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Has the reality of motherhood hit you yet?
Kids force us into the strangest situations – I once showered my three-year-old at the County Fair. I know. What a way to begin a guest post. But you know as well as I do if we were sitting around a campfire swapping stories, you would laugh and empathize with me.
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The reality of motherhood
Four of us crammed into a tiny shower room: my three-year-old (filthy) daughter, my daughter’s dearest (filthy) friend, her mom, and me. As if four people in a shower weren’t chaotic enough, that filthy friend didn’t think she warranted a shower and threw a Great Fit.
Perhaps the Great Fit will subside, we reasoned, if they can be together. So we took them both, one kicking and screaming, and locked ourselves in, determined to leave with happy and squeaky clean toddlers.
We underestimated the power of an exhausted child giving a Great Fit. Ear-splitting screams bounced off the cement block walls, magnifying the noise ten-fold. Steam dripped from my nose. I vaguely wondered if we would emerge alive.
And then, a booming knock at the door. It was forceful and startling. Without thinking, I answered it.
Not what I expected
It was a cop. A uniformed officer. With a gun at his hip and his hand on his radio, ready to call for back up.
His eyes widened and he took an involuntary step back. A few moments passed as he took in the scene, punctuated by the hiccups of quickly subsiding sobs.
“This… is not… what I expected,” he finally said. He hurriedly handed me two Jr. Police badge stickers for the girls and stumbled away.
I closed the door and turned around. Two moms, dripping wet and fully clothed. Two wide-eyed, naked toddlers, with sopping, soapy hair.
I wonder what he expected.
The gap between expectation and the reality of motherhood
Several years have passed, yet the girls still reference that night in hushed tones. My friend and I double over with laughter when recounting the scene. Yet, I think about that police officer, and something about his words makes me suck in my breath.
If you could look into my eyes, you’d realize the pain and heartache, the joy and hope of these years raising babies. And perhaps one of the hardest things is the gap between my expectation and the reality of Motherhood.
Because here’s the thing: I’ve read lots of books. I talk to lots of people. I watch and observe and take notes. And yet I still feel so unprepared. These kids who take my breath away in wonder one moment make me hopping mad the next. They show wisdom, then they fail. They laugh together, then they fight over the most insignificant thing. Every day I find myself shaking my head and saying, “This… is not… what I expected.”
I set out to be the perfect mom
There’s a picture in my first born’s baby book documenting his first bath. I’m holding him in the kitchen sink, a piece of paper beside me and I’m reading the directions. So began my quest to get it all right. I felt called to Motherhood, called to nurture a small piece of the next generation, and by golly, I was going to get it right, starting with the very first bath.
If you feel the same, let me lean in close and assure you: there’s no way to get a perfect score. That gap between our expectations and the reality of motherhood is how God grows our faith.
Perhaps you’re like me, desperately wanting to get it right… whatever that is, whatever that means. It’s easy to get caught up in the striving, in creating a life that’s happy, pleasing, fulfilling. But then – the reality of motherhood gets in the way.
The gaps come in the small moments: arguments, tantrums, unfinished projects, a burnt dinner. Then there are the big moments: rebellion, divorce, depression, death. Circumstances force their way into our cozy little life and suddenly reality is very, very different than what we pictured. The tears come from a deep place in our soul that we didn’t even know existed and we are tempted to just give it all up.
It’s not what we expected.
David’s reality and resolution
In Psalm 62 King David, threatened by the assaults of his conspirators, felt very weak. It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing it wasn’t exactly how he pictured the end of his life playing out. And yet,
“My soul finds rest in God alone;” he writes, “my salvation comes from him. And, He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:1,2,5 NIV)
In the King James Version, verse five reads “My soul, wait for thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”
Where to place our expectations in the reality of motherhood
Alone and weak, David firmly placed his expectations on God alone. When we get stuck wishing our lives were different, we’re missing out on what our life actually is. We’re missing all the glorious ways that God is shaping and working and giving. We don’t have to live resigned to the circumstances that seem less than what we hoped, we can look with hope to God. He takes the heartbreak and reminds us that He is enough. This is where He meets us— right in the gap between our expectation and our reality.
You and I, we are Mamas living this messy life – the reality of motherhood. May we have the courage to allow God to redeem the hurt and pain, to take our fragile lives and give us rest in Him.
Sarah Damaska lives in the Thumb of Michigan with her pastor-husband and three school-aged kids. Shaped by the death of her daughter, Annie, she writes on her blog sarahdamaska.com about the intersection of hope & sorrow and how God calls us to live holding onto both. Every fall, she boards a plane to visit her friends in Haiti, particularly two sweet ex-prostitutes who have taught her the power of redemption and how Jesus makes all things new.