With orange juice spilled over the kitchen table, Playdough in the cracks of the hardwood floor and a pacifier floating in the toilet, I wanted to scream phrases like, “How much more of this can I take?” and “I am not a maid!” and most of all, as the characters in Peanuts do, the long and profound, “AAUGH!” As I wiped the kitchen table, dug out the Playdough and retrieved the pacifier, I muttered, “Surely I deserve an award for mother of the year. ”
When I decided to become a mother, I envisioned days of cuddling my newborn and bathing her as serene music filled the air. As she’d grow older, I envisioned playing Ring Around The Rosies with her and a group of her neighborhood friends. I’d be a loving mother, anxious to nurture and praise my child. I’d never raise my voice.
The truth was, as soon as I become pregnant with my firstborn, I realized this was not how I had pictured it at all. I gained an enormous amount of weight, had heartburn and felt the most excruciating pain as I prepared to push my daughter from my body out into the world.
Continually, with each passing day, I am reminded that motherhood, especially when it involves preschoolers, is not a glamorous profession. How could it be when it starts with a growing belly, timing contractions and later waking up to cries at two a. m. ? (A mother’s cries as well as the baby’s. )
“It is the daily routine things that can drive me crazy, ” a mother I recently talked with expressed. “I get tired of having to make sure my four year old has brushed his teeth, make sure that there are clean clothes that I have laundered for him to wear and I am especially tired of making sure I stock the pantry with nutritious items to pack in his lunch for preschool. ”
Does anyone care about what we mothers have to go through? Do our seemingly menial tasks mean anything to anybody? Our husbands may come home with a promotion or an award and a paycheck. We don’t get any of these to show that what we do is noteworthy and valuable.
I used to expect the Ed McMahon of awards to mothers to come to my door and present me with a plaque that read: “For All Your Remarkable Hard Work. ” Others in the neighborhood would crowd around my front lawn, beaming at me and applauding my daily, grueling commitment to motherhood.
There was a time in my life when I felt I really needed to be recognized and presented with a motherhood award. It was immediately after my adorable four-year-old son, Daniel, died following cancer treatments. I wished I could have sunk into a hole in the sticky floor and not had any responsibilities. Not only was my grief consuming and agonizing, but I had to care for my surviving children, six-year-old Rachel and fifteen-month old Benjamin. On top of that, I was six months pregnant. If ever I felt I needed support, help, an award, it was then. Losing a child, your own flesh and blood, has to be the most difficult aspect of motherhood. Three months later, adding to the demands of parenting two kids and the suffering over the loss of one, arrived a new-born Elizabeth. Where was that award? Could there be a more appropriate candidate for it?
As time went on and no one called to invite me to tell my story on Oprah or on James Dobson and there was no excited crowd with cameras knocking at my door with the engraved plaque, I began to reconsider this award idea. Would an award given by those who heard my story really be sufficient? Even my closest friends did not know the agony of my situation and if they were to list the detailed reasons as to why I should get this motherhood award, they would come up short. They would leave out the darkest parts I had kept secret, therefore unable to know what was really going on with me.
Those of us who do not have ill children or disabled children to care for would not know what kind of inclusive award to give to the mothers of these children. We don’t see the day-to-day struggles that consist of severe behavioral troubles, extensive trips to the doctors’, the constant administration of medicines and the fear the child’s future may not be bright. We can’t know all that goes on when we don’t live with these children.
Only God knows our individual pain. The only true award of genuine value could be from Him as He knows all we have been through. Our self-worth lies in knowing who we are in Christ. We are loved and are precious to Him. We have been given a gift, the valuable role of mother, with all its triumphs and trials. We are servants and serving Him through doing the daily grunge-work for our kids. Jesus said that whoever would be greatest in God’s kingdom must learn to be servant of all. Within the realm of mere humans, is there any greater example of servanthood than motherhood?
While we may at times, be hopeful the award is coming soon, the reality is no earthly award presented by a human could measure up to what we are really worth. If we truly believe God sees all and knows all, then we can rest assured the award in Heaven will be the best and worth the wait. “Well done, my good and faithful servant, ” will be glorious music to our ears. And we won’t even have to be holding a mop to receive it!
But meanwhile, as you scrub the blue marker off the bedroom wall, know your humbling job as a serving mother is pleasing unto the Lord.
Alice J. Wisler's children are older from when she first wrote this essay, but her heart will always hold empathy for the mother of young children. Alice speaks on writing through parental loss, and is the author of two cookbooks of memory, “Down the Cereal Aisle" and “Slices of Sunlight. "
Visit her website at Daniel's House Publications: http://www.geoci/griefhope/index.html