Saturday, May 12, 2012

Broken Mother's Day

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.


  1. Ginny, I truly appreciate your blog and all you have written to express your vulnerability, your joys, pain, sense of hope yet the great feelings of failure I know all mothers feel. If I may, I would like to say that as a mother who has felt much the same, still Mother's Day means so very much to me. When I am honored on that man made celebratory day, I am humbled that in spite of my failings, the One who is the glory and the lifter of my head reminds me in a special way that my heart was to love, to serve, to nurture. Even though I did not measure up to the pinnacle of motherhood I had built up in my mind, God saw my heart and still sees this weary, empty and very broken mother who by the grace of God continues to believe He redeems and restores and is the rebuilder of the lost ruins (Acts. 15:16). I celebrate in my heart with great joy for the privilege of giving life to my three precious children, for being able to pray for them, to fight tenaciously in prayer for them to know "the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living", to be an "Ezer" for my husband so in turn my daughter can be that for her husband and my sons can desire that in a wife. I have a bold purpose as a mother, not because of who I am but because of God's great calling on my life as a mother. So, I thank you for pointing out so beautifully the beauty of a broken mother. I trust we as broken mothers can see the way in which God smiles on our calling. He is the perfect mother, father, child, friend, any other relationship. It's a beautiful thing to walk in our calling without the pressure of needing to be God. Amen to your thoughts my friend.

  2. Song titles come to mind...Stand by your Mom; When a man needs a Mommy; Sittin' on the knee of my Mom watching the tide roll a...;Left a good Mom in the city; Mom! in the name of Love, please make us pancakes, think it over...think it over...;

  3. Brought me to tears. Thank you. I felt like my mom did such a good job with me and I remember her always being so patient. In reality, she said she didn't always feel patient and there were days that she wanted to crawl back in bed and stay there. I put this unnecessary pressure on myself to be this perfect mom that I had in my head. I try more and more to release myself from my own expectations.

  4. This is awesome and I love you! Your last paragraph nails it! I am not God and my mom wasn't either. To expect her to have been what she wasn't and to "see that and raise you one," is idolatry. Thanks for your words! I'm glad your "Letter to Young Moms" is going viral, so I could stumble over here and read them.

  5. Kudos Ginny! So well written. I agree with Anna; we are being idolatrous to put so many expectations on motherhood. The favor of the Lord is upon you in this season, my friend, so use it wisely to influence others with godly wisdom. May your words continue to flow, graced with wisdom.