This is the second installment on Two Things that Make Mothering Hard. The first was Youth.
The second is HEARTBURN
I don’t know how else to describe a mother’s love and the burning desire we have to make sure our children are happy and thriving.
It’s a passion.
It’s a longing.
It’s almost painful, this duty and desire to do right by our babies.
We feel responsible and accountable for who our children are and who they will become. The emotions associated with this are hard to describe and hard to manage. The passion burns like a fire that can’t go out. It’s almost an obsession and it makes mothering hard.
For example, the same powerful force that urges us to do something necessary like protect our children, may also lead us to overprotect them. It’s hard to balance being watchful with being a helicopter. What do we do with all the worry burning inside of us?
Or how about the guilt, eating away at us? We have a hard time knowing whether we have done enough for our children and we usually conclude we have not. “Have I given enough of myself today; read enough story books; had a good enough attitude? Have I taken them to church enough; taught them enough scripture; sacrificed enough, prayed enough, or bought them enough stuff?”
We ask ourselves these hard questions every day and every night, and our typical answer is, “No. You have not done enough and you have not been good enough.” This makes mothering hard. This desire to do right becomes perfectionism. And oddly, it does not plague us in other areas of our lives in quite the same way. Sure, we want to be good employees and noble wives, but the desire to be a good mother is unique, almost crazy in its ability to control our decisions and emotions.
How can we ever have joy when we are trying our best, but coming up short every day? What do we even use to measure the enoughness of Mother love? There is no tool available to measure it, but we do need some sort of tool to manage it. Otherwise, this love will become twisted and we won’t be able to let our children go. Or we’ll always feel guilty and shamed, unable to find comfort no matter how worthy and sincere our efforts may be.
What to do?
First, realize our heartburn makes sense. Whether we have borne a child or labored through the process of surrogacy or adoption, the life of our child has lived within our wombs and hearts, from seed to birth to open arms. We have labored literally and in prayer with weeping and wondering, with bodies cut open, life pushed out, energy expended, thousands spent. Why? Because our hearts burned and yearned to experience Mother love.
As wild as it all seems, I know this intense love is from God. I can’t help but think of Hannah in I Samuel, who prayed so intensely for a child that the priest thought she was drunk. Heartburn expressed in a temple long ago plays out in our lives every day as we plead with God for children, born and unborn. God gets us. We can take comfort in that.
Second, we can find comfort in knowing that when God describes his deep love for his children, he compares himself to mothers.
He spreads his wings over them, Even as an eagle overspreads her young. She carries them upon her wings—As does the Lord his people! Deut. 32. 11
“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! Isaiah 49:15
As a mother comforts her child, so I’ll comfort you. Is. 66.13a
This beautiful imagery affirms the heartburn of motherhood and most importantly, it affirms God’s incredible, indescribable love for us. On our hardest mother-day, let’s imagine the heart of God burning for our happiness and thriving. When our chests are ready to explode with worry or guilt; when we feel driven to do a better job of mothering; when we make mistakes and the road is rocky and hard, it’s comforting to know we have a soft spot in which to rest.
Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers. He will protect you under His great wings. Psalm 91:4