I remember as a child being so angry over something that I was determined to run away. I sat on my bed and thought about what I needed to pack and where I was going to go. I was determined to get out of there. In my young mind my thoughts turned to, “This will show them! They’ll miss me when I’m gone!” Of course after laying down on the bed for a good cry and realizing that I was indeed scared to be out on my own, I gave up my thoughts of running away… well, for that day anyway.
As an adult it’s hard to admit that there are still days where the thought of running away crosses my mind. Of course it’s not the same thought process that I had as a child and no, I don’t truly want to run away, but the idea of getting away when things just seem overwhelming and just too much to handle, well, that idea is appealing sometimes.
I had one of these days recently. This past weekend I was cleaning out the garage so that we would have room for a “new to us” refrigerator that a sweet couple was blessing us with. We were in true need of another fridge and had not had one for many years now. I can’t even explain what a blessing this was! However, the blessing brought along with it a curse. I knew that to make a place for it was going to be hard on me. The garage was a mess. And when I say mess, I mean a mess. When the cold had set in we stop using our schoolroom we set up in the garage and instead did our work upstairs where it was warm. Since we weren’t using the garage it was easy to tell the kids, “Just put it in the garage” when they’d ask where something needed to go. Before long, stuff was piled high and wide. With a family of 13 and a small house with no storage you can imagine what it might look like. We had also had the garage flood a couple of times in the last few months. The older kids did their best to clean it up when I was out of town but it wasn’t the same as me going down there to do it. Put Garrett moving back home and piling his stuff up in there on top of everything else and well, it was a mess.
I suppose if that was the end of the story you might question why I thought about running away. Unfortunately it wasn’t just a matter of a lot of work for me to clean the garage. The bigger problem I faced was my children rooting through things, making boxes spill out and onto the floor, and then not bothering to clean up their messes. There were things that were broken and things that were ruined. There was mold growing on items that had sat in water that had never gotten completely cleaned up. I would come to find cat urine on plastic tarps from when the cat ran in the garage when the kids were fooling around in there. They didn’t know he was in there and he got trapped. He pooped and peed and it got all over things. As I lifted the tarp (not knowing it had cat pee on it) my legs were sprinkled with the stinky substance. I was mad… no, I was furious! I wanted to yell; I want to throw things; I wanted to run away.
My oldest daughter happened to come into the garage at that moment. She saw the look on my face. She asked me what was wrong. I opened my arms, waved them around and said angrily, “Look at what they’ve done! It’s not just that they made a mess it’s that they were so disrespectful of my things, of our things, of our space!” I kicked at a school book they had laying on the floor and tears made their way to the corners of my eyes as I said, “I didn’t sign up for this. This is not what motherhood is supposed to be like! Why have I failed?” She came closer and said, “Mama, do you need a hug?” As she wrapped her arms around me and I buried my head into my daughter’s shoulder she quietly said, “You are a good mom. You are doing a good job. They are kids and don’t get it yet. They will.”
I sure didn’t feel like a good mom though. I felt like running away. Good moms don’t think about running away, do they? Good moms have a constant smile on their face, bake cookies, play games all day long with their kids, have a clean house, have the laundry always caught up, the television never babysits her kids, the beds are made, the kids are clean and they never do naughty things like rummage through the garage getting into things that don’t belong to them, making a disaster in their wake and ruining things that can’t be replaced. Those are the things good moms do, right? Good moms don’t yell, or throw their hands in the air in disgust, or cry over the fact that they are big, fat failures. Right? RIGHT?
The more I thought about this and prayed on it I realized my 21 year old daughter was indeed right… I am a good mom even though I thought about running away. Being a good mom doesn’t mean we have perfect kids or that our home is always in perfect condition with no messes and the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafting through the house. No, being a perfect mom doesn’t mean these things at all. Being a perfect mom is a fallacy; a fairytale; a dream. There are no perfect moms living today. Outside of the Virgin Mary there have never been any perfect moms and there never will be any perfect moms. But this doesn’t mean you aren’t a great mom. This doesn’t mean I’m not a great mom.
Being a mother is hard work. It is constant sacrifice. It is frustration and confusion. It is long days and even longer nights. It’s giving and giving and giving and sometimes never receiving. It’s feeling invisible and yet at the same time it’s everyone wanting to touch you and sit on you and need you right.this.moment. It is feeling alone in your struggles and not being able to say, “I need some help!” It’s the feeling of failure that maybe you can’t do it all even though we are told we should be able to do it all. It’s feeling disappointed and bewildered when your child chooses the wrong path and you wonder where you went wrong, why couldn’t you teach them the right way. It is feeling bankrupt physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually at times. Yes, motherhood is hard. We weren’t told some of these dirty secrets when we signed up for this. It’s no wonder the thought of running away crosses our mind every now and again.
So if being a mother is so hard why do we stick it out? Why don’t we run away?
Motherhood is a source of great sacrifice but it is also a source of great rewards too. At the end of the day we know we participated in something so much greater than ourselves. The sacrifices we have made are not in vain, they have contributed to helping our children know love… both our own love but more importantly God’s love. When we sacrifice for our children we do exactly what our Father in heaven did for us. We have helped build a place of comfort, peace, and security that our children will fall back on later in their lives when times are tough. Add in watching our children play together, the“I love yous” that come at random times, the pictures with bobble-headed people holding hands, dandelions picked with love and presented to us as gifts, hugs and kisses, the whispers of “You’re the best Mama in the world!”, or our adult children telling us that indeed we have done (and are doing) a good job we can see that the rewards to motherhood are many. If we focus on these things during our times of despair we can make it through those hard times a little easier.
As mothers we are planting seeds. Sometimes it takes years and years to see the fruit of our labors. The labor is intensive as we work in our garden. We have to water and weed, fertilize and groom. There will be times the ground freezes over or the rain floods our efforts, but we still must toil in the garden if we want to see our seeds sprout and bear fruit. If we give up and run away we will never see the beautiful harvest our garden is sure to bring.
Stay strong. You are doing a wonderful job! You are a great mother! Don’t pack your bags just yet and run away. Stay and enjoy the beauty of the garden you are planting. Your rows may be crooked, the soil may get a little dry from time to time, there may be a few slugs or weeds you have to deal with, but in the end your plants will burst into a garden far more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. Just give it a little more time.