She leaned a hip against the kitchen counter while I pulled pieces of smoked turkey meat from the bone, dropping them into the simmering pot beside me.
“I feel like I don’t have any time to stop and talk to anybody.” She confided. “Between nursing school, work, and driving my daughter to school and to practice, there is just no time!” I reached a ladle into the pot to mix the meat into the broth. Her daughter and my two girls came screeching around the corner: a frenzy of last-ditch play before our friends had to go home for the evening. We have an arrangement where I pick up her daughter from school along with my kids and take her home to be an honorary Lenox for the afternoon. The kids love all the games they can play with THREE girls instead of just two.
“I too don’t feel like I talk to any adults.” I responded. “I’m home with the baby, or I’m out with the baby, or I’m picking up my girls from school and taking them around, or wherever. I feel like I’m a child ambassador to the world: teaching, preparing, reminding, corralling, feeding, comforting, disciplining, and guiding my kids throughout the day. I’m never just me, talking to just you!”
This theme has been coming up often in my life lately. It feels like God has drawn my perspective up into the air for a moment, to take in a broader view. What I see is complex: full of contradictions, and beautiful in its unity. What I see is:
We are all isolated mothers.
Each, in our own home, we go about our work largely alone, but for the company of our little charges. Many of us are married. Many of us are not. The comfort of my husband on nights and weekends is breath to my heart. But many of us mama’s don’t have that option. Either way, my husband works – hard and long hours – which leaves me alone at my job: a mom, a cook, a janitor, a purveyor of bargain goods, and all of the things in between.
We are all isolated mothers. Same as you, I too grip the counter-top at the sink and deep-breathe prayers of God-help-me-not-kill-my-kids-this-time. And, possibly same as you, I have those moments where I step outside to hang up yesterday’s sour dish rags. The warming spring winds gust over my wet hands, the neighbors’ trees rustle, and I look up. The clouds puff and swell across the sky, and in the moment my chest stings for a friend: someone to plop down beside me onto the cement steps, just taking in the world together.
The few scattered times we meet at playdates or mom’s groups I am surprised and breathless at the connection I feel with these other ladies as lonely as I am.
Those of us who brave the wilderness of rejection and shame to reach out and bring a kid over, or drop a kid off, find connection. It’s interdependence. It’s necessary.
I see you Mama.
It’s a lonely job you’ve got over there in your home with your kids. But lonely and alone are not the same things. And I thank God for that. Let’s talk about what company we DO have:
- We have the constant company of the Holy Spirit. Whether we feel him or not doesn’t matter. He is there to comfort us, reassure us, and to help us understand the Bible when we read it. My favorite part is that he is there to hear my fumes and frustrations, all the time. He patiently sits in my heart like a grandmother, or a therapist, or a cat. He never grabs for his hat and makes some lame excuse to leave. He loves me. I don’t deserve his company, but through the redemptive power of Jesus, I’m so glad he’s here to stay.
- We have our children: with little faces to peer into and to enjoy. I’ve heard that in psychology, the number one indicator of the health of the relationship between a mother and her children is that she genuinely enjoys them. They want so desperately to know that Mama likes to be around them, not just wipes and feeds them. Which can be tough when you feel so empty. It’s easy to overlook the little silly gooses underfoot when you ache for a latte and an existential conversation. Take what you can get. Enter into the silliness. It will open up your heart in unexpected ways.
- We have each other. It’s almost something we have to take on faith, like the water-into-wine miracle. But through the power of technology, we have each other. I know I know: enter the debate about smart-phone addiction pulling our attention from the kids. It’s a delicate matter. It’s a balance. But the relief I feel when a friend responds to my text while I’m sauteing spagehtti sauce and wiping the baby’s nose with a rag: that’s a thing. That matters to my heart. Also, it’s much easier now than ever to schedule play dates and meet ups and ride-shares. Other friends DO exist, somewhere…out there. Chances are, they feel just as lonely as you.
Yes, we are the sole adult in much of our days, but we are never alone. Jesus cares about mama’s, how we feel, and the seemingly invisible job we do. We have his company through the Holy Spirit, the company of our children in their budding person-hoods, and the company of each other, if we reach out.
“…I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20