Eleven years ago I celebrated my first Mother's Day. Josh gave me pearls. I sported a new, short mom do. I was 22 years old. I was a stay at a home mom. And those were the best of times and the worst of times. I alternated between a crazy love for the new little life my world now revolved around, and a sense of loss for the college program I had left behind, the friends who couldn't relate, and the body that I no longer saw in the mirror. Mostly, I struggled with the idea that I was "just a mom".
I have always been an overachiever. An obnoxious one. I have no idea how I had any friends or anyone could stand to be around me. I wanted to be the best and win all the awards. It took me a long time to realize how much my self-worth was tied up in trophies and recognition and certificates. I needed them to make me feel like I was ok. This realization came to me about the same time as motherhood. Did you know that no one claps for you after a midnight feeding or a diaper change that would bring a grown man to his knees?
Suddenly, I was "just a mom" and it didn't feel very important or special. Lots of people are moms. Anyone can be one. Right?
Of course, eleven years later, I know that's not true. I've learned there's a lot more to the being a mom thing than people think. I've watched people I love struggle with the fact that maybe a baby of their own is not in the plan for them. I've worked with women who have physically given birth, but their maternal instincts are lacking. I've been introduced to children who are desperate for the love, attention and affection of their mother.
And all of those things have caused me to rethink the phrase, "just a mom". Last night Sarah had her dance recital and it's the first time in several years that I wasn't teaching or working backstage for the studio. The comment was made that I would get to come to the show as "just a mom". And it thrilled my heart. It was so nice to be able to make last night about her and not have to share my attention with other girls or be in 5 different places. I loved being "just a mom", but it made me think about how that phrase used to fill me with a sense of disappointment in myself.
I thought being "just a mom" meant losing my identity, losing the respect of others, losing my dreams.
You see, it just didn't seem all that important. Until it did. Until I met those kids whose lives were lacking someone to kiss their owies and brush their hair. Until I watched them devour pizza at church on Wednesday night and came to understand that there had been no after school snacks for them. Until they told me it was their birthday, and there were no parties or special dinners planned. Until they were laying on the floor during class, exhausted because no one had provided a bed time or structure in their life.
I am so thankful that in the last 11 years God has made being "just a mom" my heart's desire. I have learned that being a mom has a lot less to do with how many children you bring home from the hospital, and more to do with how you learn to love the people in your life. It's looking at precious lives and knowing that they cannot have too many people love them. A child cannot be too loved or too taken care of. And things that may seem so routine, so mundane, are so important in the life of a child. There is nothing disappointing in loving, serving and nurturing other people.
Since that first Mother's Day I have gone back to school and worked different jobs, even jobs that I've loved. Despite my initial fears, I am still capable of adult conversation and I have some knowledge of pop culture beyond the Wiggles. :) I have friends and I have causes that are important to me. But, at the end of the day being "just a mom" has changed me in every way. In the best ways. I realized that I had allowed myself to believe that being a Mom would take things from me. Especially becoming one at such a young age. I believed a lie. Becoming a Mom grew things in me. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. Fruit that grows in the routine, long, sometimes stormy seasons of life. The kind that grows when a person's well-being becomes more important to you than your own.
I wanted to share this for all the Moms who spend their days rocking and feeding and refereeing. For the moms vacuuming and cooking and scrubbing. For the moms wiping noses and bottoms and tears. For the moms running and driving and longing to be many places at one time. For the moms trying to do it all and feeling like it's never all quite done. For the moms who may not even have their own children, but love and care and nurture as if they did. Being "just a mom" is just enough. It's just exactly what your babies need. And sometimes, other people's babies, too.