Picture it: Monday morning about 9:30, me dragging my doughy physique reluctantly into the gym, a scowl on my face and a complaint in my heart. It had NOT been a good morning in momland- at least not in this mom’s land. Not one but BOTH of my kids had melted down spectacularly in plain view at preschool drop-off and goshdarnit I had to take one of the little balls of angst with me when I left because only one of them actually attends the preschool where they both melted down. Oy.
I was feeling the realness of the struggle that morning and it was NOT sitting well with me. As I sat stretching before my workout (a loathsome task that reminds me how painfully little flexibility I actually have in comparison to the yoga queens all around me), I allowed a little prayer to grudgingly escape my heart. I’d love to be able to say that I had leaned into the call to praise The Lord in all circumstances but really, this was more like me complaining to the only person around to listen. “UGH! God why does it have to be HARD? I mean…am I not busting my rear end over here with these kids? Like, I’m trying my hardest to raise them right- WHY CAN’T IT JUST BE EASY!”
Now, being that God is a WAY better parent than me, when I bring my complaints to him, he does not snap back that HE is not the complaint department and whatever has ruffled my feathers is NOT his fault so he could do with a little more respect from me, thank me very much. No, he actually acts like he’s just grateful I finally decided to actually talk about it rather than walking around under a storm cloud like I’m Eeyore or something (Huh. Maybe should try that with my own kids sometime).
As I sat there with my hands barely clinging to my toes and my nose resting way, way, WAY above my knees, he poured out grace and mercy and understanding all over me.
“Mom life is hard because it’s supposed to be. Without the struggle, why would you seek connection?”
My mind was instantly flooded with images of the moms I love so dearly, the ones I have connected with over their struggles and mine, and it was laid bare for me in those moments the way the realness of the struggle of raising baby humans is the glue that binds moms together. I mean, this is true for humans in general. Anyone who has walked through a challenging season in their marriage (or any other relationship) and come out the other side having worked things out can tell you how powerful struggle is when it comes to bonding humans to one another. Even groups of strangers who are together during a traumatic experience tend to bond to one another.
But for moms, it feels like there’s something deeper there. Particularly in our culture of social media highlight reels, the Mommy Wars, and Something-to-Prove Motherhood, the struggle can nudge us toward deeper, deeply NEEDED levels of connection- the stuff that sisterhood is made of.
Struggle makes moms NEED one another in a way that abandons pretense and evokes authenticity.
It’s one thing to post a pic on Instagram of me and my mom friends out for some “desperately needed girl time! #momsnightout #lovethesegirls” and quite another to sit across the table or computer screen from them asking them what in the heck I’m doing wrong since I CANNOT get my child to stop hitting me. The way my struggles have forced me to open up to my friends, to lay down my “got it all together” and to really be ministered to by their “me, toos” and their words of experience has bred an authenticity in our relationship that wouldn’t be there any other way. I mean yeah, we need each other for companionship, release, and reminders that we are something OTHER than the sum of what the people we live with need from us. But when words of love and reassurance from other moms are all that stands between me and desolation and what pull me back from a place of desperation- the realness of THAT struggle is something sacred.
Struggle makes moms real and accessible to one another in world where highlight reels feel like the law of the land.
I remember the early days of motherhood where I would sit with my phone in my hand while nursing my son, stalking the Facebook profiles of the other women in my online moms’ group, CONVINCED that they had it all together and that Mrs. Hot Mess Express over here had A LOT of work to do to get on their level and be worthy of their friendship. Slowly, however, that began to change as these women shared their struggles and they began to seem a lot more like me. This mom had a struggle in her marriage, that mom could NOT get her daughter to potty train, nursing just wasn’t working out for this mom’s second baby, how was that family going to pay the bills and why couldn’t this mom seem to keep her house clean. It was through seeing that other moms struggled as well, seeing the REALness behind the REELness (if you catch my drift) made them seem like real people, folks I could be friends with. I mean, some people may be drawn to the girl who seems to have it all together, but she intimidates the heck out of me and being in her presence makes all of my own warts seem larger than life. If it weren’t for our struggles and SHARING those struggles, we might all walk around looking like the girl who’s got it all together, our sister-moms not feeling like they could draw near to us and become our friends.
As I awkwardly bumbled through the rest of my workout, I grudgingly gave way to a modicum gratitude for the things in my life as a mom that make it less than perfect. The things that cause me to lean on my sister-moms, the things that make us able to relate to one another, the things that make authenticity and the only option. I mean, I wish it didn’t have to be so hard, but I BELIEVE in the power of mom friendships and I’m grateful for whatever it is that makes them deeper and more plentiful. I’ll take REALness over REELness any day- preschool meltdowns and all. But I would like to be able to touch my toes more easily. Better get to work on that….