Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Escaping the Trap of Motherhood Martyrdom

The other day, I was feeling dispirited and unappreciated by my children. I'm certain this never happens to you. But it does to me and, instead of snapping out of it, I decided to wallow in it for a little while. I was in that kind of mood; the same mood that grips a mom with the need to screech out, "The bulk of what I do in my life I do for you! And you don't even care!" I call it Motherhood Martyrdom, and it's quite a morass.

But, frankly, it's also true. I most likely wouldn't be a Girl Scout leader, a children's Bible teacher, a fifth-grade Sunday school teacher, a homeschooling parent for crying out loud, et cetera, et cetera, if it weren't for my daughters. Never mind that these pursuits bring me joy and often teach me a thing or two. That is not the point right at this moment, not while I am in the throes of MM. (It's easier to abbreviate the words, and acronyms are nifty, anyway.)

But I am never allowed to wallow for long, and here's why: a memory floats to the surface, one I'd prefer to forget but can't because of moods like this. Back in the early to mid-1980s, there was a movie of such cinematic doggerel that only teenage girls cared to see it. I'm of course speaking of Endless Love, starring Brooke Shields and Some Guy. My BFF (who turned out not to be, but that's not part of this story) and I talked my mother into taking us. It was rated R and we were underage, so her compliance was necessary. However, we decreed that she could not actually sit with us, as that would be too totally uncool. (I cannot believe I am admitting this.)

So here's the specific memory I can't banish from my brain: the picture of my precious mama, sitting several rows ahead of us at a movie she has absolutely no desire to see, eating her wretched popcorn, all by herself. Just the thought makes me cringe and squirm. It's simply too awful to contemplate (sort of like the movie itself, come to think of it). To my mother's immense credit, she never once complained, sneered, gagged, or in any way kvetched. That would have ruined my enjoyment of the day, which she would never have done.

It's only now, with the clear vision of both hindsight and more than 20 years, that I understand what I once took for granted. Mothers love and mothers serve, and those two verbs encompass many, many things. It's not just what I do but how I do it that will make an impact on my daughters.

When I was a child, I thought like a child, just like my children now think. So if I'm waiting for my girls to rise up and call me blessed, like the Proverbs 31 woman, I'm in for a long wait. But if I'm waiting for grace to change my heart and my outlook and my raison d'etre, it's only a breath away.

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