Ugh! You'd think I'd like Mother's Day. But it seems like nothing but overkill to me. A day to stimulate the economy and raise the guilt meter. Greeting cards and jewelry stores and restaurants all seem to cash in on the day aimed at celebrating a woman in the one role in her life where she will never, ever feel like she is doing a good enough job.
I had a mother. I am a mother. My daughter will soon be a mother. As far as I can tell, we are (were, in my mother's case) human beings. Made in the image of God, but made of dust. Our culture has gone totally, certifiably nuts when it comes to mothers. We aren't to be mothers, regular people like you. We are Mothers: Superhuman. Mothers: Infallible. Mothers: Omnipresent Mothers: Omniscient. Mothers: All wise. All powerful. All good.
You moms out there, don't tell me you don't feel that pressure. But you know what? That is not a definition of a mother. That is the definition of God. (Westminster Shorter Catechism: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being,
wisdom, power, holiness,
justice, goodness, and truth.)
I suppose there has always been pressure to be a perfect mother ever since that hives-inducing Proverbs 31 chapter showed up, but I think that, with rise of the Information Age, where instruction and opinions can be had at the turning of a page or the clicking of a mouse, the expectations have spun out of control.
We are told that our choices in feeding, immunizing (or not), disciplining, scheduling (or not), training, nurturing, and educating our children will determine who they become and where they go in life. Young mothers write blogs on the holiness of this calling. Educators urge parents to raise the trajectory of their children's lives. Alarmists tell you that giving your child a vaccine will make them autistic. Doctors tell you that NOT giving your child a vaccine will give the entire country polio. And on and on and on, ad nauseum. And it's ALL UP TO US.
Since when were we God? What makes us so powerful? I think some of this is a backlash against the career woman movement so that stay-at-home moms could feel important. I remember the first time I heard the saying "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world," I felt a sense of pride and significance. I hear that now and totally freak out. Don't give me that kind of power. I'll screw it up. I'm just a person and a very broken one at that.
I had issues with my own mother. Over time, and upon reflection after her death, those struggles that loomed so large are disappearing in the rear view mirror, growing smaller in the distance. But at one time in my life I was actually afraid of my mother. I didn't know how to interact with her yet be my own person. I didn't know how to love her yet stay safe from a vortex of dysfunctional relations and unrealistic expectations. A counselor commented to me, "Your mother seems awfully powerful." I agreed. "More powerful even than God." I agreed again. Wow! "That is sin. You are attributing to your mother the power only reserved for God." This wasn't just a light bulb moment, it was a whole illuminated sign of light bulbs. Like Times Square on New Year's.
Aren't we doing the same thing? Aren't we, when we expect the mother to be the be-all-and-end-all of her child's existence, giving her too much power? When we expect the mother to be the lawgiver and rule keeper and trainer and sustainer and provider and coach and comforter? When we expect the mother to make all the right decisions and create all the precious moments and grind the wheat and cook organically on a budget and connect with her children in all the deep levels and mold their conscience and right their wrongs and motivate and never, ever, ever grow weary or need a stiff drink?
We are expecting mothers to be God. But I know one thing. I'm NOT God. I am a mother. A terribly sinful, flawed, broken mother who tried her best on some days and gave it all up with a whimper on others. I love my children more than life itself, but there is no way I can ever be everything to them or for them. My mother didn't have the power to determine who I became. I don't have the power to determine who my children become. Only God can do that. And for that I am forever grateful.