By Shelby Hofer –
In the midst of an emotional breakdown last night I uttered a cry of complete desperation to my husband, “I am just a mom!” and was drawn up short by just how true that feels to me these days. Now, I don’t mean “just a mom” in the sense of what a mom DOES, because as we all know, that’s a freakin’ big job to DO. I meant “just a mom” in the sense of who I am, and that is what feels frightening to me. That is what stopped me mid-sob, because the truth of that statement is exactly what I’ve been trying to pinpoint these last few weeks as “The Problem”, the thing that is eating me alive and stealing my sense of reality. Another identity, a giant beast called “I am Mother”, has risen up and eclipsed all that I am, the very real “Me”, and that, my true identity, who I am, is helpless; slow-drowning in a bog of expectations and tasks that engulf me in a never ending set of tidal waves. The “I am” of the very core of my identity tries to rise from the undertow and gasp for a breath every now and then, but all too often these days just spends her time rolling around on the bottom of the ocean, lost in the ebb and flow of the storm, waiting for a breath, wondering if it will come, and falling into that slow death-like sleep that takes over just before real Death comes to claim us.
This is “The Problem”, or at least a very large part of it, “The Problem” being that I can hardly make it through a day without feeling like I’m literally, and very slowing, going insane. I can watch myself from outside of my body, and reflect on this interesting phenomenon fairly dispassionately, until the cries and needs of my children unsympathetically pull me back into my body, kicking and screaming, to face once more the emptiness that is “Me” while simultaneously trying to be everything that I’m supposed to be, do everything that I’m supposed to do, and clinging fruitlessly to the scraps of what I used to know as who I am.
It used to be that when people told me to “cherish every moment of this season because it passes so quickly!” that I wanted to punch them in the face. Now I don’t even have the energy for disbelieving anger. Now I just stare at them with glassy, tired eyes, and start to cry slowly inside. Because I am “just a mom”, and that just feels…bad. I don’t want to cherish every moment of this empty, dark place, because it feels like hell, and it’s not something I want to relive any more than my current reality demands of me. Yes, there are the small moments that shine like rays of sun through the gray clouds of my days. The first moment they say, “momma”, those smiles that melt your heart, those days where they sleep normally and you get an extended moment of peace. But then the clouds close up again, they start screaming for no known reason (or just because they are stubborn), they argue with you constantly, hit each other, fight, yell and generally misbehave. You can’t cook or clean or do the laundry because they crawl all over you, all the time, like tiny parasites that weigh a ton and suck the soul from your body. Pleasant, isn’t it?
I wish I had some sunny anecdote to share with you, and myself, that would make it all ok. Some small thing to give that would make it feel better, but the only thing I have to give is the knowledge that you are not alone. It feels that way sometimes, I know, but even though you may be “just a mom” right now, I have faith that the real identity of who I am, of who you are, will rise up one day, from the ashes of the destruction of this season, and will grow into something even more beautiful than it was before. I have Hope, and I give it to you, to me, and to those who suffer with us. It’s small, and fragile, but beautiful, and it will grow, just give it time.
When we are in a season of trials and suffering, often HOPE is the only thing we can cling onto. So if you are in one of these seasons – cling on to the Hope of Jesus and the new season that will come soon. As we end this month, find rest in that we don’t always stay in dreary winters.
Shelby is a full time stay at home mom to two little ninja-pirates, a part time missionary to Switzerland, and a full time lover of Jesus. When she’s not being yelled at for trying to pee alone, she enjoys coffee, talking and listening to people’s stories.