Just A Mom

by Hilary Horn

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.

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jennethsuzanne June 27, 2017 - 5:32 am

Thank you Shelby for your greatly refreshing honesty! It is a pleasure to read as though I am sitting in your lounge over a cuppa and the realness of the seasons you find yourself in can be shared without judgement. There have been times (like when I had my last child 5 years ago), that I felt like I was losing it on a regular basis. Having friends to pray and care with you is so needed in this society where so many wear masks and pretend it’s all ok while crying on the inside. I once told a lady at church I was going for counselling after she praised me for being such an amazing parent. And she said, oh now I’m disillusioned. I think it is good then to disillusion others of the idea that there is anything like a perfect anyone. Blessings!

Sheena Freeman June 27, 2017 - 6:00 pm

Courage, ma brave! It is a very difficult season – but like all things it comes to pass, not to stay. Life gets a bit easier when your youngest gets to six years old. Then you have a few years’ respite until they hit teenage. I had a bunch of fascinating, feisty girls and they gave me some serious upstream – especially as I was a single parent at that stage. however, they did grow up into competent, loving people and good citizens facing the challenges and rewards of motherhood. My son was more of a mystery, much less combative and far more self-contained. He seemed like an iceberg – only ten percent in view.

I found the latter half of my forties a very testing time. Perimenopause (the patch before your periods cease) was very difficult because it felt as though the bones of my personality were melting down. I felt like some ugly bit of pond life crawling around in the mud. It was very hard to get anything done and my new husband was critical because I did not meet his expectations.

There is an interesting parallel. You will have seen a caterpillar spin a cocoon which seems to do nothing for weeks, if not months. Then suddenly, one fine spring day, something chews a hole in one end of the chrysalis and a six legged creature struggles out with a swollen abdomen and crumpled wings. It doesn’t look like anything to begin with, but it sits in the sun and works at moving its wings. Slowly it pumps fluid through the veins and the wings expand and harden in the air to become the beautiful creature that gives us so much joy. If the butterfly doesn’t struggle to escape the cocoon it doesn’t have the strength to pump up its wings.

We have all seen the caterpillar and the butterfly – but have you ever seen the inside of a cocoon between the two stages? A teacher once opened one for our class. All that was inside was a formless gloopy substance – totally unrecognisable as either caterpillar or butterfly. That was what I often felt like – ugly, useless but becoming something different.

Our brains are completely rewired during the menopausal process. We become different people with different priorities and different attitudes. The submissive persona needed to keep the peace and protect our children goes and we become far more independent and feisty. Other people’s opinions no longer matter so much either. It is a great freedom. Circumstances forced me to change country and take on a huge learning curve twelve years ago. All these struggles have made me strong – but I won’t pretend it’s a comfortable process.

Through all this God has been the constant thread in my life. If you can drag your weary bones out of bed before the rest of the household wakes, I recommend some quiet time with God, reading, praying and revelling in His companionship. It helps to set you up for the day. A prayer journal, to write in as you pray, is very valuable because it charts your journey. It makes amazing reading at a later stage because it proves to you that God is faithful. He remembers and answers so many of our prayers that we forget. It can be very humbling but very uplifting. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is very wise because it changes our perspective and invites all sorts of good things into our lives. ‘The Joy of the LORD is our strength.’

Now I’m seventy and revelling in being an old lady. I am joyous, confident, strong, fit and still earning my own living – although in a completely different field – and loving life.

I have become the promised butterfly – and revel in it. You have so much to look forward to.

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