerk. That’s fine because Jesus is Lord and I am dealing with the realization through repentance. But in realizing the jerk I am, I’ve discovered some things about my heart and motherhood to which you may relate.
I debated writing this post because the crux of my issue is that I am weary of “motherhood” conversations. Not parenting, but motherhood. The “mommy talk” that pervades the internet (and church) makes me feel suffocated. The problem is that in the 9 months since becoming a mother I haven’t been able to figure out why. After all, I love my baby! I love being his mother. Still, the allergic reaction that urges me to RUN from motherhood pow-wows is indicative of something wrong in my heart.
I realized my jerk syndrome had gotten out of hand when a new friend genuinely apologized to me for using cloth diapers and making her own baby food. I cringed inside as she spoke, realizing the very thing I hate about the mommy world – pervasive comparison – was what I inflicted upon her as I tried to explain my aversion to “mommy-ness.” Yes. I am the reverse-discrimination jerk mother. And what a fool I am to think myself outside of the supposed “mommy war” just because I despise it.
The very fact that I hate it tells me I am very much inside of it.
My pastor gave a sermon in which he connected our constant struggle to be in some desired inner circle to a memory of Eden. Something inside of us knows that we are not where we should be, so we sinfully respond by spending our lives striving to feel “in”– with friends, possessions, class, race. In doing so, we naturally demarcate that those who do not have the status we have are necessarily “out.”
I thought of the deeply buried but present strife concerning whether I am a good enough mother, whether I’m actually a real mother at all. Am I “in” the circle of real mothers? Or am I “out,” inferior and insufficient? While this angst drives some mothers to the blogs or hours of comparative conversations (yack), my response to willfully reject the obsession with motherhood and act like I’m above it is equally fruitless. In rejecting the rat race of motherhood I am clearly choosing another circle to be part of – the imagined ring of make-it-work-whatever-it’s-fine moms that is clearly better than the ring of blog-reading-worrier-comparer moms. Lord, have mercy.
What are we reaching for as women – as mothers – that creates this cauldron of sin, judgment and inadequacy? Like the struggle to be “in” having its root in Eden, the woman’s struggle to be “mother enough” has ancient roots as well. Looking into my own heart, I find this striving and desire to be the perfect mother comes from a sinful attempt to claim God’s glory for myself. As a life-giver and nurturer I bring glory to God who has placed me in this role. The reason I care what someone else does or does not do is because I lust after God’s glory. I lust after the credit for being Life-giver and Nurturer. But the truth is, I don’t want another mother to have this taste of glory . . . because I know I can’t. And because I lust for this glory I sure can’t have, I am constantly looking around competitively to see if anyone else has attained it. And if they look like they have, I am tempted to feel inadequate . . . or act like they’re weird . . . or I choose not to like them.
Does this story sound familiar? Just as the angel Lucifer became jealous and proud and sought to claim God’s glory for himself (Isa 14:12; Ezek 28:13-15), I am deeply tempted to do the same. In motherhood, God’s glory is beautiful and can feel even palpable. In seeing this beauty, I am so often tempted to try and crown myself with it.
Does this strike a cord with you? Perhaps you’re a third option – the mother who doesn’t compare herself to others because you are so proud of your motherly glory. I’m not sure if this is a struggle for all mothers, but I do think it’s a struggle for many. So, we must take heed of our hearts and our motivations as we bear and raise children.
The glory to give and nurture life is the Lord’s, not ours.
The sooner we can realize that and repent of any desire to steal God’s glory, the sooner we can rightly accept the gift of motherhood, raise our children and love each other well.
Dorsey Swindall is a biblical counselor with One-Eighty Counseling and Education in Louisville, Kentucky. She and her husband have two children.