The bloodcurdling scream pierced the tranquility of countless shoppers. I swallowed hard and began the painstaking trek toward the automatic doors. It mightn’t have taken me so long if not for the 32 pounds of boneless dead weight to pull behind me while also holding 20 pounds of oblivious enthusiasm in my other arm.
As I stumbled along, nearby shoppers offered a variety of responses: eye rolls, disapproving glares, averted eyes, and an occasional sympathetic I’m so glad I’m not you smile. I met each gaze with a weak grin.
“Don’t worry,” I said to one bystander, “He’s going to be a GREAT leader someday.”
Whether or not my quip was heard over the agonizing screams is debatable. Several escape attempts later (by my son, not me—although the thought did cross my mind), a kind stranger offered to help me get my children to the car. I gratefully accepted her help, and after wrestling the two beasts—er, I mean, lovely children—into their seats, I thanked the angel and watched her walk away, half wishing I could go with her, or just invite her to come home with me.
Hey, I know we just met and all—and you’ve obviously met my children, Miss Squirmy-and-Smiley and Mr. Meltdown-in-Target—but would you like to hang out for a while? A few hours maybe? Until my husband comes home? Please? PLEASE!?
Instead of frightening my good Samaritan, I sank into the driver’s seat and rested my forehead against the steering wheel. I was sweating and breathing heavily from the intense workout of venturing into Target for a box of diapers—which, in fact, I failed to get. So there I sat, no diapers and no energy. The screaming behind me made it very clear I was not alone in the car.
But I’d never felt so alone.
Motherhood has been the most joy-filled experience in my life. It’s made me laugh harder, play harder, and give thanks harder than anything else.
And yet motherhood has also been the most difficult experience in my life. Because while there are as many parenting books as there are newborn poop-filled diapers, there is no book that prepares you for the isolation, loneliness, and utter sense of failure that often comes with this job.
The Pinterest boards and filtered Instagram posts never prepared me for the daily dying-to-self that motherhood demands of me. The baby showers and prenatal appointments didn’t include any discussions about the dangers of mom comparisons and the deep, gut-wrenching sense of failure that lurks in the corners of my mind.
I can’t count how many times I’ve had someone look me in the eye and, with my children present, say in an exhausted and I-feel-so-sorry-for-you tone, “Wow, I’m never having kids.”
Talk about isolating. Talk about lonely.
But for me, this is where the beauty of the gospel message speaks life. Because regardless of what our culture says, the daily dying-to-self, the mundane, and yes, even the loneliness, all have purpose.
Do I get lonely as a mother? Absolutely. Do I get discouraged and exhausted and have days where I question if anything I do matters? Of course.
But by God’s grace, motherhood should be—and can be—more than just managed. It can be more than just a season to “get through.” Motherhood can mold and shape me into a woman after God’s own heart. It can pound out the selfishness, anger, and complaining spirit that so easily bubble to the surface when the pressure is on.
Loneliness isn’t my enemy. Rather, it pushes me closer to the one who became lonely so I wouldn’t experience eternal loneliness. It brings me to Jesus, who became sin so I would not have to bear the weight of my own sin. And this is the beautiful truth I’ve been given to pass on to my children. What an incredible privilege.
So if you happen to see a mom with a screaming child in her arms and exhaustion in her eyes, take my advice: offer her a helping hand and maybe even a bag of Peanut M&Ms. It may be just the thing she needs to be reminded she’s not alone—and to prolong her child’s life.
And those are both pretty good things.