“The best way I can tell you what really happened is to take you some miles away to where the Hermit of the Southern March sat gazing into the smooth pool beneath the spreading tree…For it was in this pool that the Hermit looked when he wanted to know what was going on in the world in the green walls of his hermitage. There, as in a mirror, he could see, at certain times, what was going on…” C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy
Motherhood, parenthood, can be so terribly isolating. Especially nowadays, when keeping up with everyone is so simple and knowing anyone is so complex. Our lives are an intricate weaving of disconnected interconnectivity where we find out everything about everyone the moment it happens, and still know nothing as we sit alone in our favorite comfy chairs and behind our not-so-favorite office desks. We live in a bizarre hermitage. Like the hermit in the above paragraph from “The Horse and His Boy”, we see everything happening through the still-as-glass water in a pool, watching but not hearing, responding to no one because there is no one to be found. We know all about each other without really knowing each other at all, and that has created a distinct awkwardness when we meet with actual humanity. We feel like we know people so much better than we do, when really we only see what is offered to us…Often too perfect an imperfection, too staged a vulnerability, too harsh a reality, too magnificent a romance. Starved for relationship, we spend exorbitant amounts of time attempting to portray ourselves as worthy of being sought out beyond our handheld screens and smart touch keyboards. Every picture is carefully planned, every word tediously mapped out, all of our exposed flaws carefully chosen to make our vulnerability appealing rather than appalling.
I have found this to be an especially difficult struggle to endure in these mothering years, because there is such sabotage of the worth of the menial-in-the-eyes-of-society life I live that comes with the secrecy of social media. Are any of you with me? Are you exhausted and worn out from trying to live up to the mothers of folklore? Tired of feeling guilty for being made a mother at all, and tired of grieving for not being a mother as you thought you would be? Becoming a mother is a daunting sort of thing no matter how it comes to you, and we need each other’s real-ness, we need each other’s raw truth in our lives. Motherhood is different for all women, and that is rather implicitly okay. You are not alone in any of it. Not one moment. In the exhilaration of the triumphs and the despair of the losses, others are there, too.
As a mother currently in the deep waters of raising 4 children: I am with you who are in the same place. I want you to know you are seen. You are known. You are heard.
To those for whom nights turn to days without rest while you tend to sick, screaming, fussy little ones, who haven’t the energy to so much as fix yourself breakfast in the morning: You are doing a splendid job. You are winning mommyhood.
To those of you who spend your days chasing squealing toddlers and tantrum-throwing preschoolers: I am grateful for the laborious life you choose to lead right now. You are doing your best. I acknowledge you in your moment of seeming invisibility.
To those of you who are living in the land of teenagers wrought with fluctuating hormones and emotional outbursts: I am thankful for you. The gradual shift from childhood to adulthood you oversee is significant. On your hardest days in your most frazzled of states, you are still enough, still needed.
To those of you whose children are now grown and gone, while you are left with an empty house of memories: The sacrifices you made to raise your children were worth it. I am grateful for the story of your lives and those whom you have raised so beautifully. You are as much a mother the day you let them go as you were the day you first held them.
To those of you who have crossed the threshold of mommyhood into the promised land of grandmommyhood: We mothers of the naked and squealing and emotionally undone children are looking to you. We look to you and remember that we will survive all of this. We need your smiles. We need your grace.
To those of you who raise a forever-child in an aging body: The life you are living is a brilliant light to those graced to witness the way you love. You are as treasured as the precious souls you tend each day.
To those of you who have no children of your own womb and love our children as your own: We are thankful for the influence you have with our sons and daughters. You are valuable. You are inestimably significant to us.
To those of you who placed your children into another mother’s empty arms: Your sacrifice is beautiful. You are a hero to your child and to other waiting, childless mothers. I am amazed by your strength.
To those of you who exist in the flux of foster care, always loving to let go: Your relentless loving of someone you cannot keep is kept in the hearts of the ones you love, for all of their days. Your pain is worth their success. You are doing this right.
To those of you who love a child who will be carried in another mother’s womb, longing for the day they will be tucked into your arms and not just your heart: You can do this. The yearning will be worth the fulfillment to come. You are brave and strong and able.
To those of you who never held your tiny babies and to those of you who have held the lifeless body of a baby you longed for, a baby you labored to deliver: You are not forgotten. I see you. I grieve with you. I celebrate you, too, because you are a mommy still and always.
To those of you who have buried your own mother and feel the weight of a day with no one to thank: I commend you for your perseverance in your despair and encourage you in your sadness. There is no shame in your grief today. You are her daughter always.
And to all of you in all of your various phases of life: Know that the Lord has placed the children that are in your life there for a purpose. He knows they need something you have to offer, and you need something they have to give. So rest easy, weary momma of a sleepless newborn. Deep breaths, overwhelmed mommy of needy little ones. Grieve deeply, mom of little ones in the arms of Jesus and rejoice in the coming reunion at the end of days. Love passionately, moms who are “mom” to every child in your life and none of your own womb.
Look up, not sideways, all you women. You do not know the intricacies of the story of the woman next to you. You do not know her sorrow or her joy. Encourage her. Smile at her. Shake her hand. Hug her neck. Thank her for just being her. And thank her for being a mother to someone somewhere in some way, because she is.